‘Go the extra mile, because it’s usually empty’: Why you should Do it Now Now

How @DoitBayo is bridging the gap between who people are now and who they want to be Click To Tweet

Do it Now Now is a crowdfunding platform that has the social development of Africa at its core. Founded by Bayo Adelaja, a research assistant at the London School of Economics, Do it Now Now helps supports social entrepreneurs in their quest to make a positive impact across Africa.

Bayo also hosts frequent StartUps for Africa events on Google Campus, in the heart of London’s Silicon Roundabout. We caught up with Bayo to find out a bit more about the Do it Now Now journey and the importance of social entrepreneurship right now. 

Where did the passion for entrepreneurship come from?

I love working at the LSE, the work is great and so are my colleagues but I’ve always had that entrepreneurial spirit within me. The only way I could do that was by stepping out of my comfort zone and saying this is who I am, who I want to be and I’m not going to let anyone talk me out of it.

I had been talked out of it in the past when a company that was trying to buy another start-up I had tried to steal my idea. At that point I wasn’t good at saying I needed help or a support network to guide me on the journey. I realised that most people don’t have that support. They also lack the skills, knowledge and connections.

I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great if I could help people to bridge the gap between who they are and who they want to be?

What is Do It Now Now?

Do it Now Now is a crowdfunding platform with an incubator attached to it. We help people raise up to £10,000 ($12,000) from their friends, family and other interested parties. Do it Now Now helps businesses organise their campaigns, their perks and rewards, the marketing, the budget, everything. We work with the startup from A to Z, giving them all the support they need over the course of a year to help them build a healthy, scalable and sustainable business.

We help people raise up to £10,000 from their friends, family and other interested parties Click To Tweet

My job at the LSE has helped a lot as. I saw that there was a gap between the amount of work that aid organisations can do and the amount of development needed on the continent. Social entrepreneurs and start-ups can be more flexible, quicker on the ground with more local knowledge of the community that they’re in.

That’s a huge advantage, and an opportunity for them to link up with other organisations in Africa who might be able to support them in one way or another. We also partner with incubators on the continent such as the Kumasi Hive, working with tech entrepreneurs in Ghana.

Bayo Adelaja herself
Bayo Adelaja herself

How does the fundraising process work?

You raise money with us and we help you grow. Then, we expect you to donate 20% of your gross income or £500 ($600), whichever amount it higher, to the charity that you chose at the beginning of your campaign. Do it Now Now collects commission that enables us to run the programme.

We also have Startups for Africa, the free version of the programme which brings together people who are interested in growing their businesses, fostering collaborations and getting a conversation started. We want to show people that it is possible to be a purposeful, conscious person and have a business that is not just about the money, but about people and causes; it’s a heart thing.

Money is great but being part of a community that cares about people and supports you is so much better.

How can social entrepreneurs be successful on the continent?

Do it Now Now is based on this principle: start now, plan now, do it now and do it well. Get on your feet and keep moving. So many of us have a good ideas that will change Africa but we spent too much time planning and researching. We’ve been relying on potential for years, if not decades.

I want people to see that it’s not difficult at all to be a purposeful business. Social entrepreneurship is a fantastic way to support Africa’s development and still support yourself financially. I’m not here to simply line my pockets and die rich, I’m here to help people and improve life on the continent.

I want people to see that it’s not difficult at all to be a purposeful business Click To Tweet

If we have businesses that are strong, healthy and doing positive things it becomes good PR for Africa. Be passionate about your business, your people and the rest of the world will see it too. We need to recognise who we are, where we come from and build what’s needed —no one is going to do that for us. Africa is not a token, it’s not something you do on the side, you need to treat it with the respect that it deserves.


How do you balance a full time job and running Do it Now Now?

Well, I work about 80 hours a week: I wake up at 5am to build my business then go to work at 10am. Then I sleep and do it all over again, because I’m super passionate. Someone once told me ‘go the extra mile, because it’s usually empty’. If we just pivot the purpose of business we can make a truly sustainable and long-lasting impact.

‘Go the extra mile, because it’s usually empty’ - how to make your mark Click To Tweet

How can a budding social entrepreneur get started?

Pick a problem and pick it wisely. It has to be something you’re passionate about, otherwise you’ll quit. You’ll quit quickly and you’ll leave people in the lurch. Pick something small and specific, then you can then blow it up and make it big. Always work with other people and look out for collaboration opportunities.

I go to as many meetings as possible because you never really know who you’ll meet. My favourite saying is; ‘you can’t see the holes in your own head’. You have no idea what the gaps are in your business because you’re too close to it, so you need others to step in and provide a different view.

Share your idea. I saw an SLA instagram post that said ideas alone aren’t worth very much. And while that may be controversial, it’s true. There are so many ideas you can have in a day, what counts is the implementation, your passion, your network, your influence and how you communicate.

Just make sure that you’re able to share the idea, because without people your ideas are nothing. Realise that you don’t have to fix every problem, you just have to start with one, and if it expands, fantastic.

