Early in my career, I wasn’t happy; my mind was conflicted. I had launched a successful branding and marketing business, but I realized that I was helping companies make more money from people who had so little to spare.
I had lost my moral compass. But I was committed to finding it again. I made a change.
After ten years of running my marketing firm, I shifted from building brands to changing minds because I knew that Africa’s transformation would start from mind-set renewal.
I started CEDA International in Uganda with the aim of creating the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs. My work has groomed values-based leaders, influenced policies, empowered youth, provided education and employment for young women, mentored women to run for public offices and supported enterprises to develop business management systems.
Even after starting CEDA International, I still felt like something was missing. Something deep within me was seeking a community with purpose.
I was starting to see that my experience was not an accessory, but a great tool that I could use to create a movement. I wanted to start the journey that would define my next chapter and contribute solutions to one of the major global challenges—access to quality education and youth employment.
Through Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Initiative, I now have the chance to take on my next great challenge.
Coming to Harvard has brought a new breath of air. Everyone is positive—creating something: artificial intelligence in the health sector, cancer research, early childhood education, building sustainable cities and economic empowerment of people at the bottom of the pyramid.
For the first time, I am not leading, mentoring or thinking for others. I have given myself the liberty to just be—and focus on me.
As a social innovator, I seek to broaden my understanding of social and public sector leadership challenges and effective problem solving. In order to scale my work and take it global, I am developing an actionable innovation strategy and creating sustainable cross-sector collaborations. With these partnerships, I can advance education reforms and create employment pathways through innovation and technology.
I want to build solutions that would feed into existing eco-systems to allow Africa’s young people to solve African problems with global perspectives. With more than 78% of the population below 35 years, the time is now.
I want to create sustainable development solutions without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. I want to turn the youthful demographic into productive members of society and global citizens.
Here I am with my big dream, hanging out with some of the best brains in the world—an intellectual community of research, policy and practice. This opportunity is creating diversity in my professional and social capital.
The ALI Fellows are accomplished leaders with a wealth of knowledge, experience, and networks; they are ready to help, and they exude humility. They are awesome!
We take off time from class work and bond, forget our ex-roles as executives and leaders, and just have fun. We also freely interact with students, very responsive faculty and the larger Harvard community. We are building life-long friendships and relationships that will propel us to collectively create the world we shall be proud of.
Personally, this journey is about self-reflection, energizing, and strategizing. I am here to dive in, to unlearn, learn and relearn. I have become more curious and my ears are on the ground—I am listening.
I am finding the courage to abandon practices that have made me successful in the past and instead take daring leaps. I am preparing myself, not for the comfortable predictability of yesterday but for the realities of today and the unknown possibilities of tomorrow.
I am using my time to share, network and build strategic collaborations. One thing I know for sure is that we are stronger together. And the African proverb constantly reminds me that “If I walk alone, I go fast, but when I go with others, we go far.”
Rehmah Kasule is a 2019 ALI Fellow at Harvard University. Prior to ALI, she founded and was the president of Century Entrepreneurship Development Agency, a Ugandan nonprofit that has helped over 38,000 youth and women pursue equality and economic development opportunities. Ms. Kasule is also a member of the Parliament of Buganda Kingdom, and has earned multiple global awards recognizing her social impact leadership.
This article was first published as a blog on the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative website.