July, 2016 | Allan Gray Orbis Foundation
Teaching Entrepreneurship | By Zimkhitha Peter

Teaching Entrepreneurship | By Zimkhitha Peter

 Entrepreneurship is neither science nor art, it is a practice. Peter Drucker

I think by now we all agree that Entrepreneurship can be taught; at least at the Foundation we believe that it can be. Even though I use the word “teach”, at the Foundation our practice is that of facilitation rather than that of “teaching”. The approaches discussed in this blog, however, are as relevant for teaching as they are for facilitating.

Entrepreneurship is a discipline and like any other discipline it can be taught, however, according to Bill Aulet, head of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and author of Disciplined Entrepreneurship, teaching entrepreneurship well is difficult. “Teaching entrepreneurship is difficult because the subject itself is idiosyncratic, contextual and experiential. Unlike chemistry, math or computer programming, there are no definite answers in the startup world. By definition, entrepreneurs are doing the unknown and the untried, so there are no algorithms for success. Making matters worse, there is a limited amount of scholarship and data that exists on what makes startups succeed or fail’ (Bill Aulet 2013).

At the Foundation we know this challenge too well.  In the last ten years we have explored several approaches to teaching entrepreneurship. In the early days of the Foundation we used experiential learning based on Kolb’s Learning Cycle. David Kolb published his learning styles model in 1984 from which he developed his learning style inventory. Kolb’s experiential learning theory works on two levels: a four-stage cycle of learning and four separate learning styles. Much of Kolb’s theory is concerned with the learner’s internal cognitive processes.

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We found Kolb’s learning cycle quite useful in moving entrepreneurship training from theory to action. Our curriculum was designed is such a way that each Candidate Fellow experienced the entrepreneurship process, i.e generate an idea, validate the idea market and plan operational elements and launch the enterprise. Candidate Fellows in their second year of University ran a 10-day retail business, at third year a service business and at fourth year a consulting business. These businesses were the core feature of the experiential nature of our Programme, which was excellent in allowing Candidate Fellows to have concrete experience, reflect on that experience, learn from the experience and experiment. During this time our curriculum focused more on entrepreneurial skills than entrepreneurial mindset and had a bias towards entrepreneurship training as a process rather than entrepreneurship education as a method.

Our current approach to teaching entrepreneurship is a practice-based approached. We learnt of this approach from a book titled Teaching Entrepreneurship: A Practice-Based Approach, by Heidi M. Neck, Patricia G. Greene and Candida G. Brush), which resonates with our thinking and complements our previous pedagogy, the Kolb learning cycle. Each of these practices can only be learnt through experiential approaches.

The most important thing about a practice-based approach is that it is a method-based approach rather than a process-based approach. The word “process” assumes that the inputs and outputs are known. Entrepreneurial environments are however, unpredictable, uncertain and ambiguous and as such require a specific mindset to navigate the discipline. As noted in the book, approaching entrepreneurship as a method means teaching a way of thinking and acting.

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  • The Practice of Play relates to the development of a free and imaginative mind, allowing one to see a wealth of possibilities, a world of opportunities and a pathway to more innovative ways of being entrepreneurial.
  • The Practice of Empathy borrows heavily from psychology, neuroscience, and design thinking. Entrepreneurs are problem identifiers and problem solvers. Understanding the needs and feelings of others helps students identify which problems are real opportunities, and which are just personal.
  • The Practice of Creation discusses the role of creativity in entrepreneurship as well as delving into the world of creation in contrast to prediction. Entrepreneurs work with what they have, not what they wish they had. The practice of creation develops our students’ ability to work with the reality of what is available and to trust that this is where innovation is born.
  • The Practice of Experimentation draws from medical sociology and other theory. Experimentation is about trying something, seeing what the results are, learning from the results and then trying again. Experimentation is a process of putting forward an idea, testing it, measuring results, making adjustments and then testing again. Learning to do this quickly is the hallmark of a successful entrepreneur.
  • The Practice of Reflection: Reflection holds all the practices together and integrates them into one complete experience. A good reflection practice helps students internalise and apply what they have learnt. We encourage Candidate Fellows to codify their learning experiences, especially in high action environments.

