In your own words, who is Osayi Alile and what drives you?
I am a mother, sister, friend and ardent believer in positive change. I am very passionate about the social sector as I believe strongly that impact must be made rapidly and consistently in a bid to foster development. Throughout my career from program management, learning and development to impact consulting the need for an indigenous grant-making organization was apparent.
Hence, I discovered that the non-profit sector could serve as a significant platform for rewriting the story of the continent and its people while positively influencing lives. I am constantly driven to pursue a purpose that will create opportunities to empower people who have no means of achieving what they want out of life.
Amazing! You are the CEO of Aspire Coronation Trust Foundation (also known as ACT Foundation), can you share a little about the work you do?
ACT Foundation supports sustainable high-impact initiatives that provide innovative solutions to social, economic and environmental challenges in Africa. Since its inception, ACT Foundation has committed to bridging the economic and social deficits in the African continent by promoting sustainability programs that revolve around the four pillars of health, entrepreneurship and leadership.
That’s interesting! Why the specific focus on Africa?
Our decision on where to focus our support was driven by the pressing needs of the continent. Up until recently, Africa had been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons – poverty, conflict, corruption, lack of leadership and the likes. Despite being home to some of the world’s largest deposits of natural resources and a large and growing youth population, Africa is yet to live up to its full potential. For Africa to change its fortunes, we believe that the continent must look within and make significant investments in education, health, enterprise development, environmental sustainability and leadership specifically.
The time has come for action-based initiatives on changing the African narrative. The world must see Africa for what it is; a land of enormous resources and potential. At ACT Foundation, our goal is to build sustainable societies by engaging initiatives that unleash potential and empowers beneficiaries in Africa. Over the years, we have seen a constant need to create and support ecosystems for businesses and innovation to thrive in Africa, therefore providing better solutions to challenges faced on the continent. We recognize the need for an indigenous grant-making organization that will play a significant role in positively changing the African narrative.
Who would you say are some of the direct and indirect beneficiaries of the programs and projects ACT Foundation supports?
Since our inception, ACT Foundation has managed to reach over 2 million beneficiaries from African communities through social impact solutions and initiatives in the focus areas of Health, Entrepreneurship, Environment and Leadership. The beneficiaries that ACT Foundation reaches represent the most vulnerable and marginalized of people in society. For example, within our focus area of health, we have impacted cancer survivors and health professionals, visually impaired people, low-income pregnant women, traditional birth attendants and individuals suffering from neglected tropical diseases. In our focus area of entrepreneurship, we have reached beneficiaries that are rural, smallholder farmers, unemployed young people, socially-disadvantaged women and girls, and business persons with disabilities. We have also managed to impact students, teachers and young entrepreneurs in the focus areas of environment and leadership. All these examples represent just a glimpse of the type of beneficiaries that we have impacted within the past 5 years.
Now let’s dial back a little bit. What sparked your interest in the Social Impact and Development sector?
From a young age, I had always wanted to do good wherever I found myself. However, furthering my education opened my mind to a new level of consciousness. Hence, I discovered that the non-profit sector could serve as a significant platform for rewriting the story of a continent and its people while positively impacting lives. Ever since, I have been interested in fostering development in every area I have been opportune to be a part of, especially with regard to growth and empowerment.
Do you ever get jaded or discouraged sometimes?
I have been discouraged but never felt like quitting. To pick myself back up, I try to focus on the impact I see that we can have and the success of the work me and my team have had. It’s really about changing lives so I try to keep that in perspective always. I have also learnt to be my own cheerleader – believe in yourself, hype yourself, blow your own horn. I have a strong network of friends and family to rely on.
Tell us about your team at ACT Foundation — how do their roles tie into the overall vision of the Foundation?
The vision of ACT Foundation is too big a dream to accomplish alone. As we know, teamwork makes the dream work. Leading the organization for over five years, I have been privileged to work with very skilled and seasoned professionals that make up the composition of unit leads and members at the Foundation. These units include the Programs unit, Communications and Branding, Administrations, Human Resources (HR), and every support staff working with us and together to create effective social impact in Africa. Knitted together as a team, we work together to ensure the growth and sustainability of grantee organizations and together create effective social impact across Africa.
A lot of young women (and men) see you as a role model — what tips would you give those who are looking to build a solid career like you’ve done?
