Our Voice Is In Our Hands

9505967156_97f78bb06d_bThe internet and social media give youth an enormous opportunity to amplify their voices, writes Emmanuel Olutokun, 23, a Correspondent from Lagos in Nigeria, who looks at ways these remarkable tools have been used for positive change.

The youthful age offers so much opportunity, potential and prospects to build, learn, and explore. A period to create the future we desire and work towards accomplishing it. But as an adage ironically puts, ‘many use their youth age to make their old age miserable’.

There was a time in the history of mankind when we thought the only way to make our voices heard was through protesting, fighting and even shedding of blood. But with the disruptive intervention and explosion of the internet, this conception is fast eroding.

Our voice is gradually moving to our hands. With our internet enabled mobile phones, our voices can hardly be ignored. It is simple but effective. There are immense opportunities that we the youths have to hone and positively make use of.

Recently, there was a premature coup in Turkey, where some disgruntled individuals in the military decided to overthrow the present government. The coup would have been a success if major traditional means of communication – radio and television – had been taken over.  But another importance means of communication was underrated, and that was the voice of the people. People who had access to the internet in Turkey took to their social media platforms to hear from their president, express their displeasure and dissatisfaction with the ongoing coup, and re-affirm their support to their president. These raised the consciousness of the world to crisis in Turkey and in no time the attempted coup was crushed.

This essentially brings to fore how loud and how far our ‘hands’ can go if used positively and in the right manner. Social media creates a very suitable platform for youths to start an initiative, galvanize support and implement projects that are beneficial to the society.

One such tool is Twitter. This platform is 320 million people strong globally and has been seen as a community where matters of importance are being discussed by people whose voices might never have been heard if there was no internet.

Last week, a hashtag #SaveMayowa was trending on Twitter Nigeria, which was a call for financial support ror a Nigerian lady who was diagnosed with cancer and in need of immediate medical attention. The unity of Nigerians was reflected when people took empathising steps to ensure that the needs of the lady were met. A Gofundme account was set up for her whereby people could donate, and within three days, over 31 million naira was raised for her operation.

Change.org is another social tool whereby youths everywhere in the world can start campaigns, mobilise support from concerned fellows and also work with decision makers to drive solutions. Just starting a petition over an observed ill in your nation is now sure to be the first step to solving that ill. Amazingly, all these social platforms are free.

The truth is, there is never a better time to start than now. The change we desire to see in the world rests in our hands. Just start.

photo credit: Find your voice via photopin (license)

First Appeared on Your Commonwealth



APPLY-Social Intrapreneurship for Innovation in Health and Wellness

Image result for ashoka innovation
Course Dates: November 7 – December 16, 2016
Rolling Admission between September 12th and October 14th

Course Description

In our rapidly changing world, employee skills—such as intrapreneurship, agility, teamwork, empathy and collaborative leadership— are fundamental to an institution’s ability to innovate and grow into the future. The pitfalls of ignoring these skills can lead to loss of opportunity and competitiveness, along with increased redundancy and inefficiency. Social intrapreneurship is a methodology for sparking, cultivating, advancing and scaling social innovation within institutions. It involves intrapreneurial employees capitalizing on trends such as technology advancement and globalization, and deploying agile, startup strategies. Check out why Forbes is calling the Social Intrapreneur the Most Valuable Employee of 2014.
Ashoka, one of the world’s largest networks of social innovators and entrepreneurs, has teamed up with Boehringer Ingelheim, a world-leading health company with a vision for “value through innovation”, to create a six-week online course in social intrapreneurship for innovation in health and wellness. This course is part of the global “Making More Health” initiative to explore innovative pathways with non-traditional stakeholders to improve access to healthcare. In this course, you will connect with a global community of participants from institutions across the private, public, and nonprofit sectors and convene to learn entrepreneurial and start-up strategies for creating social and business impact in the health and wellness space. Social entrepreneurs are also included in the course to enable knowledge exchange between innovators within and outside of large organizations.

