Future Fund Report #1

By Lila Wells, Unite Passion Project, 07/07/2021

Future Fund Report #1

Hey! I’m Lila, a rising junior at Northwestern University. I’ve been working part-time at Brewbike since January 2020, first in campus operations and then with marketing and social media.

I am also the founder and director of the Unite Passion Project – the winning venture of Brewbike’s Future Fund contest. This student competition is designed to empower “the next generation of entrepreneurs to chase their dreams and do the good they are meant to do in this world.” The Future Fund prize of $3,800 will be allocated towards growing The Passion Project by launching additional Unite Clubs in secondary schools across Tanzania.

First, some personal background. I’m studying at Northwestern University where I double-major in Sociology and Legal Studies. And that, I’m passionate about. But it took me a while to get there. First quarter freshman year, I was an aspiring Chemistry major who thought that the lab was my future. That, I believed, was my passion.

Until I took my first college Chemistry course and realized that my interests and talents most definitely lied elsewhere. This realization was something I thought had more to do with me than my access to career knowledge more broadly. It seemed like all of my peers around me knew what they wanted, what their futures would be. But as I began to converse with people I admired, I found that – as young people – choosing a course of study and future career path is something inherently mutable and subject to change. Frankly, it’s something we as young adults often don’t talk enough about. Aren’t perhaps prepared enough for.

I’ve had the honor and pleasure of working with the international NGO Unite the World With Africa Foundation – which aims to empower extraordinary yet impoverished and marginalized Tanzanian youth and women with quality education, health, leadership, and business development programs – all aimed to foster independence and long-term success.

I’m lucky to have been mentored by Unite’s incredible Tanzanian leadership team, and to call members of the organization’s flagship program – the Unite Scholars – my good friends. And as I was talking with one of them, Imani Faustine, this past June he brought up a question that brought me back to my freshman year dilemma. He asked the following – can you have more than one dream? The answer is, of course, yes, but it’s something that – especially in Tanzania – students often aren’t encouraged to do.

Their school system steadily hones in on one to three subjects throughout a student’s pre-university path. Once you’ve reached your A-Levels, your course is practically set. Or so we think, right?

Imani’s question and my dilemma, as well as ideas brought up by the remaining 41 Unite A-Level Scholars are ultimately what created this venture, the Unite Passion Project. The Unite Passion Project operates where other programs don’t: government A-Level schools in Tanzania.

Through a comprehensive curriculum emphasizing soft skills as well as an open source library speaker videos, this program addresses challenges that are otherwise not discussed—career readiness and professional development. These skills are vital for students coming of age in a time where the traditional path (school, one career, retirement) is becoming less and less common.

The Passion Project addresses an endemic lack of career exposure by showcasing the passions, career paths, and activities of students and professionals from around the world, as well as how they have leveraged their resources and strategies to attain their dreams. We focus on amplifying Tanzanian excellence, and currently have 107 speaker videos on the platform, reaching over 1,300 students in six Tanzanian upper secondary schools.

The Passion Project videos are viewed and discussed in depth in Unite Clubs within each school. The clubs have a tripartite focus, ecology (environmental reforestation), altruism (community volunteering), and intellect. The last tenet, intellect, is where the Unite Passion Project videos – to encourage honest, strategic and thoughtful debate about the future.

Starting last summer, I began to build a Tanzanian and American team to embark on this project. Our work has been featured on Work With Engaisi (Kenyan podcast), Emory University, the Greens Farms Academy magazine, Westport News, the Audira Labs newsletter, and BBC’s Voice of America Swahili.

So, where are we now? The Unite Passion Project currently has 107 speaker videos on its platform (both on YouTube and offline through Tanzanian-mediated channels). Our six partner Unite Clubs have over 1,300 members in total, and we have added over 12 comprehensive modules emphasizing soft skill and pre professional development.

This spring, I built a team of five undergraduate students from Northwestern, DePaul University, and Brown, and together we reached out to over 200 potential speakers. I revamped and relaunched our website and work collaboratively with Tanzanian Unite Club Coordinators to establish a feedback mechanism between our audience and speakers. It has been the opportunity of a lifetime to connect with professionals young and old from around the world through a simple question: what exactly is your passion?

I was accepted to the Winter 2020 cohort of Propel this past December through Northwestern University’s Garage Entrepreneurial incubator. Propel seeks to empower female entrepreneurs, and in my time there I developed several partnerships for the Passion Project and expanded my team.

Click HERE for a video where I discuss my time at Propel.

Where is this Future Fund grant going? Pictured to the right is David Bitaho, a Unite Scholar currently studying at Tabora Boys School in Tanzania. He and his classmates have expressed interest in starting a Unite Club – and after many WhatsApp and email correspondences, we’re excited to embark on this new club launch.

With Brewbike’s funding, the Unite Passion Project will launch the Tabora Boys School club to reach over 300 additional students in the fall of 2021. This career exposure is paramount and, speaking from my experiences as a student, it truly makes a world of difference by broadening the scope of what is possible to achieve.

WhatsApp calling David Bitaho to share the great news; His dream of starting a Unite Club at his school (Tabora Boys) will now come true!