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Project with solution

Social Innovation Academy (SINA)

Founded in 2014, by Etienne Salborn

Mpigi, Uganda

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The Social Innovation Academy (SINA) educates former orphans, street children, refugees and other disadvantaged youth in Uganda to become job creators and social entrepreneurs with the ability to turn challenges into solutions.



Uganda has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world of 83% (World Bank, 2009). In combination with one of the fastest growing populations this is a ticking time bomb. Crime, drug abuse and social challenges are growing due to lack of opportunities for youth. Tens of thousands of graduates are unable to find jobs. The situation is even more frustrating for the vast majority of youth, who have dropped out of school because of a lack of financial means to pay school fees.

Education in Uganda particularly emphasize theory at the expense of practical approaches, and therefore lack the chance to foster imagination, flexibility, creativity, and other personal skills. Students usually have a fear of asking questions because they are seen as the “stupid one” and sometimes are even punished when questioning the teacher’s authority. Many students have an inherent fear of failure, sometimes to the degree of stopping even to try. Having never learned how to solve problems, starting an enterprise is an almost-impossible task.

Furthermore, the current school system in Uganda creates a mindset to shy away from trying, though failure is in fact a harsh word for gaining experience. Students learn that there is only one right answer: the one the teacher dictates. Being told on a daily basis what to do, it conditions the youth in Uganda to seek for jobs rather than to create them, which is the main cause for the high and continuously growing youth unemployment in Uganda.


Solution and innovation

The Social Innovation Academy (SINA) elicits youth’ untapped potentials to drive lasting change and pursue purpose in the world through social entrepreneurship. SINA empowers marginalized youth and marginalized communities to create social enterprises and their own solutions. Scholars gain the skills and experiences needed for their own social enterprises by actually running SINA themselves in self-organized and freesponsible communities.

Skills and experiences are gained through taking over responsibilities, leading the community through self-management. Scholars become changemakers applying learning directly to turn challenges into solutions and leave with their own jobs established. Transcending their backgrounds as refugees, orphans, street children or other marginalized backgrounds, their own personal tragedies often become the driving force for the creation of social enterprises tackling the root causes of their own personal tragedies.



Seeds have all ingredients to be able to flourish into strong plants. If the soil is not fertile or there is no space to unfold, the seedling will wither. The schools Ugandan pupils are planted into allow only a small fraction to grow to their full potential. SINA re-pots withering students and nurtures them until they flourish, bear fruits and pollinating even others. After having been in SINA for six months, every scholars says, he or she found a purpose in their life. Eight out of ten are able to actively set goals to reach and live their purpose.

Over the past four years, 25 independent social enterprises have emerged, which created 91 new jobs and touched the lives of over 400,000 people through their interventions, services and products. SINA scholars have been awarded by the President of Uganda, the Queen of England and won international awards.

In currently six self-organized SINA communities 135 scholars are unleashing their potentials to create solutions and social enterprises in urban areas, rural communities and refugee camps.

“If it wasn’t for SINA, I would not be where I am now, with a great exposure, empowerment and self esteem. SINA enabled me to understand my self-worth, I learnt how to speak in public, meet any influential person I want to meet without fear, and above all, SINA has supported me to turn my painful past into positive energy. I am what I am today because of SINA."

Ruth Nabembezi, 21, SINA scholar from 2015 – 2016, Founded Ask Without Shame at SINA and became a Queen Young Leader and Echoing Green Fellow.


Ruth Nabembezi grew up in an orphanage in Uganda. Her parents passed away when she was young because of AIDS. Her sister developed severe skin rashes, the village believed she was possesed by demons and took her to a witch doctor where she also died. She could have been saved if treated by medical doctors. Ruth developed a frustration that people in Uganda do not have information in regards to sex and are not supposed to speak about it. She joined SINA and started tranforming her own diffcult past as a strenght and the motivation for the creation of “Ask Without Shame”, providing emergency sex education via mobile to youth anonymously and without judgement. Ask Without Shame is having close to 100,000 users till its creation and Ruth awarded by the Queen of England in 2017 because of it.