In the course you will:

  • Prepare for a lead or supporting role in developing a health and wellness innovation with social and business impact
  • Gain skills and strategies to garner internal and external support for innovative projects
  • Learn how to collaboratively advance innovation in a bureaucratic setting
  • Become familiar with the intrapreneurial strategies of co-creation and prototyping
  • Connect with a network of intrapreneurs and innovators to share ideas, make critical connections, and get continuous support and feedback on your own innovation ideas
  • Engage with the Ashoka network, including Ashoka Fellows, staff and other innovators
Through the online dynamic learning environment, which utilizes Ashoka’s knowledge and networks in intrapreneurship, participants will join facilitators and leading experts in the field to discuss the topics above,  while exploring case studies, major trends and social business ideas, thus keeping you on the cutting edge of intrapreneurship.
Apply here

#SpotOn With Bongwong Justin


The tempests of youth are mingled with days of brilliant sunshine.-Luc De Clapiers

Happy new month to our esteemed readers, in this edition of #SpotOn, newly-appointed Global Head of Events, World Merit, Bongwong Justin, takes us on a personal and insightful journey through the paths of active youth volunteerism and social innovation.
I first encountered Bongwong under the auspice of Ashoka/African Changemakers Network in a community that exhumes energy and passion to see change come to Africa not by dreaming of it or mere wishing but then taking the initiative to ensure it becomes a reality. He is one of such people who has taken it upon himself to lead change in Africa starting from his home town in Cameroon.

Enjoy the chat but more importantly apply these truths to your life.

Who is Bongwong Justin ?

Bongwong Justin is the Co- founder of EFAO working on rural education and has contributed on quality education of children in about 11 rural schools with about 600 children having access to education today. The initiative that led to the creation of Banten community Library was to impact on the life of Marginalized children in Cameroon as we campaign to impact on the lives of the underprivileged.

He has passion in promoting World Merit Propaganda which he calls the only way for the hope of mankind, as he moves from Head of Advocacy and Partnership Committee to join the Global Marketing team.He was Delegate in the 2016 Youths speak forum powered by AIESEC and the MilliMUN conference in Baku.

Looking forward to be a great global citizen is all he wishes as he looks forward to engage all the Youths at all angles of the world to fight for SDGs till 2030 with 360 Conference in UN.

-What’s your lifelong passion and what are you doing to bring it to reality?

Coming from a rural area in Africa has been a great opportunity to identify the problems of my people, Coming from a problem region has made me to become a solution. As M. Ghandi said “Be the change you want to see in the world” .Therefore I have pledged to be change I want in the world through volunteerism.

In 2006 being so passionate about community development at that time when so many children in my community were not still able to go to school because of one reason or the other. By then I was still studying to obtain my advance level certificate from Government Bilingual High school Kumbo in Cameroon. I had a vision to improve the situation of less privileged children to gain the opportunity to attend school in suburbs as prevailing situation was too critical.

Many children study in the rural areas and majority of them do not have the means to finance their school needs. I have joined so many youth networks to make this dream a reality. I think my journeyto put an everlasting solution to the problems faced in rural education should be an integrated approach with international community. As it is being said “Think globally and act locally’’ I have alway followed the advocacy of Nelson Mandela. He started from his  local community and Dr Bernard Fonlon did the same too in my community.

 Coming from a rural area in Africa has been a great opportunity to identify the problems of my people, Coming from a problem region has made me to become a solution.

How did EFAO come to be and what has been its achievement so far?

My mother was very good at subsistence farming where she educated us all with my father as he could not make it with his retailing business at the time. I use to feel bad when I was at school and others were not at school. In 2003 we could not  boast of 4 advanced level learners from my village in the Cameroon general certificate studies but after consistent advocacy in my community people have opened up to take school serious either because of EFAO  that started as a family initiative or because of Globalization.

In our house our father (Bongwong Aloysious) use to keep our books for previous classes in his room in his Red Cross box where he had been keeping his valuable documents when he was a volunteer. One day I said why keep these books to waste while lower income children were facing problems with books? Secondly we were left in smaller classes but we were not using these book. Then I decided to take these books out and started sharing to the poor kids in 2006 and it was generally successful.  This initiative led to Bongwong’s Family Academic award. From there My Sinior Joachin Nsofini a PhD student in Waterloo, Canada  and Bongwong Albert from SHUMAS Cameroon were always there to support. From Family it became a community campaign in Banten Village in Bui Divison.

It is through this initiative that more than 600 kids are looking forward to gain quality education as goal 4 of the SDGs.


