Unilever earmarks Kshs 1.2 million to fund social innovation by university students


Unilever has launched the Heroes for Change Seed Fund for the University of Nairobi. The €10K (Kshs 1.2 million) one-off fund will be awarded to an individual or group of students from the University who come up with an innovative solution to improve the lives of their local communities, addressing at least one of the health and well-being issues highlighted in Unilever’s social mission programmes.

Speaking during a special guest lecture at the University of Nairobi, Unilever Global CEO Paul Polman highlighted the importance of millennials as change-makers and future leaders in a digital age.

(TOP: Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever Global during the Heroes For Change guest Lecture at the University of Nairobi to an audience of 400 students where he highlighted the importance of millennials as change-makers and future leaders in a digital age).

“While Unilever is making progress through our social mission programmes, we cannot do it alone. We need to harness the energy and commitment of young people to lead us all towards a brighter future. I have no doubt that many of tomorrow’s world leaders will come from Africa’s young and vibrant population,” said Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever.

Unilever’s Heroes for Change programme, a social mobilisation volunteer initiative anchored in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, empowers young people to take an active role in improving health and wellbeing in their community, with the goal of reaching 10 million Kenyans by 2020. The programme offers young people a platform to engage directly with their communities to play an active role in Kenya’s future, encouraging them to think and develop their own ideas and approaches to solving social challenges.

Prof Peter Mbithi, VC, University of Nairobi expressed optimism in the high energy and creativity embodied by the country’s growing and vibrant youth population as a force for good to effect positive change in their community.

“My experience working with students every day has shown me how creative they can be in terms of problem-solving and addressing challenges in their approach to their studies. The availability of the Heroes for Change Seed Fund for the University of Nairobi will hopefully encourage them to employ this creativity beyond the classroom to produce amazing ideas and innovations to help solve problems within their own communities,” said Prof Mbithi.

Built with digitally-savvy millennials in mind, the Heroes for Change platform offers online training programmes designed to equip young people remotely with the skills and knowledge they need to go out in their communities and make an impact. Following a series of online tutorials, student volunteers can teach their communities one of five Unilever social mission programmes – Lifebuoy School of 5; Super School of 5; Neonatal Mothers’ Programme; Blue Band Good Breakfast Programme; and Pepsodent Brush Day & Night School Programme.

Siddharth Chatterjee, Resident Coordinator, United Nations who was also a panellist at the guest lectures, said: “As future leaders of tomorrow, it’s vitally important for Kenya’s youth to be as engaged in the community as the country’s leaders and other organisations. Heroes for Change focuses on addressing key social challenges highlighted by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in some of Kenya’s most impoverished societies. Taking on these challenges requires Kenya’s youth to play a crucial part. The initiative equips young people with the support and knowledge they need to educate their friends and neighbours on better hygiene and nutrition.”

Other panellists at the guest lecture included Caroline Harper, Global CEO, Sightsavers; Bob Collymore, CEO, Safaricom; Dr Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO, Amref Health Africa; and Justin Apsey, CEO, Unilever East Africa

Applications for Unilever’s Heroes for Change Seed Fund are open from June 30 to July 12, 2017.