(First published in The Bush Chicken)
Monrovia (March 13, 2020) – SMART Liberia, an organization that is working to empower Liberian youth through education, entrepreneurship and technology, won the 2020 Liberian Learning Awards sponsored by iCampus with support from USAID Liberia Accountability Voice Initiative (LAVI).
The second annual Learning Awards, which was held Tuesday, March 10, 2020, attracted 126 people from civil society, businesses, the media and students, to iCampus on Carey Street Snapper Hill. Three of the eight organizations were shortlisted after a panel comprising six judges reviewed their applications. Inclusive Development Initiative (IDI), an organization that advocates for people with disability, won second place and Pan Afrikan Volunteers Network (PAVON), took third place.
Dieudonne K. Perry, SMART Liberia’s executive director, said the organization is excited to be recognized for helping Liberia students prepare for standardized tests for college and universities in the United States, guide young people in starting businesses, find jobs and enhance their technology skills. “It feels good to be recognized for promoting a culture of learning in our organization,’’ he said. “Going through the application process made me realize that we have a lot of successes.
SMART Liberia envisions a well-educated, value-driven young leaders who are equipped with the tools to drive social change in Liberia.’’ Luther Jeke, iCampus’ manager, said the organization has been working with local CSOs to promote learning since 2016. More than 10,000 people from civil society, the media, education sector and business have visited iCampus for events that supports learning and collaboration over the last 3 years.
The Learning Awards was created based on a mapping exercise conducted to identify the gaps in learning among civil society organizations.
“We wanted to provide an opportunity for organizations to reflect on what they are doing and help them improve what they do and collaborate with each other,’’ he said. “We want to celebrate their achievements, but also share their failures and use lessons learned to enhance their programs. ’’Mary Zell, elections, civil society and media team lead at USAID, said USAID is happy to work with LAVI to create a better Liberia by bringing people together to learn and share their experiences.
Dr. Tanya Garnett, Chief of Party of USAID Liberia Strategic Analysis (LSA), who served as one of the judges, congratulated all the organizations for participating in the awards. Dr. Garnett said she was pleased to see a big improvement in the quality of the applications this year compared to last year. “The intent is for us to learn from each other,’’ Garnett said. “A lot of organizations do good work, but the challenge is they don’t tell their story well.’’
Franklin Bonner, Deputy Chief of Party of USAID LAVI, said one of LAVI’s main objectives is to establish a culture of learning to ensure that development partners apply and share effective advocacy and accountability methods.
The award winners, he said, have cultivated an environment for learning in their organizations and provided opportunities for other organizations to learn from their successes and failures. He encouraged other CSOs to make learning a strategic objective in their organization, school and households. “Encourage your colleagues, children and friends to draw lessons from both successes and failures,’’ Bonner said. “Be open to the idea of sharing those lessons with others, sometimes for critique, but also for growth.’’
Featured photo courtesy of Janet M Kamara, Learning and Communications Manager, iCampus