If you were the president of Cameroon what is the one thing you will like to change or see happen?

Even though I have a degree in Law and Political Science, I am not interested in being the President of Cameroon but Presuming I am one, I will make the system of equal opportunity, address the issue of sustainable cities, ensure sanitation in cities and solve regional inequality because it is only developing in a binary city format which shall not be a good thing for the future we are dreaming of.

I will improve on youth participation in public action and SDGs, change the curriculum of study and make the study more practical than theory so as to make youths not just certificate holders but economic operators. That is what will achieve sustainable development goals from no. 1, poverty to partnerships (goal 17). I will increase also the investment budget and reduce the retirement age in government.

Lastly I will create institute of Social innovation and SDGs and empower the youths with skills and resources and also promote informal education. I will empower the civil society to solve global challenges.


How did you become the Global Head of Events at World Merit?

My appointment to the five member Global Marketing team can be essentially traced to my community endeavours. The experiences made me to be stronger than ever before. Ever since I joined the world merit community, I have remained committed and always love what we do because of the passion I have for such an incredible movement.

In 2015 precisely on the 12th of July I organized an event in Banten Community, in Cameroon to engage youth in volunteerism and promote community development by building their capacities. This was called the “Young African Leaders Initiative Youth Forum”, because at that time I had just completed e-learning courses with YALI on Leadership and Civic engagement and I wanted to maximize this new learning. This event was what led me to ever know about World Merit.

Someone introduced me to the Cameroon Country rep. to World Merit. We shared contacts and he told me to follow up on World Merit. In January 2016, Together with some Cameroonian Youths our country Representative selected carefully World Merit Cameroon team and we democratically took responsibilities as World Merit Cameroon Board Members. There at World Merit Cameroon I was Head of the Advocacy and partnership committee. After I had signed in the virtual site where I came across so many millennial fighting and promoting Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

It was a dream come through to me joining such an energetic community. World Merit Platform www.worldmerit.org is where I meet all the youth leaders of the world. I have more than 1000 friends in the platform and it happened that every member is credited with points for whatever you do in the platform like posting of pictures of activities you do in your community. As CEO of EFAO I have been updating whatever I do to the World Merit community.

In this Platform I have been credited with more than 62,000 Merit points and 8 badges of achievements. I have achieved this throughout my tireless efforts online to update whatever I do. The mission of world merit won my heart beyond my imagination.

 I will improve on youth participation in public action and SDGs, change the curriculum of study and make the study more practical than theory so as to make youths not just certificate holders but economic operators.

What are your advice to African Youths?

Africa is blessed with so many talented youths who are ready to work towards SDGs but it will not be of any help at all if they do not lead their futures themselves and at the same time lead the destiny of the world by engaging in Sustainable Development Goals either directly with World Merit at www.worldmerit.org or indirectly in a synergy or partnership.

Moreover, let us study in class and think of the impact to society and not on the Certificates and titles. Let African children be architects of their destinies and take democratic principles serious as a civic responsibility because politics at times has been a great problem to equal opportunity, favouritism and corruption that has pushed so many meritorious youths to the wall and in that respect has been a failure to see them realizing their potential.

Since I started working with these great youths in networks like Young African Leaders Initiative, African Change Makers Initiative and now Ashoka Network, I have realized that there are so many powerful ideas coming from youths in the civil society sector.

This is a clear sign that youths are determined to stand and fight together global challenges. I therefore advise them that there is a common achievement or success in businesses that addresses societal problems. Let us learn to volunteer and develop society, do charity together with social entrepreneurship. Let‘s develop the knowledge and skills necessary for successful strategic leadership performance, within the context of dynamic local and global challenges with social entrepreneurship. Set goals and develop flexible strategies for satisfying diverse stakeholder and partner’s demands across and other value adding systems.

Equally as a social entrepreneur on SDGs I advise all the social Innovators in Africa to join world Merit as Local Partners and indirectly will impact on change for themselves and for the society. We have 17 sustainable development goals to be achieved by 2030.

We must not fail dear mother Africa, because we have promised and failed during the Millennium Development Goals on the 2015 deadline. So this time with all youths taking lead in the Sustainable Development goals from Climate change (Goal 13) and so many others. World Merit will develop a lot of strategies to help them realize this dream.

