The Heart of Tech

The Heart of Tech

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 7.35.17 PMWhat is the essence of innovative technology? Is it about creating the next desirable tech accessory or finding the simplest, fastest way to get something done – usually involving fewer if any people? Or perhaps it’s just about making a name for yourself in Silicon Valley. For Naeem Ganey, the heart of tech, in fact, the heart of business, is and will always be people.

As Founder and Co-founder of two tech startups, Naeem certainly knows what he’s talking about. In 2015 Naeem started EduTree with a friend while finishing his Honours degree in Computer Science. EduTree is a mobile-friendly platform that focuses on revision aid in high school. Students can login to EduTree and practice Mathematics and Science. The system then analyses the student’s answering patterns, identifying strengths and providing teachers with deep analytics about a student’s learning. It being an educational business, the company’s business model and choice of tech is completely guided by the principle of providing access as widely as possible – no sign-up fee is required, basic smart phones can navigate the platform easily and, best of all, it’s data-efficient.

This kind of thinking – about what people need and what they have to work with – lies at the heart of Naeem’s business initiatives. In fact, he has a vision of “a digital Africa that is inclusive and revolutionary.”

A year after co-founding EduTree, he founded Media Measure, a media monitoring business that checks broadcasters’ compliance in the interest of clients who buy airtime for their ads. This was a pioneering venture in more than one way. It operates in Rwanda, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola and Malawi, empowering advertisers with alerts and evidence that can hold broadcasters to account for the first time ever. Being based in Johannesburg meant that Naeem had to provide these services remotely, which in turn meant setting up data centres in each of these countries – one more thing that hadn’t been done before, except by banks or other huge companies. “We’re the first small startup to actually do what we’ve been doing in some of these countries.”

When Naeem talks about tech, he can’t help talking about Africa and vice versa. Explaining that in Zambia, for example, there are two cell phones per person or that it’s a common occurrence in most of these countries to find someone selling their shoes in order to pay for a smart phone, immediately puts to rest any fears that Africa is a dark continent. It is in fact brimming with opportunities for technological innovation, but, warns Naeem, it comes with its challenges. For one, the way most Africans still do business is face to face. If telephone calls, emails or messages are what you rely on, clinching a deal might take months, if it is ever clinched. Innovators are also limited to providing services that solve an immediate need, and tech that works on not-so-smart devices. Yet, in spite of these challenges, Naeem believes that “we – the African people are the most equipped to solve these challenges … we have the ability to connect with people, different types of people, the ability of understanding people.”

His understanding of the importance of the human element stems from both his upbringing and his participation in the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s Fellowship Programme. Thanks to his parents, he has received business training all throughout his youth. From counting stock and tending to customers at Bingo Cash and Carry in the small town of Vryburg to managing the start of a new fish and chips take away restaurant in Mahikeng, and coming up with ways to attract more customers – Naeem has seen it all. He attributes the meticulousness with which he approaches writing code to having had to carefully count viennas and pieces of fish as a youngster. He also noticed that customers kept coming back to his family’s business because his parents knew their customers, their families, who was sick and who baked the best cookies. So, in effect, customers returned not just to make a purchase but to visit their friends.

At the Foundation this sense of connecting with people was echoed. Referring to the blend of unique characters in the Fellowship programme, he used to call it a “fruit salad”, especially when comparing it to other scholarships where everyone either looks the same or operates in the same way. “The Foundation appreciates the unique abilities in each person … and they taught us how to appreciate the unique abilities in each person.”

Naeem’s view of both technology and our potential as Africans in Africa is a breath of fresh air in an industry enamoured by Silicon Valley and the drive to automate.

 

Are grittier individuals more successful? | By Teri Richter

Are grittier individuals more successful? | By Teri Richter

Origins and definition of Grit

The concept of grit was popularised recently by Angela Lee Duckworth and is defined as the perseverance and passion for long-term goals.  Duckworth and Peterson (2007: p. 1087 – 1088[1]) is characterised by:

  • “Strenuously working towards challenges
  • Maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity and plateaus in progress.”

Duckworth’s study of grit was borne out of an interest to answer the fundamental question: “Why do some individuals accomplish more than others of equal intelligence?” Duckworth and Yeager (2015[2]) discuss the importance of differentiating between intelligence or general mental ability and factors attributed to social and emotional learning [SEL] competencies, a phrase that highlights the relevance of emotions and social relationships to any complete view of child development (Durlak, Domitrovich, Weissberg, & Gullotta, 2015; Elias, 1997; Weissberg & Cascarino, 2013) or personality traits. Measurement and research on the latter being much less reliably and precisely tested than intelligence.

 

Duckworth and Peterson’s (2007) research suggests that grit is one of the personal qualities that is shared by most prominent leaders. The concept of grit is based on prior research of Galton (1892: p. 32) which proposed that ability alone was not the enough to bring about success, however that “ability combined with zeal and with capacity for hard labour”. Similarly, Cox’s (1926: p. 218) research concluded that evidence of “persistence of motive and effort, confidence in their abilities and great strength or force of character” early on influenced subsequent achievement.