Without people your ideas are nothing. Here's how to build your social entrepreneurship business Click To Tweet

…And what do you do with what’s left of your free time?

My sisterhood! I love hanging out with my girlfriends, chatting, having a coffee and chilling but then I’m back to work.

There are also many things I want to do and grow in —hiking, learning French, Mandarin, Korean, reading. I also love music, someone once told me that I have 132 playlists on Spotify! Above all I love working, because I’m passionate about it. I simply do what I love.

Want to see women you know featured on SLA? Tell us what amazing things women are doing in your communities here.

How to land a job with the United Nations

United Nations Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

The United Nations is probably one of the most well known organisations in the world. Around the world, wherever the UN is present, it is widely regarded as a symbol of peace, cooperation and development.

For someone like myself working in the development sector, landing a job at the UN is considered a major feat and one that is likely to open doors for you throughout the rest of your career.

So the question is, how exactly does one go about getting a job at the United Nations? Having successfully gone through the process recently, I would like to offer a few key pieces of advice that I believe worked to my advantage.

1. Become an expert at something

Whatever your qualifications are, know now that for every position you apply to at the United Nations there are hundreds, if not thousands of people with the same qualifications, or even better. So what’s going to set you apart from the competition?

In my opinion, you have to be an expert at something, anything. You should also be able to demonstrate how you can use your expertise to make an impact on the job if you are hired. In my case, while the job description did not immediately ask for it, I knew that I had a flair for design and communication and so I was sure to highlight that.

In my opinion, you have to be an expert at something, anything Click To Tweet

I showed this not just in my CV but in the way my CV was designed. Also, in answering the questions in the application process, I made sure to weave this fact into my answers, and it worked.

After I was hired my boss told me that was one thing that stuck in her mind. In addition, the fact that I was able to display that skill at every stage of the interview process, both on the written test and during the oral interview, was impressive.

So my advice to you is, be very good at what you do. Also, have a few unexpected tricks up your sleeve. In this day and age, don’t limit yourself to any one way of doing things.  Rather use your time wisely to cultivate skill sets outside of your field of work or study.

In this day and age, don’t limit yourself to any one way of doing things Click To Tweet

2. Be bold and daring

For most positions advertised at the UN, it seems that they are looking for experts with tons of experience. At first glance I think it can be very intimidating to most people, especially those in the earlier stages of their careers, who feel that they do not have the necessary profile to apply for the jobs they come across.

My advice to you is to ignore the doubt and dare to go for it anyways. The position I applied for asked for at least 5 years of experience and I had only 2. But reading the job description, I was convinced that even with my limited experience I could take on the role successfully. So I set out to show that in my application.

My advice to you is to ignore the doubt and dare to go for it anyways Click To Tweet

I enlisted all the help that I could get throughout the application process. I familiarised myself with the work being done by the United Nations body I was applying to. Also, I read through tons of reports, case studies, partner organisation websites.

I must have spent close to two weeks crafting the perfect application and going through it over and over until I was fully convinced that I was submitting an application that would get me the job.

After I was hired, I heard from my boss that my application immediately stood out. My boss said it was complete, compelling and presented in an attractive format. By the time they realised that I did not have the 5 years of experience that they were looking for, they were already sold on my qualifications and abilities to think outside the box. That was what put me through to the next round.

3. Cultivate an international outlook

For the most part, the work done by the UN strives to find out what works in one part of the world. Whether it is in terms of promoting socio-economic development, peace or security. Then trying to see how the lessons learned can be applied or reproduced in another part of the world.

What that means is that if you do land a job at the United Nations, you are going to be interacting with people from different cultures and backgrounds. Together, you will find common ground so that you can do meaningful work and enact real change.

Part of what I believe helped me through the application process was that I was able to display the fact that I had a very international background. Not just that, I had successfully thrived in different cultures. I had also been able to build things i.e. networks, grass-roots organisations, communities, everywhere that I had been.

Landing a job at the UN is hard, but the truth is that it is actually very achievable Click To Tweet

Finally, be determined and proactive

In all honesty, landing a job at the UN is hard, but the truth is that it is actually very achievable. It’s one of those things that you have to be really determined and proactive about. Be on the lookout for new job postings on the various UN sites at least twice a month.

Do your research into the different United Nations bodies you think you would like to work for. Know what they are truly about. Then, appraise your background and expertise to determine how you could really make an impact there. Seek counsel from people who have worked in the UN or other international organisations. It never hurts to get a more realistic picture of what it’s really like from an insiders perspective.

Be on the lookout for new job postings on the various UN sites at least twice a month Click To Tweet

Be patient and persistent. You may not land the first or second or even third position you apply for at the United Nations. Still, that should not deter you. Even if you do make it past the first or second round, it can take weeks or even months before you advance to the next round. In my case the whole process took about 4 months. During that time, I still had to focus my time and energy on the job that I already had.

