Submitted by Obinna Echendu
My name is Obinna Echendu, I am a social entrepreneur interested in tackling poverty, and I hale from Lagos, Nigeria. I have been passionately driven by the ambitious dream to end poverty or reduce it drastically in Africa. Poverty is a wicked problem that leads to other problems like hunger, illiteracy, corruption and a broad range of other issues highlighted in the UN SDG agenda 2030. My childhood experiences helped me realize that there is a huge economic and opportunity gap that exists between the haves and the have-nots. Poverty almost cost me my education, until one of my early days volunteering service motivated me to solve this challenge. My major work in the past years has been focusing on helping to tackle poverty in-person and through technology across south-west Nigeria. I am finding the Inclusive Leadership Co-operative’s online journey “Discover Your Inclusive Leadership Potential” to be a mind-blowing opportunity to acquire new Inclusive Leadership skills, while improving on the skills that I brought with me to this course.
I have adapted a famous story I heard about ten years ago in ways that may be very instructive to all Inclusive Leaders.
This story tells about a man in his mid-forties who thought that he embodied some of the skills that we are all seeking here. Experiencing an epiphany, he hastily announced that he wanted to change the world.
He continued twenty years down the line in his journey through his life and made another announcement. Having realized that he didn’t have the full resources to change the world, he would focus on changing the continent of Africa instead.
After another ten years, this man had many push-backs but was still committed to his course of action. He called a press release to announce some adjustments in his plans and programs. He promised to narrow down and focus on his own country of Nigeria.
Being a Nigerian, I can sympathize with him on what he experienced during another ten years of struggles. He pleaded for the understanding of the people because he hadn’t realized earlier, when he made his initial announcement, how ambiguous and ambitious the tasks he had accepted onto his shoulders. Now, in his mid eighties, with his hands full of life experience he decided to focus on his community instead of his whole country.
A few years later he fell ill. On his death-bed, the man made this profound statement: “I have made a mistake about how to realize my potential to change the world.” He said, “If I could go back in time, I would have started out within myself to learn how to build bridges. Then I would have found creative ways to connect with the differences around me. I would have begun by communicating more with compassion. When I faced challenges in my daily work – I’d have administered Anti-Discrimination First Aid. My next step then would have been to influence my immediate environment; my family and friends. I could have easily achieved this by showing them love, empathy and understanding. This small group would then have become my foot soldiers in being role models for our community. As our influence grew, we could then have partnered with local government to impact the region, the state and our nation. When our nation became the true example of an integrated society that is welcoming and life-enriching, other nations in the continent of Africa would happily have wanted to know what we are doing differently. Once, we had replicated these same successes across Africa, the world would have been at our feet. We could have easily reached the world with our messages of inclusion by swimming across the Mediterranean sea to the West or walking across the Sahara to the Mid-east, or (LOL) through technology. In these ways we could have helped each person in their immediate environment become better people who would then inspire others until the world truly became a better place for us to live in.”
I hope I have learned from the mistakes of this wise Elder. I have found a strategy that is helping me find ways of building bridges to close the gaps between the haves and the have-nots. I have come to appreciate the difference that small efforts can make in helping improve the livelihood of those who are open to seeking opportunities. Thus, I’m now interested in teaching young people those strategies that helped me and more importantly to discover one’s life passion. Beginning with myself, I am providing vocational training, life skills and entrepreneurship acumen as tools of empowerment to improve the livelihood of youths from under-served communities.
I am also mindful that our own energy determines the quality of our life. If you want more positive things and experiences in your life, become more positive. I am a role model for continually striving for my own happiness first then I can help others around me find the same path.
I have found that it is through all the skills learned during this online Inclusive Leadership course combined with other valuable lessons life throws at us that we can manifest the qualities of being Inclusive Leaders. We can all take to heart the realization that change begins with us and that we must first endeavour to become the changes we want to see in the world. If we can all embrace these lessons, then half the work we want to achieve will be completed.