The Congo Leadership Initiative (CLI) envisions a Congo for and by the Congolese where ethical leaders serve their community and country. The future that CLI is creating is one in which Congo’s leaders guide the country to its prosperous potential.
Hints of this future can be seen today. Congo is one of the world's youngest countries with an median age of seventeen (by contrast, the average age in the U.S. is twice that). Each of these young people has unlimited potential to steer Congo towards a brighter future on their own, but as a unified group of talented and socially responsible professionals, they will be a powerful force driving their nation to peace and prosperity.
At the same time, the problems of the present weigh down the DRC. It is a nation that is and has for many years been “stuck in neutral” and currently ranks last on the United Nation’s “Human Development Index” out of 187 countries and is one of the worst places in the world to do business. By almost any measure, the DRC is a developing country unlike any other with a past filled with bad luck, missed opportunities, and greed. This history has led to startling underachievement in the face of great potential.
Nevertheless, CLI can help create a brighter future because the potential for Congo to prosper area already evident. Indeed, the atrocities there play themselves out in a theater ripe with both beauty and potential for advancement. For instance:
The Congo River basin is home to one of the world’s great rainforests centered around one of its most powerful rivers.
Buried in Congo is an estimated $24 trillion in mineral wealth, including coltan – a key component in all modern electronic devices. Congo also contains the world’s largest reserves of cobalt and significant quantities of diamonds, gold, and copper.
Without a doubt, Congo could be the richest country in Africa or even the world, but there is serious demand for skilled leaders who can translate this potential into reality. The future CLI is creating is not just one of stability, but one of consistent progress. We know that peace and prosperity are possible because we have met the young people who will create it!
The Congo Leadership Initiative develops the next generation of leaders to be catalysts for peace and prosperity in Congo. In August of 2010, CLI successfully launched its youth leadership program in Kinshasa. This program, the Leadership Institute, was kicked-off with an intensive camp for social leadership skills called the Leadership Accelerator. The Leadership Institute was adapted from other successful programs such as those created by Educate! and the African Leadership Academy and altered to fit the specific needs of youth in Congo as described below. We chose to emulate the organizations above because, like us, they began with the seed of an idea and scaled gradually, trusting in both data and a belief in the power of talented youth. The adaptations that we created with our Congolese staff ranged from subtle changes in lesson timing to added elements that better channeled our students’ creative prowess. Having tested various strategies and learned from our successes, we have further solidified our curriculum by blending best practices with the lessons learned during years one and two. It is with the Leadership Institute that CLI is creating the future described above.
CLI engenders social change not by forcing external ideas, values, or even aid upon the Congolese, but by stewarding the development of Congo’s most valuable resource: its young population. This is accomplished through the intensive, empowering Leadership Institute, support for students’ academic advancement, and the ongoing transformation fostered by a community of leaders. By empowering Congo’s youth to think of themselves as leaders, training skills to enhance their abilities, teaching them that it is their responsibility as leaders to advance society first, and finally helping them achieve their goals, we are bringing about a Congo that is led by talented and socially-responsible men and women. Advancement in Congo first requires the recognition that Congolese leaders must solve Congolese problems. CLI’s belief in Congo’s talented youth is already creating substantive change and we are poised to amplify our impact.
CLI aims to strategically grow its program by partnering with established and successful Congolese youth organizations to conduct additional programming. This strategy has proven successful to this point and we are excited to grow even more!
My name is Congo Leadership Initiative. CLI develops the next generation of leaders to be catalysts for peace and prosperity in Congo. We're a registered nonprofit in the United States with a staff and board full of talented volunteers. Equally skilled Congolese staff members handle our programming on the ground. We engage Congo's young leaders with programming that promotes socially responsible leadership and critical thinking skills.and I am the Founder and CEO of the
Since we started CLI, I've had hundreds of discussions with people around the world about our organization, youth development, and Congo. At some point in this discussion, I'm invariably asked one question: Why Congo?
This makes sense. The fact is that there are millions of middle-class, educated young white men from developed countries but I can count on one hand the number of them who have made it their life's work to engage deeply with the Congolese people. So I'm an outlier. I'm not Congolese. Some of my friends probably would have a hard time pointing out theon a map. No one else in my family has ever even been there and (trust me), my parents aren't planning a trip. Yet somehow, Congo and its people are as deeply woven into my life as any of these friends or family members.
My uniqueness isn't the problem. The problem is that I don't have a satisfying answer to the question. Those asking me about CLI and my involvement are expecting an incredible story. They ask, "Why are you interested in Congo?" and expect my answer to make them cry, change their lives, or at least be mildly entertaining. I don't have an elevator pitch that can do that. So until very recently, I was extremely self-conscious about my interest in Congo. I thought that I needed a story to tie everything together.
was Congo's first postcolonial and (depending on how you deconstruct the concept of "democracy") only democratically elected leader. Before he was assassinated, he is notable for saying, "We are not alone. Africa, Asia, and free and liberated people from every corner of the world will always be found at the side of the Congolese." This quote is powerful and interesting, and helps explain why no Congolese person has ever asked me why I'm interested in Congo. They understand that this is not a charity mission. It's not an American fixing Congo. It's just a group of people coming together to solve problems and make the world a better place.
I didn't have a vivid dream or a vision or a near-death experience. I just started an organization... and we work in Congo. The great part about my non-story is that it proves that no one needs a life-altering experience to do what's right.
At the end of the day, I am unable point to one moment in Congo that changed my life, made me renounced every idea I had about the world, and led me to start a nonprofit in Africa. As it turns out, there are too many of these moments to count.