Hello, Abiola. Good Afternoon, how are you today?

Hi Izu! Good afternoon, I’m well thank you, and how are you

I’m fine, thank you. It is wonderful having you today but before we proceed, can you introduce yourself?

My name is Abiola Adebiyi. I’m a Christian, a concerned Nigerian youth and the Founder of Elevate Development Foundation.

Awesome, so at what point of your life did you realize that you wanted to be a Change Agent

Whenever I get asked this question, I get sober (in a good way) because my Elevate journey is closely related to my salvation story and how I discovered my true identity in God. I’ve always been a deep thinker, and an academic achiever but in 2016, I found myself at a very confusing point. I came to a weird realization that I actually had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I know I had many options, but there was always a wonder in the back of my mind thinking “What if I was created for a specific assignment?”.

I decided to do what I had heard people around me do, which was to ask God. And to my surprise, sometime in March of 2016, at 16 years old, I felt a strong nudge in my heart to help people. Not just help people with random things, but a desire to serve people who are most affected by society’s ills. The nudge grew into stronger convictions, and I decided to commit my life to social innovations that truly transform lives, something I believe God has called me to do

So, what do you do outside of your work with Elevate?

During the day, I work as  Revenue Recovery Consultant, and in the evening, I am a part-time Masters student completing an MSc. in Sustainable Development. In my free time, I blog and record podcasts about my faith in Jesus Christ. I also do a bit of photography every now and then.

How do you juggle running an NGO and your daily life?

I usually find questions like this weird, and the reason is because I’ve never viewed my life as juggling my responsibilities. It’s definitely a complex web of responsibilities, my friends can attest to this, but I just do everything at the same time. I enjoy all the things I do, I’m also very spontaneous and I experience random bursts of energy a lot, so all my responsibilities just flow as one. I can be drafting an important email to a potential partner this second and be analyzing excel schedules the next minute. Contrary to research, I actually find that I am more productive and creative when I work this way. I guess you can call me a mentally disorganized organizer. 

That’s a really interesting answer, the way you put it. Elevate having started in 2016 has had some impressive impact numbers, can you tell me a bit about your past projects?

Yes, so when Elevate started, I was in my first year of A-Levels, so I spent most of my time in school. Whenever I was back from school, Elevate would kickstart again and we would run projects revolving feeding thousands of people and organizing book drives for primary schools in Makoko etc. So this birthed our most popular (feeding) project, Christmas in Makoko which has been running since 2016. In 2018 however, after gaining more knowledge on how social change is truly effected, I and the team reflected on our approach to projects and decided that all future projects we would embark on. It’s really important to remain true and honest to the change you want to create in society, rather than the sensation and aesthetics of running emotion provoking projects that have no real impact. This is what birthed our two current projects; The Sustain Program which we launched in partnership with Illino Cultural Association, and Project A.C.E.

Tell me about your best project experience?

My best project experience has to be the 2018 Skills training project. It was our first lengthy project and it lasted for a little over 30 days. It was exciting for me because of the multiple facets of the project, and the challenge of managing it all without having any clue or experience how to.I had to be in Makoko for all 30 days, from 8am till 4pm, somehow find a way to recruit 6 trainers at no cost (which we did successfully!), ensure that the trainees were present at their classes on time (which was a hassle), and so many more things. A lot of logistics and planning went into the project, and the success was a joy to, especially how one of our beneficiaries successfully commercialized her newly acquired wig-making skill to start her business, Jima wigs. That made the stress worth it.

That must have been real special. Where do you see Elevate in the next 5-10 years?

In the next 5 years, I see Elevate having perfected the various project solutions we have come up with as key community transformational tools. Something I am passionate is social innovation, and I don’t just say it as a buzz word. I think that the third sector attracts more do-gooders than skilled ideators and executors who know how to identify a problem and actually develop a solution and execute it.

Elevate solves real issues. Our current solutions might take time to materialize in impact, but who said poverty, illiteracy, unemployment etc. can be solved in a day, a month, a year? In 5 years, I want to see us recording success stories from project interventions we started last year.In 10 years, I want us to have distributed our social innovations as models for community transformation to non-profits and social enterprises working in communities with issues similar to Makoko (of course parts of the solution will have to be adapted to the local context, to meet their specific needs.)

What would you say to others out there who find themselves in the same situation you were 4 years ago?

4 years ago, I had just turned 17. Few months before that, I received the leading to start Elevate, something I had NO IDEA how to do. I made many mistakes trust me. A lot, but the good thing is that I started. I started something, but I made sure that I educated myself over the years, and still continue to, so that I can increase my capacity and ability to effectively deliver on my assignment.So, what I will advise anyone in a similar situation to mine 4 years ago, is to just start. Start something. The realization of every big dream is a make-up of smaller steps. If you have a business idea but don’t know how to execute it, start with learning from people around you who have done what you want to do.

Make do with the resources you have now, to start on what you have in mind, but think of how to increase your resources (intellectually, monetarily etc.) so you can fast-track the process. Also, never settle for mediocrity. You were created for more.

I really enjoyed this session, thank you for having me today.

Thank you for having me too!

Have a good day

Thank you & have a lovely day.