What we seek is nothing less than the individual transformation of thousands of young people, into entrepreneurs and leaders who drive their own destiny.
Education as transformation
Mortimer Adler wrote in 1942:
“What lies behind my remark is a distinction between two views of education. In one view, education is something externally added to a person, as his clothing and other accoutrements. […] In the other view, education is an interior transformation of a person’s mind and character. […] And the fundamental activity that is involved in every kind of genuine learning is intellectual activity, the activity generally known as thinking.”
To do this, we do not rely on traditional approaches to education that are better suited for training employees than entrepreneurs. Some of the key elements to our educational philosophy involve:
• Using mentors that lead discussions with students to stimulate thinking, innovation and self-confidence.
• Promoting the transfer of ideas and knowledge directly from the authors of leadership and business books rather than lectures from a teacher or professor.
• Using real entrepreneurship activities to evaluate the progression of our students and the success of our educational program.
• Encouraging our students to try, fail and learn the practical lessons of leadership and entrepreneurship by engaging in entrepreneurial activities in the market place.
The 3 phases of our educational program
Our program is delivered in 3 successive phases over a period of 3 ½ to 4 years.
• Phase 1: Learning and Training.
This phase lays the foundation of the program. It begins with intense language training for the students that are not proficient in English. A mentor then leads them through 4 semesters (5 months each) of our “Business Start-Up Process” curriculum. They read and discuss some of the best books in business and leadership (8000+ pages). They participate in real leadership activities and business projects, where they learn by practicing what they read. They learn, try, fail, succeed and learn – often in that order. The curriculum is designed to lead them step by step to learn and practice the ideas, principles, and skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur. The values of integrity, hard work and perseverance are continually emphasised as they change how they think and act. During this phase the Institute is a training center focussed on transformation and education. Duration: 2 to 2 ½ years.
• Phase 2: Project Financing
During the last semesters of the 1st phase, each student develops a business project he wants to start during his final year at the institute. The project is presented and approved by 2 committees before it can be funded. The funding phase is driven by the student with the help and support of the Institute. It can involve many funding sources both locally and abroad such as micro-financing, direct investments, crowd-funding and networking. This phase has 2 objectives: 1) to provide the seed money to start the business, 2) to test the leadership and entrepreneur skills of the student. Duration: 3 to 6 months.
• Phase 3: Business Start-up Incubator
The final step is to mentor the student to start and grow his business in his country. The objective of this phase, and a requirement for graduation, is for the business to generate a net profit of at least 200 USD per month for 3 months. Readings and discussions are present in the curriculum but most of the student’s time is spent working in and on his business. Each student is assigned a local mentor, a local support group and international advisors. The Institute will have a small 10% equity stake in each of the businesses created during this phase.
We are much more interested in our students becoming leaders and entrepreneurs than simply learning about it or earning a diploma. The students knows after the first week of classes that we are forming a partnership with them to end poverty in Africa and that we will lead them in the most difficult experience of their lives to prepare them for this challenge.
“The most remarkable thing about the institute is the person I am becoming, I am much more open to other people, I seek and take advice about my business idea”