On Becoming a Social Intrapreneur

Elvis M.D. Browne – Senior Operations Associate

When my brother, Wainright Acquoi asked me to join TRIBE, I knew nothing about it or what to expect. I consider myself a zealous creative who was anxious about putting a dent in Liberia’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem. Since he mentioned entrepreneurship, innovation, and creativity, I hastily accepted the offer.

In hindsight, I may not have made the wisest decision—I had a key role at a leading local NGO and my relationship with the Executive Director was exceptional. However, after two years of working in the local nonprofit environment, I became bored of its traditional operating model. I craved a fun, daring, and more innovative experience.

The Big Gamble

Still a student, I quit my job to balance school and this new adventure—I joined my brother to form a founding team—daring and resilient! I lost my monthly income and cut a line of bigger opportunities. I was now on a fresh start in a glooming ecosystem. I knew barely anything about TRIBE, but trusted my guts that innovation was the best way to go, especially as I define myself as a creative. I was ready to test the waters of this golden opportunity.

A Personal Mission

After many zoom meetings and insightful discussions with the team, I grew confident with my decision and enthusiasm about the opportunity to create novel solutions to improve Liberia’s secondary education system. TRIBE became a personal mission — to transform a broken education system that has stalled my personal and professional growth. Ever since then, I have sacrificed hours of thinking, grinding, and innovating to help clarify our vision and drive the mission forward.

A few months later, I found myself co-pioneering TRIBE’s branding initiatives and managing our first program, the Virtual Entrepreneurship Program. This was the birth of new beginnings, amidst towering uncertainties, and the cloudy chaos we were swarmed with.

Two years later, much has been learned through experiences and navigating the heck of co-building a startup. As I reflect on our rocky journeys, celebrate our endearing milestones, and foreshadow a ‘tribeulous’ future, I have learned about the power of learning and a great deal about transformational leadership.

Becoming a Social Intrapreneur

As a geoscience student, you may surmise that I know nothing about entrepreneurship and would have difficulty finding my way through building a social enterprise startup. But, oh no, perhaps my many hours of college physics and calculus were not just about discussing abstract concepts—I find it painlessly easy learning how to think. And through the hell and shits of college, I unknowingly gained a resilient spirit and developed a growth mindset; essential skill-sets every entrepreneur should possess. 

Becoming an intrapreneur has been an amazing experience for me. I have learned to work in teams, communicate effectively while co-developing programs and frameworks. TRIBE has been the college experience I never had: introducing me to the real world and giving me practical skills to strive and succeed as a young professional.

However, this journey has been incredibly difficult — empty pockets, self-doubts, and managing personal and professional expectations.

Leaping, learning, and leading 

2021 Annual Impact Report Brainstorming session with Wainright Acquoi, CEO

As the newest Senior Operations Associate on the block, I find my role sexy and scary. I am growing into a complete generalist. I am challenged to coordinate internal operations, co-manage our brainchild, RE-Novate, contribute to our branding initiatives and help our CEO and COO implement realistic strategies to enhance our startup’s growth and development.

Unlike my low-key freelancing or content development role, I now supervise entry to medium-level staff, co-lead recruitment processes, and make strategic management decisions every day.

My introversion would often scream out most times: “Look, people! There are too many people. Breathe, dude, breathe.” 

I am learning to learn people, organize systems and unlearn unhealthy habits like procrastination, sluggishness, and overzealousness. I believe leading others is a dedicated art: one that requires intentional self-assessment, self-improvement, and effective people management skills.

The Tribeulous Future

Last September, my growth buddy, Jallah Sumbo, and I visited 19 schools as part of the pre-assessment exercises for RE-Novate – TRIBE’s high school-focused entrepreneurship academy. Insights we gathered from our personal and professional engagements with the administrators fueled the program conceptualization and rejuvenated our spirits to work hard and act now. 

The school pre-assessment exercises informed us about the challenges school administrators and students go through. It was an experience that tested our resilience and ability to build and maintain professional relationships. While most school administrators are passionate about the work they are doing, they need 21st-century skills to improve the learning environment of secondary schools in Liberia. Students need not to learn in such chaotic and archaic environments, which use test scores and memorization skills to measure their intelligence. Students deserve better and they know they deserve better.

Four months later, leading the info sessions at our partner schools has given us hope about our mission to reimagine secondary learning through entrepreneurship. The students seemed excited and more invested in RE-Novate than some of the school administrators. Students are fed-up with the system and need a paradigm shift to prepare them for real-world challenges. We have seen the disgust on their faces and have discovered the anger in the essays they have written.

As we conclude RE-Novate’s phase one student evaluation this week, I am delighted to foreshadow what lies ahead: to learn more practical skills and measure the impact of our collective thinking.

So far, it has been a rewarding experience growing, and quite a wonderful journey becoming a social intrapreneur. 

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