On September 22nd 2022, Nelson Mandela University and The International Social Impact Institute held a workshop, in partnership with the Nelson Mandela University Student Employability and Entrepreneurship Development (SEED) project, titled “You Matter And So Does Your Story; How To Attract The Right Opportunities To Live Your Best Life.”
The Nelson Mandela University SEED project is designed to help students develop entrepreneurial thinking, improve their employability, collaborate with like-minded individuals, and engage with experienced peers through a customized mentorship program.
The workshop was presented by Elizabeth (Liz) Ngonzi, Founder and CEO of The International Social Impact Institute and facilitated by Jonathan Najoe, Community Engagement Officer at Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator.
Nelson Mandela’s story and legacy continue to inspire not only the nation of South Africa but also humanity at large. Nelson Mandela’s story matters, because he was brave enough to stand up against oppression, and prescient and resourceful enough to use his experience to drive real change. Nelson Mandela was a towering force for good and had a tremendously positive impact on his country and the world.
The students of Nelson Mandela University can use the lessons offered in this workshop to help define their purpose, craft their stories, and use their unique talents to create real impact, taking inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s example as a teller of his own story. The workshop was created to provide the tools and knowledge that can empower Nelson Mandela University students to create the kind of impact that can change the world.
Although students were the primary audience for this workshop, the material presented has relevance both for students (whether they are seeking employment or applying for graduate school admission, for fellowships or for internships) and for professionals looking to engage with clients, investors, or donors.
The discussion covered a broad range of material but generally centered around the idea of Purpose. Liz Ngonzi emphasized the importance of defining your purpose and values, which will ultimately help inform your story. She described how you can clarify your purpose and values to develop your story. The discussion highlighted important tools to use in this process, including a personal SWOT analysis, a diagram representing a personal “digital storytelling ecosystem,” and methods of developing a network of collaborators and partners whose core values are aligned with your own.
Clarifying Your Purpose and Values to Develop Your Story
Ms. Ngonzi advised that in developing your story, it is critical to first identify your purpose and values. In order to help find and clarify your purpose, she suggested conducting a personal SWOT analysis, asking key questions that will allow you to identify a set of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and external threats.
Ms. Ngonzi suggested asking yourself the following questions in order to identify your purpose and values:
- What did you love to do as a child? What do you love to do now?
- What must you accomplish during your lifetime, such that you will consider your life to have been well lived?
- What do you consider your role to be in your community?
- What is missing from your life? And what are some of the external factors that are affecting your ability to pursue your passions right now?
Once your purpose and values have been clarified, these should find expression in the various outlets that make up your “Digital Storytelling Ecosystem” – in other words, the online presence through which key audiences will first become acquainted with your story.
Ms. Ngonzi then shared a “Storytelling Framework” that can be used to craft your story. The framework focuses on four critical elements of your story:
- The first step in the framework is to identify one or more problems that you are equipped to help solve for a potential “stakeholder.”
- Next, identify the solution that you are offering. How are you able to uniquely solve your stakeholder’s problem?
- What is the impact of that solution? Why does your solution matter to your stakeholder, and to their stakeholders?
- Finally, what is it that you would like your stakeholder to do as a result of hearing or reading your story?
Ms. Ngonzi then discussed the importance of developing a network of collaborators. Your collaborators can provide leverage and increase your impact, and it’s especially important to develop an ecosystem of collaborators who share your core values. Ms. Ngonzi reminded her viewers of how critical it is to maintain strong positive influences in your life, whether you are a student or a working professional: “Your network is equal to your net worth.” A clear set of values and a clear purpose will help you to determine whether you have the right kinds of people in your network. As Nelson Mandela University students, workshop participants are already part of a network and an ecosystem that represents a set of values and priorities – one that places particular emphasis on service to society and on helping with the development of a more sustainable, socially just world.
Ms. Ngonzi concluded by referring to a Ewe-Mina Proverb: “Until the lion has his or her own storyteller, the hunter will always have the best part of the story.” This workshop offered lessons and tools to help audience members move forward with the process of becoming their own storytellers.