Meghan McCormick, founder of Dare to Innovate

Meghan McCormick, founder of Dare to Innovate

As founders of Dare to innovate, Meghan McCormick (@muhzle) and her team are out to tackle the problem of youth unemployment in Guinea. In a country where 3/4 of the population is under 35 years old and 70% of all Guineans under age 25 are unemployed, McCormick said she knew the trainings she was doing in Guinea as a Peace Corps economic development volunteer to help train young entrepreneurs wouldn’t be enough.

“So, we created a proprietary training program that takes the best of human-centered design and pairs it with high level business skills as well as leadership and creativity. And we walk high performing youth from identifying a social problem in their community that they want to solve all the way through to a market-based solution to that problem. So they’re creating for profit business, with the potential to employ themselves and others. They then pitch these businesses and we invest in the best one. We give them the seed funding that they need to start and then support them from the moment that they start until forever.” Meghan McCormick

McCormick’s Dare to Innovate program does this through a competitive process where candidates are selected to take part in a youth entrepreneurship training program. Once they’ve completed the training, the highest performing individuals are invited to apply for a fellowship. To win the fellowship, they must first demonstrate they’ve mastered the entrepreneurship course work and demonstrate critical thinking skills.

“Once we’ve selected our cohort of 25 volunteers, they come to the Dare to Innovate training center which is on a farm in rural Guinea and we start them off with our ideation process. So the first sessions are around, what is Africas role in the world and what is your role in Africa? and also what social problems do you really see in your community that there’s a big unmet need that nobody is solving? So they go through the training program and by the time they get to the end of that 10 days, a) they’re a really close community of change makers and  b) they have an idea of what business they want to start.” –Meghan McCormick

Fellows return to their homes for a period of 6 weeks to research and develop a business plan. The most promising businesses are then provided with seed funding. Since it launched, Dare to Innovate has already invested in 78 entrepreneurs who own a total of 28 businesses focusing on education, food security and public health.

In early 2015, the group launched its second Dare to Innovate chapter in Benin. While the organization began as a non-profit, McCormick says they have plans to transition to a for-profit model in order to reach all their goals and create a sustainable platform for ending youth unemployment in West Africa.

“We’re expanding our portfolio, diversifying our financial strategy, so that we can generate the cash that we need to grow. We’re also working on developing our application mPacte  which we believe has the potential to transform the entire international development industry and so we’ll be putting a lot of time on user testing of that app and actually building functionality in the next year.”  –Meghan McCormick