Libraries as incubators for social impact projects: the example of the Young Leaders Program in West Africa

LACHAL, Jérémy and PEICH, Muy-Cheng (2018) Libraries as incubators for social impact projects: the example of the Young Leaders Program in West Africa. Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2018 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Transform Libraries, Transform Societies in Session 187 - Environment, Sustainability and Libraries SIG with Children and Young Adults.

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Language: French (Original)
Available under licence Creative Commons Attribution.


Libraries as incubators for social impact projects: the example of the Young Leaders Program in West Africa

Social inequalities are increasing in industrialised countries, as well as in developing countries. And recent studies tend to show that it will only get worse. Traditional ways of addressing these global issues seem to have reached their limits. Innovation is needed. And at the same time, young people, especially in developing countries, struggle to make their voices heard. In this context, libraries - which offer free access to contents, connectivity and social interaction -, and librarians - with their methodological expertise, the thematic guidance that they can provide and their knowledge of the local ecosystem - appear as wonderful resources to promote innovation. There are more than 230.000 libraries in the developing world: each of them has the potential to become an incubator for social impact projects. In this presentation, we will advocate for the role that libraries can play in providing young adults with the opportunity to create their own solution to improve life in their community, based on our experience with the Young Leaders program in West Africa. Libraries Without Borders (LWB) is an international NGO that aims at empowering the most vulnerable population through access to information and education. In 2015, with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, LWB launched The Young Leaders Program in Cameroon, the Ivory Coast and Senegal. We accompanied, coached and mentored 34 young leaders - librarians, educators or simply young adults willing to make a change: selected on the basis of a project that they wished to implement, each of them participated in a year-long training. The program included 5 participative workshops - 1 week-long each - spread across the year, covering subjects such as project management, innovation, advocacy, entrepreneurship and partnerships brokering. Local and international experts provided the Young Leaders with individualised guidance and connected them with the relevant ecosystem. The results from this first cohort are enthusing, both in terms of personal development and in terms of social impacts on their community. A Young Leader managed to set up local libraries in beauty parlors throughout Abidjan, providing hard to reach communities with access to information, culture and digital literacy workshops. Another Young Leader created a seed library and a coworking space in a rural area in the North of the Ivory Coast, providing local farmers with the necessary skills to improve their productivity in a sustainable way. A Cameroonian Young Leader designed a bibliotherapy program for children staying at the hospital over long periods. 2 years after the end of the program, the projects are still running and are even scaling for some of them. Our presentation will highlight the changes that these librarians have brought in their local communities, as well as their personal impacts as role models for other young adults. Libraries across the world, and especially in developing countries, can play a key role in promoting youth empowerment and contributing to sustainable development.

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