Nikki and Rob Wilson’s Story
In 2011, Nikki and Rob Wilson embarked on a journey from Cape Town to Cairo, travelling through 11 countries, to find exceptional changemakers who are using entrepreneurial solutions to drive social and environmental change in Africa.
Inspired by their gap years in Africa, whilst at university Nikki and Rob founded READ International, a Tanzanian student-volunteer-led development organisation sending high quality, disused books to schools in East Africa.
Nikki and Rob used their Fellowship to travel across Africa, seeking out stories of amazing people who are driving positive change for their community, their country or their continent. They wanted to shake up people’s pre-conceptions and counterbalance the bad press that Africa often receives.
Highlights included meeting a Buddhist who is training rats to sniff out landmines; an ex-child soldier who uses his rap star status to change lives; a gap year student who now works on death row; and a mum and dad duo who are working with Coca-Cola to distribute medical aid.
Nikki and Rob (pictured above, bottom row, left, and top row, second from right, with some of the people they met during their Fellowship) used the experience of their Fellowship to write a book called On the Up, a collection of short stories about entrepreneurial solutions to social and environmental challenges. The launch in April 2012, at which they were joined by seven of the social entrepreneurs they met during their travels, attracted an audience of 200 people to the Royal Commonwealth Society in central London. As a direct consequence of the Fellowship and their book Rob became CEO of Ashoka UK in late 2011 and spent five years there supporting social entrepreneurs around the world, including many of those profiled in their book!
Since the Fellowship, Nikki has become CEO of Wings for Life, a not-for-profit spinal cord research foundation. She has continued to support READ International in a voluntary capacity and has also launched several local community initiatives in their home town of Tonbridge.
Rob has become a serial social entrepreneur, founding several new ventures. He co-founded Generation Change in 2012, a partnership of the UK's leading youth social action organisations. In the wake of the UK’s referendum on membership of the European Union, he co-founded the youth-led campaign Undivided, a non-partisan campaign set up to get the best possible Brexit deal for young people. Meanwhile, READ International has to-date provided over 1.5 million books to school children and created 100 school libraries.
Watch Rob's TedxExeter talk
A new venture, Toast Ale, began in early 2016, with Rob initially working as an advisor and more recently as full time Chief Toaster (CEO). Toast Ale brew beer using fresh surplus bread that would otherwise be wasted. They have had great success in the UK and have expanded to the USA, South Africa, Brazil and Iceland. All profits go to Feedback, a charity campaigning to end food waste.