Believe in yourself and in your abilities to succeed and to thrive anywhere. When I got the call saying I’d been offered the position, there was no hesitation and I immediately said yes, even though I knew it would take me away from everything that was familiar to me. I have not regretted one minute of it!

Do you work in the development sector. Do you have a job that has taken you to far and remote corners of the world? What have your experiences been like? Are you considering applying to the UN or similar organisations? We would love to hear from you about your experiences. Visit www.globalcareersfair.com for information on jobs in the development sector.

Gain international development experience without becoming an unpaid intern

Tastemakers Africa

Working in the international development field is the best of many worlds. You have the opportunity to do good and well in life; travel around the world, live on stipends, get tuition reimbursement and student loan forgiveness. There are many incentives to working at places like Save the Children, the World Bank, or your country’s national development agency. This can be a very competitive sector to break into but with a plan of attack and a strategic mind, it’s definitely within your reach.

I’ve traveled throughout sub-Saharan Africa due to work, and trust me it’s been a long time coming. I’ve had to work throughout high school, college, and graduate school; I attended expensive private universities and the US Department of Education owns my first born. I didn’t have any hook-ups from parents who knew important people and I didn’t have any high profile professors vouching for me. I’ve had to consistently plan and re-plan every career move every step of the way.

Still, it’s possible to get that dream job, and this is what I think can help:

Never work for free

Seriously, this is a never ending cycle that you don’t want to get into. If you are a freshman or sophomore in college, fine maybe. You are only two years removed from high school and may not have a skillset to take to an employer. But, interning for free well into your 20s is absolutely unnecessary. You have to sell yourself and you can’t sell yourself cheap. By the time you graduate you have a skillset and should be able to express that in a convincing manner. Your language skills, your research abilities, your study abroad stint are all assets worth something!

If you think its okay to work for free just for the experience, you are beginning your career backwards. When you end up applying for a job and you need to tell them how much you were last paid, the fact that you worked for free at the UN will overshadow any work that you did there. It devalues your contribution to the organization you worked for, if you made a big enough impact they would have found a way to pay you. Just say no.

Begin learning a language

It’s so important, particularly if you are interested in working in sub-Saharan Africa. French is a vital tool that will propel your resume to the top of the pile even if you may not have that 3-5 year professional experience. Entering a language institute may even be more valuable than graduate school. Believe me, having a language is a shoe in for many international development agencies.

Find an actual niche/focus

It’s not good enough to say you want to work in international development, or in Africa. What do you want to change? Public health? Food security? Economic empowerment of women and girls? Reproductive health? There are dozens, if not hundreds of niches within international development, it is important you find yours. Graduate school allows you to learn the different sectors within international development and helps you figure out the hot topics, the institutions working on the ground and where in the world the issue is most pressing.

For example, I work in population and health, specifically in reproductive rights and access to contraception for young women. Pretty specific. When you’ve found your niche, do your research, write about it, read about it, tweet about it, enter dialogue online, attend events and listen to webinars. This will get you on the radar and start building you a mini portfolio before you even apply for the job.

Apply for work/travel grants

To work in international development you must have overseas, on the ground experience. So, you have graduated school, you have a basic understanding of a second language, you have found your niche! This isn’t enough to land your first position. You need real on the ground experience, whether in Southeast Asia, Africa or the Middle East. You need to get your butt over there for at least six months. You’ve got to get creative, start a go fund me campaign, work for a year at some desk job to save up and move overseas.

If you are like me and don’t have the money to move overseas for a year. Apply for travel grants ASAP. One of the best is the Christianson Grant, it awards young people under 30 with up to $10,000. All you need to do is find a place to work (and get accepted by the selection committee of course). One of my close friends was awarded the grant and spent a year working at an education NGO in Kigali, Rwanda. The $8,000 she received was enough to pay her housing, her monthly expenses, and her flights there and back. Other grants like Princeton in Africa place you at NGOs across sub-Saharan Africa, along with paying for flights and housing.

Take a (very temporary) pay cut

So you’ve been denied all the travel grants, and don’t have the money for an overseas stint. Don’t worry, there are other options to getting that overseas experience. Get on idealist.org, UNjobs.org, and devex.org, then study the jobs/paid internships available in developing countries. You’ll find many small local NGOs looking for program managers, site coordinators, capacity building managers, and so on. These jobs  pay close to nothing but they will pay for your flight, a small monthly stipend, and housing. These are golden opportunities to getting that experience while still being compensated.

For example, I found a job in rural Tanzania in 2013. It was working with women (check), it was based in Africa (check), and it paid $600 per month. Um not check! I was taken aback by the low salary, but knew I had to consider it for on the ground experience. The position also offered me housing, flights, and a “Program Manager” title (check). In the end, my time in rural Tanzania is how I ultimately got my international development career started.

I am a strong believer that you have got to be strategic in planning out your career. It’s not enough to have interest, you must have something to back it up. This list worked for me, and I hope it works for you too.