Women's leadership audio toolkit for rural communities

Women's leadership audio toolkit for rural communities

Addis Ababa, EthiopiaGreensboro, United States
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

The Women's Leadership Audio Toolkit transforms the way we access and develop the leadership potential of rural women. The contextualized radio drama provides an innovative platform for development, with a focus on 1) understanding of self, 2) how to better work with others, and 3) how to transform communities.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Rural women form the backbone of the Ethiopian economy, yet they have largely been excluded from agricultural development and are not recognized as leaders in their homes and communities. Traditionally, development organizations have carried out tiered training of trainers programs, which tend to dilute content to the point of ineffectiveness. We wanted to figure out how we could develop better leaders at the household level to improve agricultural development.

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

To move away from the TOT approach, and to provide a culturally relevant leadership development process for groups of illiterate women across the country, we developed an innovative audio toolkit with a 10-part ‘radio’ drama loaded up onto an easy to use, solar-powered audio device. This is combined with a low-literacy pictorial guidebook. Peer learning is enhanced with a narrator to provide structured dialogue and fun action learning that can be done in the home.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The women's leadership audio toolkit is targeted for women's self-help and savings groups in rural areas of Ethiopia. Women meet on a regular basis and work through the audio toolkit, learning from the experiences of the characters and also from their own lives. The women are able to internalize the leadership content and how it relates to their roles in their homes and communities, setting goals and maintaining accountability for these goals through the group.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are hundreds of non-profit organizations trying to reach and empower rural women through skills training, access to capital, and improved knowledge. We're enabling these organizations to better reach these women with something that is more engaging, more relevant, and focuses on the personal leader development (which is often overlooked). So far, we're the only organization that has created a dramatized, women's leadership audio toolkit. It can be coupled with programs around health, economic development, and many other development sectors.

Founding Story

The idea came while researching a women’s self help group model in Ethiopia – a model where 15 women get together and begin saving money (or sometimes they start by saving coffee beans) providing other group members accountability and support. Once the group has amassed enough capital they keep saving, but begin doling out small loans within the group, charging interest, and maintaining almost 0% default rate on loans. The group started 3 years ago with each woman saving 50 coffee beans a month and now has a working capital of over $3500. The groups received no capital or support from non-profits but had organized themselves to seek out additional training for leadership. That's when i had the idea that we could reach several thousand of these groups with high level content, geared towards illiterate women, using low cost solar powered audio devices.
About You
About You
First Name


Tell us about yourself/your team.

I work for the Center for Creative Leadership in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where we have created a social sector innovation hub. Our work centers around developing leaders at the grassroots level through innovative approaches in mentoring, training, coaching, and low tech solutions. I've lived in Ethiopia for the last 7 years, working in humanitarian relief efforts and most recently taking those skills into developing better leadership at the community level to improve projects and organizational impact. I'm married to a beautiful and wonderful woman named Zayid, have a big dog, and love to ride my motorcycle into remote parts of the country.

What makes you an intrapreneur? What are the skills, capabilities, and personality traits that make you an intrapreneur?

I like to challenge assumptions, challenge our organization to stretch themselves into new and potentially risky endeavors, and challenge others around me to break their mental models. The ability to challenge the status quo, coupled with keen business acumen and a deep understanding of cultural context has enabled me to thrive as an intrapreneur at CCL.

About Your Organization
Company Country

, NC, Greensboro

Primary country where this project is creating social impact

, Addis Ababa

Additional countries or regions

Oromiya Region, Gambella Region



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Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Start-Up (a pilot that has just begun operating)

The Solution: Why is this solution innovative for your company and industry?

Traditionally, leadership development only occurs at the highest points of organizational and economic pyramids. This flips the model upside down making leadership development affordable, scalable, and accessible. It's about unlocking human potential, but doing it through a low-cost model.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

We've just started marketing these audio toolkits to women's self-help and savings groups and organizations engaged in women's empowerment programs, so we only have about 30 women's self-help groups (about 500 women) currently using the solution. Most of them will go through the toolkit in 10 weeks, with measurable goals being set at the end. Initial prototyping research has shown that an increased understanding of self, better team work as a group, and an improved understanding/accountability of goal setting. We anticipate that this improved individual leader development will act as a lever for better agricultural and economic development.

What is your projected impact over the next 1 to 3 years?

We have been asked to take this concept and meld it with a maternal and child health program in Uganda (leadership for maternal/child health) that would potentially reach 20,000 mothers in Karamoja of Uganda. In western Ethiopia we are using the same concept to improve mentoring and HIV awareness/prevention for 3,000 young women. As more and more organizations hear and understand the concept we could see it spreading considerably in the next 3 years.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

Language and cultural contextualization are potential barriers. The original women's leadership audio toolkit was developed in the Amharic language, so it's not directly transferable to other parts of the country. When rolled out, the toolkit needs to be culturally specific and language specific to overcome idiosyncrasies that would detract from the program. We plan to overcome this by using grant funding to develop new language/culture toolkits that can be used.

What is the benefit or value you're creating for your business?

We're taking a 42 year old educational institution and expanding the possibilities. The Center for Creative Leadership has the mission to advance the understanding, practice and development of leadership for the benefit of society worldwide, and we're making sure that gets put into practice. Specifically, low cost innovations like this help us take high quality leadership development to the grassroots, to act as a lever for development programs.

How are you leveraging internal resources (funds, time, knowledge, etc.) to support this initiative?

CCL funded the initial development and prototyping stage. They've allowed me and others to spend time on this, and have leveraged knowledge to make this product relevant and effective.

Expand on your answer, explaining the long-term funding and support plan.

We're working with other organizations to co-create solutions to bring this type of leadership development down to the grass roots level. The audio toolkit has already paid for the initial investment through grant funding. We are working to include the toolkit into other grant funded projects that will ensure long term funding. As we use this product in different initiatives (health, agricultural development, water and sanitation) we will contextualize and adapt the content to better serve the intended audience.

Tell us about your partnerships across your company and externally that are key to your project's success.

We are able to effectively partner within our organization and externally to create innovative products and process designs. Within CCL we work with the Research, Innovation, Product Design group (RIPD), our Africa regional Social Sector Innovation Hub, and our Europe, Middle East and Africa office in Brussels. In Ethiopia, we partner with Desert Rose Consulting for design, innovation, and anthropology support.

What internal support have you gotten for your project? What kind of push-back have you received?

Lot's of internal support from RIPD and our Africa office. We also received financial support from a group of CEO/CFOs that were part of a Leadership at the Peak program at our Colorado office. They were moved by our both-and strategy and wanted to support it.

So far we have not received any push-back because of the low cost, low risk approach.