Corporate Social Responsibility Blog

Education Can Stop the Vicious Poverty Mindset

Friday, December 18, 2015 | Category :
    • Economic Development
    • Corporate Social Responsibility
    • Business Literacy
    • Blogs
by Ozii Obiyo, Consultant at BTS

Originally posted here.

Money can be a very personal and uncomfortable topic to discuss with a stranger. However, when the person sitting across genuinely cares and is equipped with the capability to help, the uneasiness slowly fades away and is replaced with an open and honest discussion. This discussion usually leads to knowledge sharing. With knowledge as the foundation, ideas are sparked. These ideas then turn into goals backed up with time sensitive actionable plans. Money Mondays is a financial literacy workshop carefully designed to turn basic financial knowledge into actionable plans that deliver the highest impact for people in low-income communities. The program content was developed by AVO Vision (a BTS company) and is sponsored by South African Brewers (SAB), one of the world’s largest brewers by volume, in partnership with Better SA, a leading volunteer organization in South Africa.


I had a chance to experience this workshop first hand. There were 30 participants at the workshop which took place at the Thusong Youth center, in the heart of the Alexandra Township in Johannesburg, South Africa. The session started with the facilitator, Tlou (pictured above), encouraging the participants to share memories of money, both good and bad. As expected, the room was filled with silence as no one volunteered any stories. So Tlou then shared a personal story about how an incident that caused her to lose her entire month’s salary motivated her to get a better grasp on managing her finances wisely. Her story accomplished two things. First, she showed vulnerability which allowed the participants to empathize and relate with her. Second, she earned their credibility because she not only highlighted the expertise she’s developed over the years; she also affirmed her commitment to ensure they walked out of the session with a different mindset about money.


The workshop touched on budgeting, financial goal setting, the different bank accounts and their advantages and disadvantages, the most common financial scams and cyber theft, how to boost your income and cut costs, basics of insurance and types of policies, and how to use credit responsibly.


Later in the day, the participants were joined by Finance professionals from SAB. The Finance professionals acted as coaches and provided a second set of eyes on the personal budgets the participants created and their short-term and long-term financial goals. As you can imagine, the room was abuzz with idea exchange. The relaxed, fun and informal tone made discussing the tough topics palatable and it wasn’t random to hear groups burst into laughter, in fact it was highly encouraged. When I spoke with a few of the coaches after their one-on-one session, they all felt they were having an immediate impact and that the participants were responding well to their recommendations. When I probed further, a majority of the coaches pointed at the openness and keen desire of the participants to learn a new concept and immediately apply that concept as a sign that success is just around the corner for them. When I spoke with the participants, they all seemed excited to begin turning these recommendations into actions. Their choice of words in how they described what they would do next was an indication of their mindset shift.


The coaches did point out a few potential challenges that could derail the participant from achieving their financial objectives. The challenge most commonly mentioned was accountability. To address this challenge head-on, one of the coaches set an appointment with his group to connect in a month’s time to measure progress on their short-term goals. In addition, they established and agreed on a regular cadence to ensure they hold each other accountable; now that is how you coach!


One big takeaway for the coaches was that we all share similar aspirations for life no matter our environment. We can all have big bold goals, we just need to put together a plan of action and commit to following through no matter the obstacles that may come our way. Some of us are lucky to be born into more conducive environment that gives us access to amazing resources that we may sometimes take for granted, like 24/7 electricity and clean water. A couple of the ladies at the workshop shared with the class that their long-term goal is to build a school one day. The authority and confidence in which they spoke about their goal really inspired me. And by attending the workshop, they were taking the right steps towards their goal.

I strongly believe that education can stop the vicious poverty mindset and uplift generations out of poverty. When a majority of people are educated, that can be the catalyst for progress and positive change. Governments, societies, families and organizations that prioritize education usually benefit from the investment. I am privileged to be part of an organization that dedicates resources to educating members of their community. If you want to leave a legacy, figure out ways you can transfer some of the skill and knowledge you’ve acquired over the years to someone less fortunate. When you do, you are impacting generations to come; also you may just get an invite to a wedding or a special invitation to an exclusive party. If you have any doubts, just ask Tlou; she’s been invited to countless weddings by former students.


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