Thulile Khanyile

Nka'Thuto EduPropeller

What does your company do?

Nka’Thuto develops, upskills, and empowers previously disadvantaged African youth through conducting various supportive programs focused on innovative fields such as the Sciences, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, Mathematics and Innovation (STEAMi). Nka’Thuto EduPropeller programs use problem based and knowledge application approaches, creating a platform for participants to develop valuable solutions to societal problems identified by themselves. Through its programs the tech-based solutions are packaged into business cases, further developing into prototypes and for potential commercialisation. Nka’Thuto fulfils its objectives through its programs namely; Ideas To Concept (I2C) Incubation, innovations clubs and urban crop management. Through careful management of funds and partnerships the organisation has enjoyed great impact positioning it as a leading EdTech organisation that has continuously attended to difficult to serve, under resourced high schools and youths situated in township and rural communities. Nka’Thuto EduPropeller partners with corporates and other non-profit organisations to implement its programmes to different markets. It has partnered with like-minded organisations in Zimbabwe and Cameroon to implement the I2C programme. These partnerships specifically service undergraduate students opening Nka’Thuto to new markets that enable scale into TVET colleges, undergraduates and unemployed youths in South Africa. Through packaging the programs the organisation has the opportunity to service paying clients by partnering with private schools. Organisational objectives • To spark an interest in the innovation science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEAMi) careers amongst learners. • To expose learners to the process of research for the purpose of finding innovative solutions to an unmet need in society. • To facilitate learners to translate their research findings into business solutions with the potential to reach commercialisation. The organization delivers the following programs: • Ideas 2 Concept Incubation: Designed for high school participants, this program includes sub-programs such as research methodology workshops, innovation expos, computer training, business canvas modelling, intellectual property (IP) education, pitching for investment, and design thinking. Additionally, personal development and well-being are emphasized. • Urban Agriculture: Focusing on sustainable farming practices, this program educates participants on organic farming techniques and hydroponics. • Creative Writing and Communication: Enhancing participants' communication skills, this program emphasizes effective writing, verbal communication, and professional etiquette. • Electronics, Coding, and Programming: Providing technical skills training, this program covers electronics, coding, and programming languages like Python. • -Innovation and Entrepreneurship Challenge: Tailored for Nka’Thuto alumni and STEM professionals, this program fosters innovation and entrepreneurial spirit within a supportive ecosystem. • Alumni Personal and Career Development Annual Conference: An annual gathering aimed at providing ongoing support and networking opportunities for program alumni. • Concept 2 Commercialization: Geared towards graduates, this program guides participants in developing their concepts into viable commercial ventures.

What is your biggest success?

Since its establishment in 2017, the organisation has secured close to 60 million in funding to support its initiatives and drive impact in communities. Furthermore the organisation, while it continues to endeavour for a more sustainable model has been able to provide it's programmes and expertise to paying clients which has enabled the organisation to make additional revenue beyond being reliant on donor funding.

What has been your biggest hurdle?

Recognizing the importance of ongoing support, Nka’Thuto EduPropeller offers a range of resources to participants, including: • Research methodology workshops delivered through visual, audio, and written formats in multiple languages. • A mobile research facility equipped with smart devices, printing capabilities, connectivity, and support staff to assist participants in their research endeavors. • Consultation sessions with STEAMi professionals to guide participants in developing technology-based solutions and research projects. • Mentorship sessions prior to innovation expos to help previous winners enhance the quality of their projects. To facilitate program scalability, the organization is piloting a virtual resource facility in collaboration with partners, donors, and collaborators, aiming to extend access to approximately 170 schools in South Africa. A key challenge identified within the community is the lack of practical support and mentorship for technology ventures. To address this, the co-founders are actively seeking funding to support unemployed graduates in developing technology-driven ventures.