What if marginalized youth create social enterprises and job opportunities for their peers, using their wounded past as a competitive advantage for social impact?

Transforming challenges into opportunities

Etienne Salborn came to Uganda as a volunteer 11 years ago helping in the orphanage house. Going back and forth he found the way how to help the local youth establishing Social Innovation Academy, SINA.

SINA is not a business school nor startup incubator. It is the only worldwide educational program where marginalized youth are in charge of themselves and become social entrepreneurs, leaving with their own jobs. Incubators and accelerators start at the point where an individual is already capable of managing a social enterprise. The scholars who join SINA are often directly e.g. from the street, from the refugee camp or have gone through very difficult life experiences that need to be transformed. They would not start a social enterprise and their mind is often focused on pure survival. The empowerment and community at SINA has the effect, that the scholars start to understand their past as a strength, rather than a subject of shame. Their life experiences are valuable skills that no one can learn in a school. A former street child can best create a social enterprise with and for street children and disrupt the status quo.


Self-organized and self-controlled empowerment

If empowerment is controlled, then it can never be true empowerment. If a boss trains a subordinate, he will stop at the point where he sees his trainee soon overtaking him in skills and abilities. SINA does not control. There is not one specific preset outcome but a plurality of outcomes that scholars set for themselves and are guided by structures. Everything is centered around the scholar and the community gives a sense of belonging and safety. There are no courses, no right answers, no teachers, and no set timeframe. Every student creates his or her own curriculum. The empowerment stages give structure and support, follow indicators and have expected outcomes, but the structure has to be filled by every individual differently according to his or her personality, needs and goals. Scholars run SINA and thus drive their own education and make decisions for themselves.

“It is “freesponsible education”, explains Etienne. ” The more responsibility that one takes, the more freedom that one gains. Managing a social enterprise requires experience and the ability to lead, which can only be learned by actually leading.”


That is why SINA distributes all authority among all scholars. 160 different roles exist for a scholar to choose from and grow into. Scholars are gradually empowered to make autonomous decisions in their roles. Task groups define what is expected of each role and hold each other accountable. Roles are constantly updated, changed and new ones created all the time. It is the scholars who do the accounting for the entire academy, who connect to the government or who handle all logistics. Scholars who have successfully transformed their difficult past, often make great life-coaches for new scholars. Scholars who are successfully running a social enterprise often share their experiences as startup mentors.

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