Our entrepreneurial mindset curriculum is delivered through this practice-based approach. For instance, our Ignitions programme encourages Candidate Fellows to reflect on their daily experiences (Practice of Reflection) and identify inefficiencies and ask relevant questions this practice leads to them thinking of possible innovative solutions and expand their thinking. Furthermore, they are encouraged to develop these Ignitions and are given an opportunity to pitch the idea at our annual National Jamboree. Some Candidate Fellows come with their Minimal Viable Products (Practice of Creation) and pitch their ideas (Practice of Experimentation) to a panel of entrepreneurs and other industry experts where they get feedback that they can use to further develop their ideas. To date more than 200 ideas have been pitched at Jamboree, since its inception in 2011

In April this year, the Association launched its Ideation, Validation and Creation (IVC) programme. IVC is aimed at helping Fellows validate and test their business ideas through the Practice of Creation and Experimentation. The intention is that those who progress through the minimum 3-month process will qualify to enter the full time Accelerator. In addition to this the Association co-hosts evenings called “crash and burn” which are designed for Fellows to share with each other their failures (Practice of Empathy).  To date, there are 24 businesses at different stages of the IVC pipeline

We continue to explore how to effectively use all of the practices to best “teach” entrepreneurship, as I write this we are well on our way to launching our Entrepreneurial game (Blue Helix) as part of our strategy to teach entrepreneurship through the Practice of Play at high schools across the country.

We believe as stated by Heidi et al that the method of entrepreneurship requires the development of a set of practices. Through these practices we can help students to think more entrepreneurially, which in turn can develop students who act more entrepreneurially.



Why don’t smart poor kids go to Harvard? | By: Leila Davids

Why don’t smart poor kids go to Harvard? | By: Leila Davids

Malcolm-Gladwell-smMalcolm Gladwell has been described by the Guardian as the King of Non Fiction. In his new podcast, “Revisionist History” Gladwell translates his gripping narrative style from the written word to audio. He shares new insights into stories from the past that have been forgotten or issues that have been misunderstood.

In his most recent podcast, “Carlos doesn’t remember” Gladwell explores why smart poor kids don’t go to universities like Harvard despite financial structures to do so.

Gladwell argues that capitalisation, the metric that assesses the percentage of people in a given group who are able to meet their potential as one of the most powerful metrics by which to measure a country’s progress. Better even than GDP as a descriptor of growth.

But, he asks, is America any good at capitalisation? If you’re born poor can you really move up, if you work hard can you really improve your life?

We follow Carlos (not his real name) – a talented, smart kid from a poor family living in a bad Los Angeles neighbourhood who is given the opportunity through the Eric Eisner’s Yes Programme to attend an elite private school in the leafy suburbs of Brentwood.

We learn just how hard it is for Carlos to overcome troubling family circumstances, cope with the economic realities of poverty and the consequences of violence. We see that the difference between being privileged and being poor incudes the number of chances you get, that talent is fragile and that potential needs deep and abiding support to transform into success.

Each year America leaves a huge amount of talent on the table. In a seminal paper, Hoxby and Avery dispute the assertion that smart disadvantaged kids in the US are rare – they estimate that about 35,000 students from low income households score in the 90th percentile or above on their college test scores per year, yet very few even apply to selective colleges. This is despite the fact that with certain financing structures even an elite university like Harvard is cheaper than a state college.

The parallels with South Africa and the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation are all too clear. Like Eisner’s Yes programme we know that you can pretty predictably find smart, talented children at disadvantaged schools, we believe that selecting high potential learners at a relatively young age makes a difference, and we recognise that placing talented learners in quality education gives them a greater chance at success.