Application of Grit at the Foundation

The following table is a representation of Duckworth’s synthesis of the key components of Grit and how we could incorporate certain aspects from the Grit literature into the Foundation’s work[3]:

Core component of Grit Definition Linking to the Foundation
1. Interest and passion which motivates that you are more likely to keep going and ‘stick-with-it’ if you love what you do This in turn would encourage us to aid beneficiaries in career guidance and finding their passion
2. Deliberate practice Which refers to practice that focuses on tasks beyond your current level of competence and comfort This approach could be incorporated into our curriculum in developing this skill in beneficiaries to pursue their passions and deal with challenges in academics.
3. Purpose which is about connecting your work or hobby to people beyond yourself and the value your work has This links with some of our ideas around responsible entrepreneurship. It could in turn be addressed through our programme curriculum
4. Hope which refers to optimism and the belief that there is something you can do to persevere, (which could also connect to locus of control??) There are links made between hope and optimism – this in turn could be measured through psychometrics and developed through personal development

Critiques of Grit

When considering the implementation of Grit measurement with Foundation beneficiaries, it is interesting to consider the findings of the King’s College Twin study published by Rimfeld, Kovas, Dale and Plomin in 2016[4]. The study used the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) sample, which is a longitudinal study which began by recruiting 16 000 twin pairs across England and Wales between 1994 and 1996 and posited as a gold standard research design. The study has retained over 10 000 twin pairs. The King’s College study included 4 642 TEDS participants, 2 321 twin pairs. It collected and considered data on Grit score, Big Five personality factors and General Certificate of Secondary Education scores were obtained from participants. The study used phenotypic and twin analysis to compared means and variance for boys and girls and for MZ and DZ twins as well as to estimate the relative contribution of additive genetic (A), shared environmental (C) and non-shared environmental (E) components of variance.
The study’s findings showed that:

  • Personality factors explain around 6% of the variance in academic achievement at the end of compulsory education at age 16.
  • At this stage of education Grit adds only 0.5% to the prediction of GCSE variance after accounting for the association between achievement and Big Five personality factors.
  • Big Five personality traits have been well studied and research has consistently shown that these traits explain a small but significant proportion of the variance in educational achievement (Chamorro-Premuzic & Furnham, 2003; Krapohl et al., 2014; Laidra et al., 2007; Luciano et al., 2006; Noftle & Robins, 2007; Poropat, 2009).
  • Grit consistency of interest does not significantly predict school achievement. One possibility is that consistency of interest has both positive and negative effects on scholastic achievement.

Alternative personality factors that influence success

The King’s College study suggests that Grit adds little to the prediction of academic achievement when other personality factors are controlled. This does not exclude the possibility that other cognitive or non-cognitive predictors are important correlates of academic success.

  • The following non-cognitive factors have shown to influence academic success:
    • Self-efficacy has consistently been shown to be associated with school achievement
    • Curiosity, specifically intellectual engagement, has also been shown to be a significant predictor of school achievement—a hungry mind could be the driving force for effort and perseverance (von Stumm, Hell, & Chamorro-Premuzic, 2011).
    • Self-control—the capacity to regulate behaviour and focus in the presence of temptation (Duckworth & Gross, 2014; Duckworth, Quinn, & Tsukayama, 2012; Duckworth, Tsukayama, & Kirby, 2013; Moffitt et al., 2011; Tangney, Baumeister, & Boone, 2004).

The King’s College study suggests that Grit does not significantly predict academic success. Moreover, it suggests the concept of Grit is not as powerful as other non-cognitive personality traits. The findings do not suggest that teaching children to be grittier cannot be done or indeed that it is not beneficial. Trying to increase Grit or perseverance could have long-term benefits for children but more research is warranted into intervention and training programmes before concluding that such training increases educational achievement and life outcomes.

References

Dubner, S.J., 2016. How to get more grit in your life. Accessed at freakonomics.com/podcast/grit

Duckworth, A.L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M.D., and Kelly, D.R., 2007. Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Accessed at http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~duckwort/images/Grit%20JPSP.pdf

Duckworth, A.L., and Yeager, D.S., 2015. Measurement matters: Assessing personal qualities other than cognitive ability for educational purposes. Accessed at https://upenn.app.box.com/s/0soslytk4us51po2owxbyj3g1et3al5n

Rimfeld, K., Kovas, Y., Dale, P., and Plomin, R., 2016. True grit and genetics: Predicting academic achievement from personality. Accessed at http://psycnet.apa.org/psycarticles/2016-06824-001.pdf&uid=2016-06824-001&db=PA

http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~duckwort/images/Grit%20JPSP.pdf

https://upenn.app.box.com/s/0soslytk4us51po2owxbyj3g1et3al5n

http://freakonomics.com/podcast/grit/

http://psycnet.apa.org/psycarticles/2016-06824-001.pdf&uid=2016-06824-001&db=PA

Benefits of an Engaged Community | By: Teri Richter

Benefits of an Engaged Community | By: Teri Richter

A key outcome in the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation is the importance of creating a valued community for Allan Gray Beneficiaries. This is applicable to all three streams of the Foundation and is experienced slightly differently in the Scholarship, Fellowship and Association.

