Haitian Education and Leadership Program (HELP)

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Haitian Education and Leadership Program (HELP)

Project Stage:
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Conor Bohan is contributing to the emergence of a strong middle class in Haiti by creating a new mindset of upward social mobility among both underprivileged communities and the elite.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Haiti's population is one of the youngest in the world -- 60% are under the age of 24. However, very few Haitian young people have the opportunity to develop their potential because of deep social stratification in Haitian society. Both cultural and historical factors have prevented the development of a middle class. Culturally, higher education and leadership positions have been reserved for the elite. It is common practice in Haiti when meeting new people to ask who one's parents are; the family name is a standard way of socially relating to others. As a result, coming from a poor family is often accompanied by a feeling of embarrassment and social exclusion. Politically, until recently, governments had a clear policy to deny education to the vast majority of youth. Brain drain was institutionalized by the Duvalier regime in an effort to rid the country of educated opponents. The political and economic instability that followed its collapse in 1986 only increased the flight of the educated class. 84% of Haitians who have earned a university degree since 1964 now live outside of Haiti. This is the highest rate of brain drain in the world among countries with at least 5 million people. Among those who remain, less than 5 percent control 70 percent of the country’s resources. Social inequality continues to persist because there is a pervasive mindset that opportunities and leadership positions belong to those born into a privileged family; this mindset is reinforcing the same old structures that created these social divisions in the first place.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Conor is fostering a new mindset of upward social mobility by creating mechanisms and entry points that enable formerly excluded young people to study and work with people from the elite, proving to themselves and society at large that if given the opportunity they are equally capable of achieving and leading. His program, the Haitian Education and Leadership Program (HELP), identifies the most promising youth in disadvantaged communities and enables them to access and excel in leadership positions across all sectors of society. In so doing, he is contributing to dismantling deep-seated class divisions and challenging a pervasive cultural assumption that education and positions of leadership are reserved for the elite. This change in mindset is enabling Conor to work with leaders across sectors -- universities, companies, and the government -- who are generally from the elite, to create a supporting environment for a more inclusive society. Conor has partnered with universities to re-think and design new practices that will enable underprivileged youth to access and develop their potential through a different type of university education that focuses on an individual's growth as a leader and positive force in society. Conor is also working with the business community to invest in developing a new type of talent that takes no note of one's family background. More recently he has also started working with the government to create a new civil servant program.