Like Gladwell, we utilise the concept of capitalisation aiming to provide and unlock opportunities for our Scholars and Candidate Fellows to meet their potential, to make the most of their ability. This we believe, will in turn, increase the likelihood of more smart, poor kids going to Harvard. Even if they come from as far away as South Africa.

By: Leila Davids


Imagination is the new currency 

Imagination is the new currency 

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 8.55.40 AMA sophisticated pill bottle that harnesses the internet of things by glowing when medication is required; a gaming concept that customises the game to the beat of the song that you choose; a unit to process sewerage in a way that harvests methane, water, biomass and nutrition for growing food; public sleep cubicles that address the rampant levels of sleep deprivation affecting society; n unsnoozable ankle alarm bracelet that only turns off once sensing consistent foot movement; subsidising coffee on campus to establish a new advertising platform on the cups themselves, and so the ideas keep rolling in.

These examples are a small sample of the over 4,000 ideas from the last few years that have been submitted by Candidate Allan Gray Fellows at university as part of the Allan Gray Fellowship. These ideas, known as ignitions, are part of a holistic intervention to instil what we call intellectual imagination in these individuals – an ability to see the unseen, challenge the status quo and suggest that things could be done differently.

And this imagination has power as these somewhat wild, sometimes almost ridiculous ideas have planted the seeds of future impact. For these ideas represent the first steps in a long-term process that has so far led to a current portfolio of Allan Gray Fellow businesses valued around R600 million.

But despite these numbers, in the pursuit of developing entrepreneurial capacity there is often the question – why start in the realm of the imagination? Why start with the mind? Surely this is not tangible enough, lacking the practical application of actually getting things done.

In fact at the Foundation in our first few years we fell for the logic of the same argument and initially developed an approach that focused heavily on entrepreneurial action – on training for practical application.  In doing this we lost the opportunity to catalyse people into greater entrepreneurial mindset first. For in truth once the thinking is right, once the imagination has been sparked, all the other elements of practice are pursued with significantly more passion and commitment.  There is certainly time for the learning and perfecting of practical application but this application is limited if it hasn’t been preceded by a full exploration of the possibilities of imagination.

In time we found support for this approach for getting the thinking right first, from one of the world’s most respected enterprise developers in Y Combinator founder Paul Graham. He explains to prospective entrepreneurs at university, the doing part of entrepreneurship is the easy part. “What you should be spending your time on in college is ratcheting yourself into the future. What a waste to sacrifice an opportunity to solve the hard part of starting a startup—becoming the sort of person who can have organic startup ideas—by spending time learning about the easy part [the doing].”

New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman takes it even further when suggesting the future will be most decisively categorised by dividing countries, not by high and low growth, but into high imagination enabling countries and low imagination countries with the latter failing to develop their people’s creative capacities and abilities to spark new ideas and industries.

Even mainstream education has recognised the central importance of imagination when at the beginning of this century ‘Evaluate’ was replaced by ‘Create’ (including the sub action of imagine) at the pinnacle of the hierarchy of Bloom’s Taxonomy for learning objectives within education.

We have all become increasingly aware of the opportunity that exists in our moment in history where we can start to harness the exponential technologies to address some of the greatest challenges of our era.  Where it is no longer naïve to believe that a single initiative might touch over a billion lives. We really are only limited by our own imagination. Let us therefore not be limited in that imagination!


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The Next Economy

The Next Economy

“To be truly radical is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing.” – Raymond Williams

Angela Coetzee, Strategy Communications Manager at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, storyteller and passionate believer in social transformation, recently attended the International Architectual Biennale Rotterdam (IABR 2016) through the Stellenbosch University Sustainability Institute Changemaker Programme. She shares some of her reflections emerging from this on the possibilities of the next economy.

We live in a world that is quickly changing, becoming more complex and overrun with challenges. This new world requires a new way of approaching and thinking about challenges. The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation believes that an entrepreneurial mindset can equip us to flourish in this new world.

