SINA’s self-organized, informal, and residential learning environment in Uganda puts marginalized youth in control of themselves. Scholars are between 17 and 27 years old and are refugees, orphans, street children, former child soldiers, former inmates, former prostitutes, or young people from other marginalized and poor backgrounds. Most have dropped out of school and society has labeled them as useless. Many have started to believe this label. SINA has proven that they can flourish if given responsibilities and a space to unfold. Scholars transform their own personal tragedies into a social enterprise, disrupting root causes of social problems. The youth does not leave with a certificate, but instead with their own employment. SINA is not a business school nor startup incubator. SINA is the only worldwide educational program where marginalized youth are in charge of themselves and become social entrepreneurs, leaving with their own jobs. Incubators and accelerators start at the point where an individual is already capable of managing a social enterprise.
The scholars who join SINA are often directly e.g. from the street, from the refugee camp or have gone through very difficult life experiences that need to be transformed. They would most probably not start a social enterprise and their mind is often focused on pure survival. The empowerment and community at SINA has the effect, that the scholars start to understand their past as a strength, rather than a subject of shame. Their life experiences are valuable skills that no one can learn in a school. A former street child can best create a social enterprise with and for street children and disrupt the status quo.
SINA transcends Uganda’s outdated educational model. Seeds have all ingredients to be able to flourish into strong plants. If the soil is not fertile or there is no space to unfold, the seedling will wither. The schools Ugandan students are planted into allow only a small fraction to grow to their full potentials. SINA re-pots withering students and intensively nurtures them until they flourish, bear fruits and pollinating even others.
Self-Controlled Empowerment If empowerment is controlled, then it can never be true empowerment. If a boss trains a subordinate, he will stop at the point where he sees his trainee soon overtaking him in skills and abilities. SINA does not control. There is not one specific preset outcome but a plurality of outcomes that scholars set for themselves and are guided by structures. Everything is centered around the scholar and the community gives a sense of belonging and safety. There are no courses, no right answers, no teachers, and no set timeframe. Every student creates his or her own curriculum. The empowerment stages give structure and support, follow indicators and have expected outcomes, but the structure has to be filled by every individual differently according to his or her personality, needs and goals. Scholars run SINA and thus drive their own education and make decisions for themselves. It is “freesponsible education.” The more responsibility that one takes, the more freedom that one gains. Managing a social enterprise requires experience and the ability to lead, which can only be learned by actually leading.