Meet the Social Entrepreneur leveraging technology to build communities and leaders in Nigeria
YNAG team had a session with the ED, Adetunji Adeniran and below is the full conversations.
Can we meet you?
My name is Adetunji Adeniran. I am a civil engineer, social entrepreneur and good governance advocate. I am a managing partner at Lurvity Nigeria Limited (a civil engineering and business development firm based in Lagos). I also founded Foundation for Leadership and Community Development (home of fast growing brands- Hopefield Network™, YNAG™ and Under35.ng™).
I am a World Business Dialogue Fellow and 2018 finalist of Mandela Washington Fellowship.
What is your educational background?
I have a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and MBA from Obafemi Awolowo University. I also have a certificate in sustainable mobility and environment from IFP School in France. I am currently studying a multidisciplinary master’s degree in energy studies at the Centre for Petroleum, Energy Economics and Law, University of Ibadan.
Do you have any work experience?
Absolutely. I have industry experience in two multinational companies in Nigeria. I started my engineering career as a trainee with a civil engineering firm in Ibadan. I later joined an oil producing company in Rivers State and then moved to gain business development experience with a top FMCG company in Lagos. My philosophy has always been to gain as much experience and learning as possible so I can apply them in my own business.
After six years of combined industry experience, I considered it enough time to setup and do what I have always wanted to do- running a business. I incorporated Lurvity in 2017 and that was when the journey started.
How did you find yourself in social entrepreneurship?
Well, I am a passionate believer in the project Nigeria and I always do everything in my capacity to develop a system that would add value to the society. I started the social ventures as a hobby in 2012 after I got an invitation from the Federal Youth Ministry of the Russian Federation to attend International Youth Forum in Seliger. Prior to that, I was an invited guest of the French Total Summer School in Paris where I participated in a weeklong summer school on energy along with 119 other young leaders across the world.
I setup Hopefield Network™ as a blog to post opportunities for young people so they can access information about local and international conferences. Within two years, I had 5 students (now mentee) who were invited to international conferences and fellowships in USA, Denmark, Canada.
We have now grown from just an online platform to a full-fledged company offering both online and offline community services.
What do you do as a community brand?
Our work at Hopefield Network™ is simple, we work with individuals, organisations and government to initiate, build and execute community-based projects. In this way, we connect our volunteers and partners (who are mainly young people) to opportunities around them through community service. In three years, we have reached 10 communities and 3,400 pupils of primary schools through our annual Children’s Day Spelling Bee competitions across South West of Nigeria.
What is YNAG™ about?
While Hopefield Network™ focuses on age 6-12 years in our community work, the focus at YNAG™ is young people between 18-35 years who are eligible to vote and be voted for. By 2030, 69% of Nigeria’s population will be between these age brackets, therefore, there has to be a platform to prepare the next generation for leadership. YNAG™ is an independent registered brand in Nigeria with the objectives of training, coaching and engaging young people in governance across all spheres. Our strength is in the use of new media, conferences, seminars and community development to engage youths to actively participate in politics.
We started fully in 2017 with a conference on the campus of Obafemi Awolowo University. The second edition will hold this year in Osogbo, Osun State Capital while third edition will hold in Lagos very early next year ahead of 2019 general elections.
You mentioned three brands including under35.ng, can you tell us about it?
Well, this is still in the development stage so I’m not allowed to give too much information. But what you should expect is a digital revolution in the Nigerian leadership selection process and politics. We ought to have launched in 2017 but we had a glitch with our developers. I wrote about it on our blog. We are back on track with the product development and will be launched this year.
Who funds your social enterprises?
We are currently operating on zero external funding. All investment in the enterprises have come from personal savings from previous works. We know that this is not sustainable but we needed to get things running and set the pace for grants, partnerships and donations.
This is what I tell people especially when discussions tend towards investment and funding. Businesses fail in Nigeria because their foundation is designed for investors and not customer acquisition and retention. It is even worse for social ventures because it’s a niche market. As a social entrepreneur, passion should get you started but more importantly is your commitment and consistency.
What are the challenges you face as an entrepreneur?
First of all, every entrepreneur faces challenges. It’s what keeps us going and growing. We always want to look for problems to solve in the society because that’s who we are. However, the challenges in the social sector are more because it’s a different terrain where your progress is measured by the impact on your people and the communities where you work. It is also challenging getting people to understand what you do because the concept seems alien in the Nigerian space.
A lot of companies in Nigeria also find it difficult to relate with social ventures as a channel for making sustainable social impact. I have written proposals to some companies and they responded with a stern ‘No’ that they don’t do corporate social responsibilities. These are some of the numerous challenges.
Who are your role models and how have they influenced you?
As a kid, I grew up in a remote town in Osun State and it was challenging because you had to fend for yourself. That singular life event shaped everything. What I always saw myself doing was to look ahead and associate with people doing better that I was; and till today, everyone I had come across either at work or pleasure has had one influence or the other on who I am. Now looking ahead, I admire Adebola Williams a lot for his charisma, hard word and innovations. Barack Obama is my community advocate model and I look forward to meeting him in June 2018 if I’m eventually selected for the Mandela Washington Fellowship. In business, I read books authored by Richard Branson, Robert Kiyosaki and Charles Fishman.
Are all the ventures registered with the Nigerian Government?
Yes. Lurvity and the Foundation are duly registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission. Hopefield Network™, YNAG™ are registered as trademarks with the Ministry of Trades and Investments while Under35.ng™ is under processing.
What words of encouragement do you have for young people who want to do similar things?
Commitment is what get you started. Consistency gets you going. Character keeps you there. You should never give up no matter what.