It is predicted that by 2050 80% of the globe would have urbanised with 90% of wealth created in cities. As a result, an understanding of cities, the challenges and opportunities they present, is vital to cultivating responsible entrepreneurs. The sheer size and density of cities in the future calls into question a range of human and natural systems such as access to water and food, living and work spaces, places of learning and access to opportunity.

The IABR 2016, themed ‘The Next Economy’, connected designers, academics, and thinkers with decision makers, politicians, the private sector and the public with the realities of global cities. It presented more than 60 projects. Together, these projects show a range of possible futures; new housing and working locations, new clean energy systems, new models for area development, and new forms of collaboration, health care, and solidarity. ‘The Next Economy’ investigated the relationship between spatial design and the future development of the economy. The projects exhibited revealed how ordinary people, individuals and communities, are dealing with the social, political and economic challenges that the city presents.

There was an important African presence, celebrating projects of design in reality. The following projects stood out:

africa_ishack2_megan_kingiShack: The iShack Project, based in Ekanini, Stellenbosch, is using solar electricity to demonstrate how green technologies can be used appropriately to incrementally upgrade informal settlements and slums whilst build local enterprising capacity and resilience within a community. Enkanini is an informal settlement of about 6,000 people on the outskirts of Stellenbosch, Western Cape. This community is typical of many similar settlements around South Africa where hundreds of shacks are built in close proximity, with little or no access to clean and safe forms of energy, water or sanitation. The iShack solution did not come from outside of the community, but from within.

28261287Zabaleen: There are 70 000 Zabaleens as Cairo’s informal waste collectors. The word Zabaleen literally means ‘garbage people’. Over the years the Zabaleens have developed an intricate cycle in which about two-thirds of the 15 000 tons of garbage generated daily by Cairo’s 17 million inhabitants is salvaged and recycled. Their relationship with authorities has been tense and under former President Hosni Mubarak, the state contracted international firms to collect waste. This 10-year experiment in privatisation, however, proved inefficient and only served to further marginalize the Zabaleen. Lately, the Zabaleen have begun to organise themselves into formal businesses and the government have started to acknowledge the failure of privatization. The government is starting to formally employ the Zabaleen as waste collectors. This is a great example of how informal and formal economies can integrate in a productive way.

TEVOturtlePeopleSuame Magazine: This is an enormous industrial initiative within Kimasi, Ghana’s second city. It epotimises the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the informal sector. Cargo ships bring thousands of old European cars to Ghana every week, and this is where they are transformed and made fit for Africa’s chaotic cities and potholed roads. The cars and trucks from across West Africa are serviced and repaired in massive agglomeration of shops, factories and open air workshops. Suame Magazine has become an industrial ecosystem of small scale artisanal manufacturing where large volumes of material are being repurposed and recycled.

afrilabsAfrilabs: This is an umbrella organization serving 40 tech hubs that have thrived in 20 different countries across the continent, with an estimated 200 tech hubs in Africa. These hubs are emerging as networks for young African IT workers, commercial startups, entrepreneurs, social investors and innovators to connect, share knowledge and collectively build an African tech ‘ecosystem’. An important catalyst for this movement was initiated by a group of bloggers and programmers in Nairobi in the aftermath of the 2008 electoral crisis, when they created the open source crisis mapping platform, Ushahidi. Afrilabs was established to support the further development of the promising ‘innovation infrastructure’ that is fast spreading across the continent.

These are a few stories that map a new, different story of our present and what can and should be expected in the future. Ordinary people and communities, dealing with the realities of their world and thinking entrepreneurially create ‘The Next Economy’.

An inspired academic and thinker, Vanessa Von Der Heyde shared this insight after her time at the IABR 2016: “The future is ours to imagine and ours to create! Now the real work begins of figuring out what our own roles are in proactively working towards the next, socially inclusive, environmentally beneficial economy”.




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