Follow the action connected on their platform and see what “Recycle Up Ghana’’ could do with Sampson Oboh colleague from Ghana. That means as Millennials we are possible. So let everyone get up and take action on these goals and keep the world a better one for all.

Kindly share your thoughts and feed backs in the comment box

IITA Youth Agripreneurs 2016

hello_tractor_final_smallIITA Youth Agripreneurs is partnering with Hello Tractor to train young Agripreneurs in Nigeria on the use of a ‘Smart Tractor’ designed by the company. The training which will commence in September after the project launch in Abuja on Monday, July 18, will bridge the gap in the use of ICT and mechanization in agriculture.

The Hello Tractor project funded by USAID is another self-developed proposal of IITA Youth Agripreneurs after the Community Youth Agripreneurs project. The Hello Tractor which is a two year project project will give IYA the opportunity of providing training for 100 youths on the business of owning, maintaining, utilizing and promoting services for a fleet of smart tractors. IYA will also support the participants in facilitating formation of individual and group-based enterprises to ensure more engagement of youth in the agricultural sector.

The training workshop which will take place in three different regions: Ibadan Abuja, and Kano will range from lectures, case studies, brainstorming, discussions, group exercise, demonstrations, debates, and videos. Training contents for the workshop will include curriculum, such as agribusiness value chain, use of ICT in agribusiness, mechanization in agriculture, networking skills, entrepreneurship, introduction to tractor and implement maintenance, business management, risk management, organizational/administrative development, business model/plan and marketing. . All these are expected to aid the youth in sustaining a productive and competitive tractor agribusiness enterprise.

Applicant must meet the following criteria.

  1. Youth between age of 18-35
  2. Interested in practicing Agribusiness and developing the capacity of others.
  3. Educational Qualification(NCE, OND, HND, Bsc)
  4. Interested in owning and rendering services with Fleet of SMART tractors.

To apply, please click this link: http://goo.gl/Wvrlmk

#SpotOn With Tomi Ogunlesi


My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.- Maya Angelou

In this edition of #SpotOn, an ad man sailing through the oceans of marketing and brand management, Tomi Ogunlesi delivers profound insights on tips and nuggets that has kept him thriving and pushing forward in his present path.

Tomi Ogunlesi who is the Corporate Brand Manager of arguably the leading electronic transaction switching and payment system in Nigeria, brings to bare the saying that success really is a combination of preparation and opportunity, having started acting on his passion, and igniting his creativity even when it didn’t look like the road to be taken.

He is a brilliant strategic thinker who has been able to express his creative prowess on brands like Intel, First Bank, Virgin Nigeria, Reckitt Benckiser and many others.

Enjoy the chat but more importantly apply these truths to your life.


Who is Tomi Ogunlesi in 140 characters?

I guess the descriptor on my twitter profile would be expedient, given the expected brevity of the response to this poser.

Ardent Student of Culture+Brands. Post Modern Marketing Strategist. Classical + Contemporary Pianist & Guitarist. Art Collector. Very Good Bad Guy! J


…..Are we out of characters yet?


How did growing up affect your choice of career?

I am not too sure about this, but what I can say in hindsight is that I think certain experiences along the line conspired to put me on the track that I’m currently on. Both of my parents were in the medical field, and I grew up on a campus-like environment in a house that was pretty much a library of sorts. My siblings and I used to compete to be first to read the dailies once they came in. Would say I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to be surrounded by a diverse repertoire of titles and subject matter ranging from such extremes as The British Journal of Psychiatry (understandably so, my father being a career psychiatrist), a good chunk of Sigmund Freud, C.S Lewis’ books to Enid Blytons (Famous five, Secret Seven, etc).

Also remembrance-worthy is that I believe my older brother, now a pretty acclaimed writer/journalist/blogger and social media ‘overlord’ sort of influenced me to start writing stuff from early on….I still have weather-beaten scraps of drafts of wannabe ‘Enid Blyton’ type stories I wrote back in the day, and Ah yes! I also used to draw all manner of stuff…..At the point of making a ‘career choice’, I remember being quite confused, being that I seemed to be interested in so many things but a common denominator was that whatever it was had to involve writing and being imaginative or ‘creative’. I was also discerning enough to know that the mathematically-inclined fields weren’t my strongest point. At different times, I was under illusions that I would be a medical specialist, a renowned economist or a NASA scientist, eventually sometime in the course of undergraduate life, I realized the world of advertising (even in the limited perception I had of it back then) probably held the allure for me….the rest, as is said, is history, lest I bore you with the detail!


