Through continuous action, Benje Williams helps Pakistani youth find a path out of poverty.
Benje Williams’ parents wanted to make an impact with their lives. They did so by adopting eight children. As Benje grew up, his parents pressed him to ask himself what his contribution to the world would be.
While Benje was in university, he had a chance to accompany his dad to Kenya. There, he met people that, except for circumstances of birth, were not too different from him and his family at home. “Perhaps family for me was much more global than I had previously thought.” A belief began to cement itself inside of him. “We’re all responsible for each other.”
After he received his undergraduate degree, Benje spent time in Kenya and then moved to Lahore, Pakistan as an Acumen Fellow. There, he worked with a company bringing affordable clean water to low-income neighborhoods.
Benje saw how much opportunity there was to make an impact in Pakistan. He saw the vast number of unemployed young people and, at the same time, the desperate need of companies to find qualified job candidates.
In Pakistan, much of the education system depends on rote memorization, with little emphasis on skill-building. When students graduate, they are often ill-prepared for a career. As a result, many young people struggle to find good quality jobs.
When Benje returned to the US for grad school, he couldn’t get Pakistan out of his mind. He told me, “It’s one of those places that sticks with you. I kept thinking ‘back to Lahore, back to Pakistan.’” After graduating from Stanford, he returned to Pakistan where he established Amal Academy. Amal is the Urdu work for action.
Amal Academy is a social venture that is accelerating change within Pakistan’s education system. They help low-income Pakistani youth find quality employment opportunities through a three-month career-prep fellowship that trains them in business-related skills, such as communication, leadership, teamwork, critical thinking and problem-solving.
Does it work? Well, 80% of graduates have a job within one month of graduation. And at three months, 90% have found jobs. Compare that with a control group where only 19% found jobs after three months.
Editorial Note: This conversation was recorded in June, 2016. As of December, 2016, Amal Academy is launching their 32nd batch of fellows and will reach 1200+ students, which is almost 2x where they were when we spoke in June.
Amal Academy is supported by Stanford, Acumen and Echoing Green as they build a system-changing, self-sustaining learning academy.
Three Quotes Used In This Interview:
“The world is not something to be merely seen or known through concepts, but something to be made and remade by continuous action.” Allama Iqbal
“Just start, and let the work teach you.” Jacqueline Novogratz, Acumen
“Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Benje Williams
[spp-tweet tweet=”‘It’s very competitive to get admitted.’ @benjewilliams, @amal_academy”]
“The most important metric that we track is how many of our fellows are getting jobs.”
“80% of the students who are looking for jobs are getting job offers after one month.”
[spp-tweet tweet=”‘It’s compelling to see such a challenge.’ @benjewilliams, @amal_academy“]
“It just seemed to me that there was this huge opportunity to help make a difference.”
“Jacqueline Novogratz at Acumen has always been a role model for me.”
“I wanted the fellows to love Jacqueline and I wanted Jacqueline to love the fellows.”
[spp-tweet tweet=”‘One of the themes of the last three years has been this idea of the beautiful struggle.’ @benjewilliams, @amal_academy“]
“Changing a system can be a false conceit just like making money can be a false friend.”
[spp-tweet tweet=”‘I love this idea of continuous action.’ @benjewilliams, @amal_academy“]
[spp-tweet tweet=”‘We were basically paralyzed by doing so much research.’ @benjewilliams, @amal_academy “]
[spp-tweet tweet=”‘Whatever you can do, you should do.’ @benjewilliams, @amal_academy“]