Young philanthropist on supporting social enterprises as drivers of sustainable development

Jean d’Amour Mutoni held a belief that social enterprise models have more potential to help communities solve problems such as poverty and the burden of diseases in a sustainable way.

Based on this notion, he co-founded Acts of Gratitude, an organisation that supports social entrepreneurs through learning and training, consulting and funding to make them real drivers of sustainable development in Rwanda.

 

He did this along with 13 young Rwandan social entrepreneurs who shared the desire of institutionalising the culture of giving back to the community.

 

Beneficiaries to the organisation’s services have access to 21st-century skills necessary for one to compete in today’s rapidly changing world. For example touch/master typing, public speaking, essay writing, critical thinking and leadership skills, interview preparation, negotiation and networking.

 

They are also offered professional consultancy services in areas such as developing business plans, business model canvas and other communication tools.

Some of them pay an affordable price while others receive full scholarships or pro bono services through the organisation’s donors.

When they were establishing this organisation in 2011, Mutoni and his colleagues had a mission to see these enterprises advance because this meant advancement for the communities as well.  And as of today, more than 200 social entrepreneurs have benefited from their services.

Addressing key social challenges

According to Mutoni, one of the most pressing challenges today is the issue of youth unemployment. With what they have managed to do so far, he only hopes to see their effort help fellow youth overcome this struggle as well as women in terms of empowering them economically.

“We want our efforts to enable us tackle youth unemployment and contribute to achieving other SDGs by solving key social challenges in local communities. Another big emphasis is put on women empowerment to make them real drivers of positive change,” he says.

The organisation currently has two impact programs aimed purposely to address this. One is the Ingenzi social enterprise programme- a 12-week practical training that helps youth (aged 16-30) to turn their ideas into social enterprises ready for funding and implementation. 

All participants graduate from the program with the necessary confidence and five business communication tools: business plan, business model canvas, elevator pitch, PowerPoint presentation and theory of change, Mutoni explains.

“There is also social enterprise academy, a hub that provides globally accredited learning programs. We work with individuals and organisations interested in starting and/or strengthening social enterprises for sustainable development. Our popular programs include but are not limited to; impact measurement and journey to social enterprise (for traditional businesses and NGOs),” he adds.

Achievements made so far 

Acts of Gratitude has managed to support 200 social entrepreneurs, 124 social enterprises were created and 1566 jobs have so far been created for youth.

Mutoni also shares how in 2015, their organisation was presented with the Queen’s Leader’s Award, something he says encouraged them to work even more.

“The award was presented to AOG in 2015 as an encouragement for us to continue fostering the culture of giving back in Rwanda. And yes, it gave us courage and connections to global partners. Apart from the award, in the same year 2015, we also received a donation from the president to launch the Ingenzi programme for youth interested in social entrepreneurship,” he reveals.

As a result of what they have managed to achieve, Mutoni says he holds a number of future plans that will help their organisation expand even further and continue impacting more lives.

“We are working toward our vision of 2030; this includes building a community of 10,000 AOG-Supported social entrepreneurs in Rwanda.”

dmbabazi@newtimesrwanda.com

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