Pip Wheaton is the founder of enke: Make Your Mark, a youth development organisation that inspires, trains and supports young people as they take action on the most urgent social issues in their communities.
It has taken only six years for the organisation to gain both local and international recognition, largely due to Wheaton’s sterling work.
“I was in Durban, working in schools, when I first got inspired by the power of young people to lead social change,” says Wheaton. “I was told that youth apathy was a big issue, but I kept meeting learners who were really fired up, some were actually really angry; all were passionate about what change they wanted to see in their communities.”
Wheaton realised that if young people were given the space to dream big, they came up with powerful ideas. This led to her developing enke: Make Your Mark.
It has continued to grow and make an impressive difference to the youth it engages with. For her efforts, Wheaton received an Ashoka Fellowship, a global award that recognises innovative social entrepreneurs.
“I started enke: Make Your Mark in 2009 with two friends and never imagined it would grow to be everything that it is today. Founding and building the organisation is something I am incredibly proud of, but I think my greatest achievement was actually deciding to resign,” she says. “I think our new chief executive, Rufaro Mudimu, is the most passionate advocate for youth-led social change I’ve ever met.”
She left the organisation in March and was offered a short-term opportunity with the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
The role explores how non-profit organisations can build new ways of becoming financially sustainable. For Wheaton it is another chance to explore making a difference in South Africa and bringing about positive change.
“South Africa is in a really special situation right now as there are huge numbers of innovative ideas being launched and new ways of doing things that are at the global cutting edge in fields like education, social finance and health,” she adds. “Even with huge constraints at a national level, there are amazing things happening.”
Wheaton finds working in this sector to be both challenging and rewarding; for her it is more than a career choice, it is a mind-set.
“Just asking the questions about how your work can be done in a way that has positive social returns, not just financial returns, can shift the way that big business operates.”
As she explores new horizons it is very likely that she will continue to appear on the South African radar regularly.
“I am inspired by all the adventures, large and small, that can show up each day, and by the amazing people in my life, especially my mother: human beings who make me laugh and challenge me with big ideas,” says Wheaton. “There are some great new opportunities on the horizon, but for now I am enjoying the exhilarating discomfort of not knowing what will come next.”