Devin Thorpe, founder of the Your Mark on the World Center, calls himself a champion of social good. He writes about, advocates for and advises those who are doing good. He travels extensively to share his message as a keynote speaker, emcee and trainer. As a Forbes Contributor he covers social entrepreneurship and impact investing. His books on personal finance and crowdfunding draw on his entrepreneurial finance experience as an investment banker, CFO, treasurer, and mortgage broker helping people use financial resources to do good. Previously he worked on the U.S. Senate Banking committee staff and earned an MBA at Cornell.

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Congo Leadership Initiative

Nathaniel Houghton

Nathaniel Houghton found one of the worst places on the planet and decided not only that it could be fixed, but that he could lead the way in doing it.  At age 23, he has a perspective that at least half the population lacks: while he anticipates that it may take the better part of twenty years for outcomes that he hopes to see, he’ll still be a relatively young man then.

At nineteen, Nate first visited The Congo and began building a deep connection to it that has now become his full time occupation.  As the founder and CEO of the Congo Leadership Initiative (CLI), he works full time to bring leadership training to a country where students are taught facts not critical thinking and to follow rather than lead.

Nate once said:

The best way to help the world is to find something you love doing and figure out how to positively impact someone else’s life through your talents and interests. I think startups are cool, and that’s what CLI is. I believe in our product - leadership - and its power to change the world.

Nate is convinced that if we teach young people, starting in high school, the art of critical thinking and the science of leadership that they themselves will find solutions to their country’s tremendous problems, rapidly accelerating the pace of development in their impoverished country.

At three times the size of Texas, Congo is the second largest country in Africa.  At $348 per year, the per capita income of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) makes it arguably the poorest nation on the planet.  Nate notes that the violence that famously ravaged Rwanda in the 90s still persists in parts of the DRC.  The country has rich, largely untapped natural resources that some estimate represent the richest deposits of natural resources on earth.

The Congo Leadership Initiative has a team on the ground running a variety of leadership training programs, some of which are open to all who are interested and others to which students must apply for admission.  By screening the students, they find those with the highest potential for leadership and teach them not only how to be great leaders but also key principles of social responsibility.

Stephie was one of the first students through the program when she was a senior in high school.  Now attending the university and studying psychology, she volunteers at her old high school teaching students there the leadership concepts she’s learned in the CLI program.  

Nate describes Stephi’s leadership as an “output” of CLI, but Nate is patiently looking ahead ten or twenty years to a time when CLI graduates have become real leaders both in corporations and governments in Congo and they will be able to drive the “outcomes” that Nate envisions, radically altering the course of events in Congo.

As I visited with Nate about CLI, I was impressed by two things in particicular:  1) Nate’s long view of things, and 2) that at 22, Nate left a dream job with a large technology company where most people only dream of working (he asked me not to say where) to devote himself full time to CLI.

Nate is starting early to leave a mark on the world, inspiring me to give a little and do a little more.  There are huge problems in this world, but none so big that we can’t solve them working together.

Where is your mark on the world?

Educate!

Eric Glustrom was an ordinary kid with a typical penchant for “testing the limits,” he says.  In order to convince his parents to let him go to Uganda for over the summer before his senior year of high school, he had to be on his best behavior for an entire year.

Just before his trip, he got the permission he craved, and went to Uganda to film a documentary that he now modestly calls “more of a home movie.”  

While there, he met and filmed the story of Benson Olivier, who was a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  Benson and his friends became an inspiration for Eric.  At one point, he asked them, what can I do for your country? Benson’s response was simple and clear: educate me, and I will help my country.

Even before leaving Uganda, 17-year-old Eric Glustrom launched what has become Educate! Educate! is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to do four things:

  • Long term mentorship
  • Education using a curriculum focused on leadership and entrepreneurship
  • Create a network of peers
  • Provide access to capital and other opportunities

Now ten years old, the program led by a seasoned social entrepreneur of just 27 years is having a huge impact in a country that desperately needs it. Already 3,600 students have completed their program and the Ugandan government recently adopted the open-source curriculum for 25,000 additional students in public schools.

Benson Wereje, another one of the early students, has now graduated from the university and is among the best educated people in in the DRC. He and other friends who completed Educate! training in the first class have launched a program the called Coburwas (Congo Burundi Uganda Rwanda and Sudan) that enables “young leaders to transform their communities by starting social innovative ventures to solve problems of tribalism, unemployment, poverty, lack of access to education, violence to women, corruption and environment degradation.”

Last week, I told you about Nathaniel Houghton, the founder of the Congo Leadership Initiative.  He built his program in the poorest country on earth, inspired by and modeled on the Educate! model. Both have made their curricula open source, allowing anyone who chooses to use it to educate youth as leaders—and tens of thousands of kids in the developing world are now being educated with their materials.

As the ripples of success expand from the stone that Eric dropped in Uganda ten years ago, it is clear that what he’s created are tidal waves that will wear away at and eventually topple “poverty, disease, violence, and environmental degradation” not only in Uganda but throughout the region.

I don’t know about you, but I’d call that a “mark on the world.”  Where’s yours?

Congo Leadership Initiative is our “Cause of the Week”

The Congo Leadership Initiative (CLI), which we’ve covered before, is our “Cause of the Week.”

CLI is working to address the myriad problems in the Democratic Republic of The Congo, arguably the poorest country on the planet.  

Nathaniel Houghton is a remarkable young social entrepreneur who has devoted himself full time to driving real social change in the Congo.  Great Nonprofits recognizes CLI as one of its “Top-Rated” nonprofits.

CLI is presently running a fundraising campaign at StartSomeGood.com to help them fund their program to help train Congo’s next generation of leaders.  

This week beginning November 5, 2012, we’ll donate $3 for every Kindle copy of Your Mark On The World sold on Amazon.com to support CLI.

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