In October, Polished Man is asking men to paint one fingernail to raise awareness and funds to prevent violence against children. The campaign is just one of those supported by YGAP. Olivia Gibson investigates.
For some people, their idea of an entrepreneur might be a Silicon Valley hopeful, touting a grand tech-age plan, with a proposed global reach and a promise to bring in huge revenue. For Melbourne-based organisation YGAP, an impact entrepreneur could look more like a Kenyan woman encouraging children to stay at school with the promise of a nutritious lunch. Or a Soweto-raised man with an innovative method of helping informal street rubbish collectors formalise their role and increase their income by selling advertising space on their bins.
It is these types of impact entrepreneurs, or “local leaders” as YGAP likes to call them – people with ideas that seek to improve the lives of others in their community – that are at the core of YGAP’s mission to deliver localised improvement to the lives of those living in poverty.
“We need to be running our own ventures, so we’re not just a bunch of altruistic people trying to back entrepreneurs.”
“We exist to find emerging leaders with big ideas to end poverty,” YGAP co-founder and CEO Elliot Costello says.
Elliot is the son of Tim Costello, the always prominent, occasionally outspoken CEO of World Vision Australia, who will transition to the role of “chief advocate” at the organisation in November 2016.
International development was in his blood, Elliot says. “I grew up in a family that had a significant interest and involvement in philanthropic endeavours… I always wanted to contribute to change,” he says.
Running as a non-profit organisation, YGAP uses funds raised through campaigns and, crucially, its own social entrepreneurial endeavours to mentor and assist local leaders such as Sifiso Ngobese from Soweto, and Wawira Njiru in Ruiru, Kenya, and ultimately scale their impact.
In 2015 YGAP merged with Spark International, meaning YGAP now has its very own impact model mobilising impact entrepreneurs with ventures aimed at improving access to education or healthcare, creating jobs or building safer homes.
To do this, YGAP, in conjunction with Spark, run a four-step program to support local impact ventures. Beginning by finding early stage entrepreneurs with an idea geared at improving the lives of people in their community, YGAP then “accelerates” these ventures before providing ongoing support with strategic advice, mentoring, impact monitoring and website and graphic design. Finally, YGAP funds the growth of the best ventures with impact entrepreneurs able to access grants of up to $25,000 alongside continued advice and support.
YGAP is novel in its fundraising approaching and achieves this through various streams including international philanthropic campaigns such as Polished Man, where men are encouraged to paint one nail to represent the 1 in 5 children who are a victim physical and/or sexual violence and raise funds and awareness. They also run the 5cent campaign, where participants collect and donate their small change to drive big change. They also run social enterprises, such as Feast of Merit restaurant and bar in Richmond, of which 100 per cent of profits go toward supporting YGAP’s work in the field.
“When we talk about impact it’s not giving a child a water bottle, and wishing them a good day at school.”
Elliot says it is important his team are able to connect with local leaders through mutual experience.
“We need to be in the trenches, validating our own experience to help early stage ventures,” says Costello. “We need to be running our own ventures, so we’re not just a bunch of altruistic people trying to back entrepreneurs.”
Since 2011, YGAP has assisted in growing 240 emerging ventures that have gone on to measurably impact the lives of 180,000 people living in poverty across Kenya, South Africa, Australia and Bangladesh.
Its specific measure of impact is something that Costello says YGAP is particularly proud of.
“When we talk about impact it’s not giving a child a water bottle and wishing them a good day at school,” he says. “For us it’s very different. It’s about giving someone access to a job or giving someone full primary and secondary education – that is one life impacted. The question for us is, how do we actually get people onto the economic ladder and socially mobilise them?”
YGAP uses the international IRIS metrics for performance measurement to stringently measure the impact of its ventures.
“You do see a lot of impact measurement tools that fly around, but we’re very strict that giving one person access to a job, or giving one person access to secondary education, is one life impacted.”
In an impact outcomes report published on the YGAP website it says that 90 per cent of the ventures it has supported since 2011 have each gone on to improve the lives of more than 50 people in developing-nation communities.
“It’s really just someone that is living in a community and they see a social problem and they want to respond to it.”
While the statistic of “more than 50 people” may seem like a small ripple of impact, it reflects the intimacy of the YGAP model. This is a small-scale response to a community-specific issue that may then incrementally lead to greater social change.
“It really is just someone that is living in a community and they see a social problem and they want to respond to it,” says Costello. “That is at the heart of what we do.”