RLabs raises R10-million for Youth Innovation Programme

Reconstructed Living Lab (RLabs) has announced that it has received R10-million in funds from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and other partners to help with its Youth Innovation Programme.

RLabs is a global community based movement and registered social enterprise that provides innovative solutions to address various complex problems. Founded in 2008, the organisation hopes to “impact, empower and reconstruct local and global communities through innovation.”

It seems with the latest investment from USAID it is well on its way to doing that.

According to RLabs Managing Director, René Parker, “The support from USAID and The Western Cape Department of Social Development will have a direct impact on providing a much-needed programme for young people addressing the crisis of youth unemployment.”

The organisation says it has been busy developing this Youth Innovation Programme which, includes its popular GROW Academy, Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Leadership and Community Development aspects.

“The programme hopes to help young people between the ages of 18 and 25 who are unable to get into university or feel that they have no hope,” say RLabs founder and Head of Mxit Reach Marlon Parker. “We are obviously starting with the Western Cape for now but we do intend to roll out the programme to all over South Africa and other parts of Africa.”

RLabs aims to raise an additional US$1.5-million which will also allow the programme to scale to other RLabs hubs in South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Somaliland and Tanzania.

Aside from offering community driven enterprises, the organisation also provides a co-creation space and has a heavy focus on entrepreneurial driven ventures.

Last year, the organisation launched a social innovation incubator programme that invests up to US$20 000 in five social innovators for a percentage of equity in their company. The entrepreneurs that were chosen as part of the investment are given access to Rlabs facilities over a nine-month period.

According to Rlabs founder Marlon Parker, the incubator looks for the “Crazy ones”.

It is, he says, after highly motivated individuals “who is innovative, highly motivated and not scared to take the risks (experience and design flair is always welcomed). The ideas (which we believe will change) should at a minimum fulfil the following three criteria”:

  1. Idea that makes a social impact and leveraging mobile and internet technologies
  2. Idea that has some insight into how to sustain the social impact and business
  3. Idea that can be scalable and replicable
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