Telling Our Story: Educate!
By Eric W. Glustrom, Co-founder and President, Educate!
Educate! develops young leaders and entrepreneurs in Uganda by providing two years of world-class leadership and social entrepreneurship training, long-term mentorship, and practical experience starting an enterprise to help youth turn their ideas into real solutions to poverty, disease, and environmental degradation. Educate!’s model is exponential empowerment – a long term investment in a few who will go on to impact many others. Educate! works with 1,400 young leaders and entrepreneurs across Uganda – the next Nelson Mandela, Wangari Mathai and Mahatma Gandhi’s of Africa.
In October 2010, the government of Uganda and the UN’s International Labor Organization (ILO) asked Educate! to incorporate its social entrepreneurship curriculum into the national education system. It will reach 45,000 students per year in 2012 and be the first national social entrepreneurship curriculum of its kind in the world.
I started Educate! in 2002 after a trip to a refugee settlement in western Uganda. It was clear that many of the youth in the settlement had great potential to solve the very same challenges that forced them to flee from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Uganda. I asked what I could do to help in their journey to bring peace and stability back to the DRC. They asked for only an education. Their words inspired the foundational concept on which Educate! is built: education can, and must, develop a new generation capable of solving the greatest challenges of our time. Although Educate!’s approach has changed over the past 9 years since I met our first students, the mission has remained the same.
In 2004 as a sophomore at Amherst College, my friend and classmate, Boris Bulayev (now Educate!’s Executive Director), walked into my room and announced he wanted to become more involved in Educate!. We’ve run the organization together ever since. Realist, idealist; vision, operations – however you want to break down our partnership (and oftentimes the lines are quite blurred), together we’ve created something that neither of us could do on our own.
This spring, we were both extremely fortunate (and surprised!) to receive Grinnell College’s Young Innovator for Social Justice Award. The funds from the award will be used to help launch a new evolution of our program in 2012 – the National Experiential Entrepreneurship Program. The goal of the program is to help schools across the country that are teaching the curriculum we wrote for the government to develop their students into young entrepreneurs and leaders. The program is being developed to reach every school in the country and set a model of education from which countries around the world can learn. Next year alone we will work with an additional 1,500 young entrepreneurs and leaders by providing mentorship, training, and practical experience to help youth start a business or initiative to solve poverty, disease, violence, disempowerment, or environmental degradation.
Boris and I also chose to give the personal money awarded by Grinnell back to Educate!. Some of those funds will be used to support the 1,400 youth we work with currently, the rest will go towards specific initiatives that will help increase the sustainability of the organization in the long run.
We are both grateful and eager for the opportunity to come to campus in just a week, to meet students, alumni, faculty, and staff. Because we were students when we started Educate!, we feel a strong sense of solidarity with other students interested in working for social justice. We look forward to learning more about the social justice initiatives Grinnell students are starting (or planning to create) and exploring the different resources and opportunities offered on campus, such as the Rosenfield Program. It will be a wonderful time for us to reflect on Educate!’s role in the greater social justice movement while surrounded by passionate young innovators eager to make the world a better place. I’m sure there will be many inspiring conversations – thank you Grinnell!