“Diversity is inviting someone to the dance, while inclusion is asking them to dance” with these words Regi Botha, programme manager at Westbury Youth Centre, welcomed guests to the launch of the Economic Inclusion Incubator project. The project is an initiative of Mashup Community Development in partnership with Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct, Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, Westbury Secondary School and Funzilife, an organization based in Finland. The 18 month long Economic Inclusion Incubator project is implemented through a grant awarded through the SAIS 2 Innovation Fund Call for Proposals 2018/1, which is supported by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland in partnership with the ministries responsible for innovation in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.
The project will work at the Westbury Youth Centre (WYC), a start-up social enterprise, which offers access to skills and expertise through Mashup Community Development, a social innovation hub. Based in the urban area of Westbury, Johannesburg, a community overrun by drugs and gang violence the center serves a majority of the school-going population. The centre is strategically located next to the Westbury Secondary School at which the majority of youth who are beneficiaries of the program school. Based on the principle of inclusion, the intention is to prove that once people are given a chance to succeed, they are more likely to participate in the workforce, pursue education or engage in productive activities which lead to economic growth. The opportunities offered at the center have created an economic inclusion ecosystem that provides both developmental training and start-up incubation to disadvantaged youth who want to create businesses and employ others. The successful entrepreneurs also become teachers and mentors, thus helping the next generation navigate the same transition they, themselves, have recently made.
“The Westbury Youth Centre has afforded me the opportunity of building a better tomorrow. I come from a home where it’s a norm to let circumstances dictate one’s future. I enrolled for the Media Programme because I always wanted to share a new narrative of my community, yes drugs are sold at almost every corner, yes gangs have shoot outs on some days but there is a lot of good work being done within our community. The Westbury Youth Centre taught me how to develop myself, from self-awareness to learning to make decisions that will alter my future as well as that of my family.” said one of the participants of the programme.
The launch event was attended by Mashup Board members and staff, students from the Westbury Secondary School, youth from the community and participants of the centre programmes. Members from the community were also in attendance and actively pledged their support to the project, committing to assist in voluntary capacity when required to do so. Representatives from community based organizations such as the Roodepoort Theatre, WomEng, Westside Newspaper, Harambee, FAMSA, PAPU, Kofifi FM 97.2, Sophiatown SAPS were also present. “We can’t imagine a situation in which we could have achieve this goal alone. The roll out of this project is designed to reflect our complex system of multiple actors and it is going to take a combined effort across disciplines and sectors to implement successfully.” said Botha.