What facilitated your interest in the creative industry?

I may have touched on some of these in answering the last question, and whilst I was persuaded that I could be ‘creative’ and I knew would probably fare better and be most engaged doing something eclectic, sometime in my 3rd year of undergraduate studies (studying environmental chemistry & toxicology in a University of Agriculture!), I began taking more than a passing interest in adverts.

By year 4 when I was going for what was known as the ‘SIWES attachment’ (It’s probably still called that), I had started actively building my own scrapbook of adverts, complete with headlines, body copy and art direction. I’d basically taken up the pastime of recreating adverts that caught my fancy, trying to string headlines that rhymed well enough and all of that kind of stuff. By the time I was back from the 6 month internship, I had become convinced that all of the NMR spectroscopy, hazardous substances management, analytical chemistry etc. wasn’t going to be my thing!

Lest I forget, from reading a lot of newspapers, I started noticing certain guys who were always in media briefing pictures and event photo-splashes, characterized by their mostly sharp sartorial looks, and the very interesting names of the firms they represented. Not like I really understood much of what they did at the time, but what was interesting to me was that there were a few of them I’d started to encounter in the papers recurrently, and the striking thing was that they seemed to have their fingers in many different pies, always being seen with different clients. I suppose that also struck a chord, and shaped my resolve to break into that business to really experience what those guys had. Funnily, as trivial or primordial as those motivations now seem, those where some of the things that really gingered my interest…It’s worthy of mention that the scrap-book of imitation adverts I started building as a 3rd year undergraduate was instrumental to my getting my 1st advertising job in Lagos about 4 years after, 2 months before I completed the NYSC. Of course, I quickly got to appreciate the more profound sides to advertising/communications once I was privileged to get into the mainstream .and there’s been no looking back since then.

I realized the world of advertising (even in the limited perception I had of it back then) probably held the allure for me

Motivation over the years…

Interestingly, for me, the dynamics of the world of marketing, brand management, advertising and the creative arts generally offers motivation in itself (even before any of the typical motivating factors such as financial compensation, awards and the like). The opportunity and leverage one has to infuse your thoughts and perspectives into the construct of brands, and to thereby shape experiences, culture, expectations etc. is fundamentally a motivation. The marketing/creative sphere is so lateral, iterative and engaging, as compared with some other more strait-jacketed fields of endeavor which are more linear in orientation (and less interesting, in my personal assessment).

I’m also spurred by the fact that there are so many possibilities in terms of growth and professional development prospects, and the realization that with interest, passion and continuous learning and exposure, one can take full responsibility for their self-development and career progress!

The reality is that once an individual finds their true spot, motivation becomes intrinsic, as frequently said, it’s just like getting paid as a bonus for doing what you ordinarily enjoy.

Your top three most inspiring books would be? 

Wow, I’ve got quite a bit of these, I’ll probably name more than 3

  1. Robert Kiyosaki’s books – ‘Cashflow Quadrant’ & ‘Dad, Poor Dad’…read these 2 books a long time ago, and the perspectives on financial literacy have been very liberating to say the least.
  2. Spencer Johnson’s ‘Who moved my cheese?’
  3. Malcolm Gladwell – ‘Tipping Point’
  4. And of course, from a professional POV, I cannot forget David Ogilvy’s masterpieces “Confessions of an Advertising Man” and “Ogilvy on Advertising”– despite the vagaries of time, the simple truths and insights espoused therein, about not only communication, but indeed human behaviour remain intriguingly relevant, moreso when you consider that these thoughts were penned at a time when marketing/communication was so straightforward, as compared to contemporary times.

The reality is that once an individual finds their true spot, motivation becomes intrinsic, as frequently said, it’s just like getting paid as a bonus for doing what you ordinarily enjoy.

What are the skill sets you think a lad interested in strategy and brand management should possess?

I would extend this beyond skill-sets to also mention attitude and a mind-set.

