Following two years of implementing solutions, the winner of the Aspire Higher Project was announced at a final judging event hosted on 19 April 2022. Imbokodo Launchpad was awarded £80,000 (approximately R1 500,000), which will go towards scaling the implementation of the project to provide education on sexual and reproductive wellness to young girls in Tsakane township in Johannesburg, South Africa.
What started as a co-created idea, has become an example of how partnerships with a purpose can provide a gateway to shift the trajectory of a community’s future. The Aspire Higher Project aims to fulfil a vision of girls and young women in sub-Saharan Africa having access to engaging sexual health education through innovation and ideation that delivers a combination of HIV prevention, and sexual and reproductive health services.
Hosted in a hybrid format by Centre on African Philanthropy and Social Investment (CAPSI), Gilead Sciences, Reckitt, UNAids, Durex, and Wits Business School, the final judging event provided the four finalist teams – Aganang Skills Academy, the Gratitude Project, Imbokodo Launchpad and GirlLead SA – with the platform to share the successes and lessons that they gained during the challenging period of implementing their ideas. In opening the session, Bhekinkosi Moyo from CAPSI commended the finalists on their resilience to continue with their projects by pivoting to the changing times and making use of the resources available to them.
Dr Moyo provided the background of the Aspire Higher Project, which was conceptualised in 2019 as a platform to tackle issues experienced by the spread of HIV/AIDS, with women and young girls being the most vulnerable. “The commitment that we made was to leverage our partnership in order to enable greater access to health and economic empowerment education for young women and girls, that is both engaging and respective of their cultural and religious contexts while challenging the risks that they face as a result of the spread HIV/AIDS.”
Peter Edwards of Reckitt acknowledged the efforts of the finalists who he believed fully embodied the vision of the Aspire Higher Project. With regards to the funding of the finalist’s projects, Peter said, “Reckitt is proud to have provided the first phase of social impact investment towards Aspire Higher. We are delighted that Gilead Sciences has come on board to provide the second phase of funding, which will support the winning idea and ensure its expansion.”
Dr Michael Reid of Gilead Sciences noted that this initiative in collaboration with the WITS Business School and other partners, is particularly important to Gilead. “Not only does it address sexual health education among young girls, a particularly vulnerable group, but also enables social and economic empowerment through entrepreneurship,” he said. As the chair of the judging panel, Dr Reid outlined the three-point framework used by the judging panel to ascertain the final winner: creativity and innovation, plans for scale and sustainability, and finally the impact of their project outcomes in their selected communities.
Representatives from each of the teams presented their journey outcomes to all in attendance, profiling how they tactically implemented activities and managed their projects with the support provided to them by sponsors. Each of the teams also showed how they were able to leverage on innovative problem solving which enhanced the experience of their identified communities. In his keynote address, entrepreneur and author, DJ Sbu, celebrated the work of each of the teams and encouraged them to use the wins and losses of their experiences to build what will benefit the masses by tacking the social ills that the spread of HIV/AIDS presents. He remarked, “By giving back to communities in the way that they have through this project, each of the finalists have built an ecosystem that makes a bright future possible for thousands of young girls across South African township communities.”
In his first address as the winner of the Aspire Higher Project, Jazzman Simelane from Imbokodo Launchpad, extended a hand of strategic partnership which he expressed as being one of the key success factors of the last two years. He said, “With social development, there is no competition as we are on the same team. Our model shows that we believe in partnerships as what our sponsors have shown us.”
Jazzman continued, “With this funding, we want to take Imbokodo Launchpad into other townships in South Africa and across Africa. Together we can win the war against HIV/AIDS and other social ills that affect our communities.”
Looking ahead, Dr Moyo confirmed that the Aspire Higher Project will use the lessons gained during this pilot iteration to extend the project into other African countries. He said, “As partners of this project, we will convene to map a way forward for Aspire Higher. With the support of partners such as DJ Sbu and WITS Business School’s Head of School Prof Maurice Radebe amongst others, we will continue to support each of the finalists on issues such as governance, sustainability, and visibility of the projects.”
The Aspire Higher Project is a collaborative initiative which promises to grow through its body of knowledge, research, education, and social investment across Africa.
This article first appeared on the Centre on African Philanthropy and Social Investment (CAPSI) website.