Leading in such a time as the one we find ourselves in is very crucial. As young, emerging leaders you need to find more innovative and creative ways to do things and prepare yourself for true leadership. In every situation we find ourselves, at work, in our day-to-day lives, in school, at home, we must always push for balance. Equal does not mean identical, equality is not equity – remember everyone has a right to choose, choose who they want to be, choose what they want to do. You have to be confident and own your personality, flaws, and all. You need to set goals and be committed in improving yourself and the lives of those around you.
Set Clear Goals And Action Plans To Achieve Them. Goals, action plans and tracking are all areas a confident woman understands and uses well.
Monitor Your Progress. The best way to reach your goals, big or small, is break them into smaller goals and to monitor your progress. Whether you’re trying to get promoted, get a better job, get into graduate school, change careers, eat healthier or lose 10 pounds, the best way to know if you’re making progress is to monitor it.
Find guidance. Mentorship is so important as you build your career. The right mentor can bring enough experience and knowledge, so you won’t make the same mistakes they did. Guidance can be offered as advice on how they handled similar issues in the past or red flags to pay attention to.
Constant Learning, Knowledge and Training. Learning and research can help us to feel more confident about our ability to handle situations, roles and tasks. Knowing what to expect and how and why things are done will add to your awareness and usually make you feel more prepared and ultimately more
Use Positive Thinking and Words. Positive thought can be a very powerful way of improving confidence. If you believe that you can achieve something then you are likely to work hard to make sure you do if, however, you don’t believe that you can accomplish a task then you are more likely to approach it half-heartedly and therefore be more likely to fail. “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence” -Helen Keller. As a woman you should constantly use positive words in conversations to build yourself and others up. You don’t have to put other people down in order for you to feel good about yourself.
Find your leadership style. What is your preferred leadership style? Do you ask others for their opinions? Do you tell everyone what to do and how you expect them to do it? Do you lead from the front? Do you worry about where your team is headed and whether there is a clear vision ahead? You’ll gain great insight into your preferred style of leadership by taking a few minutes to introspectively think about these questions.
Improve on Your Communication Skills. Even someone who excels in many aspects of leadership will hit a ceiling if he or she is not a good communicator. Starting now, you should aim to communicate properly with everyone on your team, so nothing gets misunderstood or misinterpreted. Do you excel at written reports, but clam up when it’s time to speak during a meeting? Alternatively, are you a natural when it comes to conversation—but secretly worried that your lack of grammar know-how will hold you back? Instead of relying on your strong suit, improve whatever area of your communication skills is lacking.
Develop situational awareness. A mark of a good leader is someone who can see the bigger picture, and anticipate problems before they occur. This is a valuable skill to have when handling complex projects with tight deadlines. The ability to foresee and provide suggestions for avoiding potential problems is invaluable for a leader. This ability also helps you recognize opportunities that others overlook, which will certainly earn you recognition.
Build a supportive network. You can’t create a successful career in a vacuum. Seek advice from mentors and sponsors. Look for powerful female role models and observe how they exhibit executive presence. Build mutually beneficial relationships with people you can help and who, in turn, champion your ideas, provide advice and the information you need to be successful.
What are your views on mentorship, and are mentors an important part of one’s life/career journey?
Developing professional relationships can be life-changing. A mentor/mentee relationship can be beneficial, engaging and energizing. Mentors are very important because they hold you accountable and can guide you through making decisions to avoid mistakes. Mentors use their knowledge and experience to help mentees develop a clear sense of their career and personal goals. I believe mentors are invaluable resources and advocates that can change the course of your career. A mentor/mentee relationship is not a one a way street —both parties will benefit from each other’s experiences, ways of thinking, educational backgrounds, etc. So, you shouldn’t think by taking the time to mentor someone, you stand to lose. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Mentors and mentees often learn from each other and share some of the same benefits such as increased self-confidence and self-awareness, in addition to growing communication skills and exposure to new, different, and varying perspectives.
Looking forward to the next 5 years — what do you see for yourself professionally and personally?
In the next five years, I want to see myself as more responsible, knowledgeable and experienced. I will make sure that I explore skills and used opportunities so that I can contribute and share my knowledge, see myself learning and growing with every experience and last of course want to be happy.
As an organization geared towards sustainable impact, ACT Foundation hopes to build more effective partnerships across all sectors providing and promoting positive change in Africa. To this end, Africa led by ACT Foundation would be at the forefront of providing innovative, sustainable solutions to the various socio-economic challenges in our continent while also being able to have impacted more lives in Africa.