As regards the requisite skill-set to excel in strategy and brand management, I’d say the following

  1. Ability to strike a good balance between one’s left and right brains (logic and creativity…I like to call it a fair mix of ‘logic’ and ‘magic’)
  2. Necessarily, good communication capabilities – in writing, speaking, presenting (and listening of course!)
  3. A vast knowledge base – which can really only be acquired/broadened by learning, reading and getting exposure…it’s what’s also referred to as depth, and this is what separates a lot of high-flying folks from the rest, particularly within the context of our industry


On attitude, and mindset  (which is equally as important as skill-set, if not more…all the skills without the right attitude and mindset won’t get anyone so far, regardless of what field of endeavor they’re in!);

  • Real interest…or call it passion about what you do (or want to do)
  • Self-motivation…also stems from how much passion you’ve got
  • Open mindedness and a capacity to learn fast and to be comfortable with transition
  • A relentless quest for self-development and exposure
  • A resolute, somewhat persistent character (without the nuisance factor!)
  • Capacity to manage your expectations and also to quickly ginger up yourself and re-bound after disappointments….in reality, it’s a tough industry/circle to break into, and even tougher to break into the big leagues…there are bound to be plenty of disappointments…so brace yourself!
  • Also many young people manage to break into the industry only to realize that there’s so much hype…in reality, it may turn out not to be as glamourous as it looks from the sidelines….in many instances, pay at the early phases may actually seem like peanuts (when juxtaposed against the expectations and deliverables), and you’ll often have to roll up your sleeves to do dirty work. It’s called paying your dues 🙂 but remember, in the quest to build capacity, what you earn is secondary, initially, to the sheer extent of what you’ll learn! I never fail to emphasize this to upcoming folks…Take it from me… the fat paychecks and perks will become “your portion”, in good time, if you stick to the program!


In the quest to build capacity, what you earn is secondary, initially, to the sheer extent of what you’ll learn!


Candid advice to Nigerian youths.

Actively avoid the path of least resistance. To attain ‘excellence’, you’ll necessarily have to push yourself beyond personal boundaries and comfort zones so that you can achieve your aspirations, which have to be audacious but realistic, in the first place.

Another thing is that, I have noticed that it is very common for young people these days to feel that those who are in authority or those who are successful owe them something. I think it’s a problem that is generally endemic in these parts, and in fact does not characterize young people alone. Most people want an ‘easy’ way out. I think a change of thinking is critically required, especially among young people. Young people need to realize that they alone have ultimate power over their future and what happens or doesn’t happen to you. Take hold of your ‘destiny’ and maximize the opportunities, which are out there, though they may appear hidden.

The world owes you nothing, so manage your expectations and do away with the ‘entitlement’ mentality!


Kindly share your thoughts and feed backs in the comment box.

2016 UN-DESA Grant on Energy for Sustainable Development

Powering the Future We Want offers a grant in the amount of one million US dollars to fund future capacity development activities in energy for sustainable development.

 The Grant is awarded to an individual, institution or partnership based on past and current achievements.

Applications must be submitted online in English by 15 August 2016 (extended deadline)

Apply here

African Literature Writing Contest | 300 Words for a Chance to Win $100

Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture, will turn 6 in a few weeks—August 1. To celebrate this milestone, we’ve launched a writing contest to give you a chance to say just what you love about African literature.

Here is how it works:

Imagine African literature as a romantic partner—boyfriend, girlfriend, sidechick, main squeeze, wife, husband, whatever. It is your 6th year anniversary, but you’ve been going through a rough patch for while now. Things haven’t been as rosy as it once was. You’re determined to put things right by re-affirming your love—with just 300 words! Feel free to explore all genres and scenarios.

The contest is open to everyone: old, youthful, aspiring writer, seasoned writer, African, non-African, etc. If you read and love African literature, take this chance to say why.

It’s super-easy to participate.

Follow Brittle Paper on Twitter

@brittlepaper (include a screen capture to let us know you followed us)

Submit to brittlecontest@gmail.com. Include your name, address, a phone number, a short bio, and a photograph of yourself.

Send as an attached word document or simply past in the body of the email.

Word Count Rule: 3oo-35o (please do not exceed 350).

That’s it!

Entries will be open from July 4 to July 15 . The top five will be announced on July 18th. Readers will then have a chance to vote for their favorite.

The winner will be announced on July 31.

Good luck!