As we celebrate the final day of 2015, we look back at a year that without a doubt allowed RLabs to develop its mission further in impacting the lives of millions across the globe. We saw all our programmes expanding activities and increasing in impact. Our active RLabs hubs across the globe have also further developed their programmes with our team placing a strong focus on expansion in Africa. This was the year we embarked on a journey of exploring the US and Finland as possible homes for RLabs activities with 2016 being an exciting year for expansions. During 2015, RLabs was also selected as the Lead SA National Hero of the Year for 2015 and listed as one of the African Technology Hubs of the future by CNN amongst the many accolades. It was also our 7 year celebration where we graduated thousands of community members through our training programmes.
Training and Development
RLabs Academy offered more than 40 courses during 2015 and graduated more than 2,500 students through its programmes. The RLabs Youth offering also provided more than 3,000 graduates of its programmes during the last 12 months. The Youth Cafes in partnership with the Western Cape Department of Social Development has proven to be a big success as we’ve managed to launch the RLabs Connect initiative that supported graduates with job and economic opportunities. More than 1,000 young people accessed economic opportunities, started businesses or furthered their studies at either a university or college. Some of these enterprises started by our young people are Crossing the Nation by Youth Cafe graduate, Kaylan Mackay, who is selling graveyard crosses to funeral parlours and Dine with Khayelitsha founded by GROW Leadership Academy alumni provides people an alternative dinner experience over good conversation in the largest township in the Western Cape. RLabs also partnered with Accenture South Africa to provide specialized skills to more than 100 young people and connecting them with job opportunities.
We also launched a new initiative, RLabsU, offering communities access to RLabs Academy programmes in their local context. We launched our first 2 RLabsU campuses in Gugulethu and Khayelitsha supporting hundreds of community members through the initial training programmes. We looking forward to expanding this programme to 25 communities during 2016. The graduations for all our training programmes were a 2 day celebration where graduates gathered at our inaugural Stories of HOPE festival.
The Stories of HOPE festival brought together more than 5,000 people who experienced the stories of people who have had their lives changed through the work of RLabs. The stories were told through an Art Exhibition and showcased the work of various artists using their preferred art forms.
RLabs hosted the BBC and Facebook at co-creation events this year with one of our team piloting their solution, Catch UP, with the BBC. Catch Up has already gained popularity attracting more than 250,000 unique users to the platform in the first 2 months of going live. The Innovation Labs also launched the RLabs Radio where we broadcasting 4 times a week via RLabs.fm. Other innovations included Zlto digital rewards programme that received support from the Western Union Foundation, RLabs mToto offering Early Childhood Development innovations and crowdfunding plaforms and Spazaa offering an alternative supply chain solution to informal traders.
Through our various innovations RLabs have reached more than 500,000 people during 2015. It was also the year where we decided to discontinue our mobile chat counseling platform JamiiX that allowed us to reach more than 4 Million people since its founding in 2008. RLabs is currently offering the solution to non-profits like MobieG who are still offering the services to youth across South Africa. Rockefeller Foundation also awarded RLabs a grant to further develop the Innovation Lab concept that can be further scaled across all RLabs hubs in other parts of the world. RLabs also received further support from Omidyar Network who committed funding for the next 3 years.
Incubation and Startups
This year 10 social innovations and startups were showcased at our annual launch event. It was also a year where EduGreen one of our 2014 startups managed to secure their own offices and the team received some investment from the US Embassy and partnered with the infamous MIT. RLabs will be increasing the number of startups we support from 2016 onwards as we’ve developed a new incubation programme with the goal of support 100 startups a year by 2018. The applications for our 2016 class is now officially open and can be accessed online. We were also excited to see innovations and startups emerging from our various hubs especially at RLabs Iringa and RLabs Botswana.
Making HOPE Contagious
As we prepare for the next chapter in our journey, RLabs, would like to thank all its partners, champions, communities for their unconditional support. This has been an incredible year and we’ve seen the power of HOPE at work in the lives of the people we serve through our programmes. To our teams across the world thank you for your labour of love where you continuously serve your communities with so much passion and drive. Although we lost one of our family, Lenaise Titus, this year we’ve seen our team rising stronger and more resilient than ever before. We will continue the legacy of Lenaise through our work and every person impacted will be a celebration of her life that she lived with purpose.
2009 – 2015
Since our inception in 2009 RLabs used the tagline “A Social Revolution” and as we embark on this new journey this revolution that started in the heart of the Cape Flats in Cape Town, South Africa has grown-up and now focussed on its purpose of “Making Hope Contagious”. This new and exciting era that we’re entering will see RLabs increasing its impact 10-fold in the next 3 years and we know that it is only going to be possible with our champions across the world.
We wish you and your family a Blessed 2016!!