The entrepreneurial spirit. Originating an idea, watching it flourish, take off — and hopefully changing the world. That is what my friend, Maria Springer, has sought out to do with her nonprofit located in Nairobi, Kenya: LivelyHoods.
Maria was a student at UCLA, and several years after graduating, founded LivelyHoods — which creates livelihoods for Kenyan youth in urban slums.
Hundreds of thousands of urban youth live and/or work on the streets of Kenya. Due to a lack of opportunity, many commit crimes and end up in jail or dead. Unemployed youth in urban slums cost millions in lost potential and contribute to civil unrest — compounding social issues in a country with 75% youth unemployment.
That’s where LivelyHoods steps in. By creating jobs that leverages the youth’s assets, market opportunities were created. Maria described that Economist C.K. Prahalad popularized the idea that the base of the pyramid communities, or the 2.5. billion people around the world who survive on less than $2.5o a day, could be recognized for their purchasing power. She explained that it is no coincidence that Coca-Cola invests millions into reaching customers in low-income markets.
But, what about companies that sell products which could also improve slum living conditions? Products such as solar lamps, cleaning burning cook stoves, and eco-friendly charcoal briquettes?
LivelyHoods creates jobs employing youth in selling and distributing these life-changing products to urban slum consumers. The Kenyan youth working for the organization also help identify new, sustainable products, conduct market testing, and give presentations on energy conservation, pollution, and female health. They receive products on consignment and earn commission for each product sold — a low-risk alternative to micro-loans.
In the video below, Maria says of LivelyHoods: “What if we could employ youth all over Nairobi, or all over Kenya? We are giving slum consumers access to life-changing products — and creating a sustainable solution.”
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