The value of communityAGO(16.04.24) 31

The Foundation understands that to achieve greatness individuals must work together and learn from one another. It is with this purpose that the Foundation spends much time and emphasis on the need to create a strong and supportive community in which Allan Gray Beneficiaries can seek guidance, learning, collaboration and inspiration.

Beginning a business venture can be an isolating task. The Foundation aims to encourage collaboration and thought partnership within our beneficiary community through meaningful engagement.

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Community

At its core, the Foundation community aims to create a support system to beneficiaries to encourage their success academically, personally and entrepreneurially. The Foundation’s approach to community is facilitated differently in each programme.

Intended benefits

At Scholarship level the Foundation community aims to create a strong support network to ensure that Scholars can flourish in their new school environments and are able to begin challenging their own as well as fellow Scholars thinking. The Foundation ensures that Scholars have personal relationships with Foundation Programme Officers, fellow Scholars and Candidate Fellows as well as teachers from Allan Gray Placement Schools.

Within the Fellowship, the Foundation community aims to remain a space that fosters beneficiary support, yet also begins to extend the network of beneficiaries through linking Fellows from the Alumni programme as well as business mentors. At this level, the community begins to centre around network development and thought partnership. Candidate Fellows are encouraged to challenge each other’s thinking and thereby learn from each other.

At Association level, the Foundation community aims to provide a thinking space for Fellows to test their business ideas, learn from each other’s mistakes and seek opportunities for collaboration.

The image below depicts key outcomes from community engagement for beneficiaries at different stages and demonstrates how the Foundation builds and develop the value beneficiaries extract and contribute over the three programme phases. The initial phases of community building are centred on providing resources, support systems and access to like-minded individuals who inspire each other. This foundation is built on by developing a strong focus on network building and thought partnerships, which culminates in collaboration and business development at Association level.

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 9.59.55 AM

Actual benefits

Beneficiaries describe the benefits they experience from their engagement with the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Community including support, engagement and thought partnership with peers as well as the encouragement and inspiration they get from each other:

“The best thing about the Fellowship was the people and the support. I felt that I had someone who constantly believed in me, and through the Candidate Fellows I was able to get assistance and support that I needed at times.” Year Engage Candidate Fellows, Western Cape, University of Cape Town

“These are the people you can take an idea to and they will give you constructive feedback” 2011 Fellows

AGO(16.04.24) 11You are amongst a pack of really ambitious and emerging entrepreneurs but at the same time finding people in the pack who are at a similar place to you where it’s fine to go into corporate and sharpen your blade and understand how the world works so that you can emerge at the end of it with some understanding of how your impact can be felt in the world.” 2011 Fellows

“What the Foundation has done this year, or something I haven’t realised is that they are providing a network and I never like grasped that until I went to the Jamboree and Candidate Fellows were all talking about how they collaborated with each other”. Grade 11 Scholar, Western Cape

Recommendations for building communities from the Allan Gray Beneficiaries

Over the years, the Allan Gray Scholars, Candidate Fellows and Fellows have contributed valuable suggestions on improving community engagement and enhancing the experience within the community. These suggestions include:

  1. Ensuring diverse engagement across beneficiaries: Beneficiaries note that engagement across year groups and programmes, ensuring that new and more seasoned beneficiaries, as well as younger and older beneficiaries can get to know each other and share experiences and learning, increases the value gained from the community.
  2. Facilitating peer mentorship: Introducing systems where Candidate Fellows can mentor Scholars, Fellows can mentor Candidate Fellows and the like ensures that beneficiaries can learn from each other and form deep and meaningful relationships.
  3. Developing diverse engagement platforms: As physical engagement becomes increasingly challenging particularly among our working beneficiaries, Fellows suggested the introduction of live streamed networking events which connect beneficiaries across cities, provinces and countries.
  4. Building lasting connections through genuine relationships: Fellows suggest that the individuals they have had the strongest connections with are those that they have met in less formal contexts and where relationships have could develop naturally. This leads to the suggestion to facilitate networking through casual social events where the pressure to connect for entrepreneurial gain is not the focus of the event.
  5. Attracting beneficiary attendance through interesting and relevant content: Fellows have noted that they are most likely to attend community events when the topic of the event is applicable to their entrepreneurial ventures.

In the spirit of collaborative achievement, we feel the greatest stride towards successfully reaching the Foundation goal of creating high impact entrepreneurial ventures is as a community. In this pursuit of entrepreneurship, our experience suggests that participating in a community that provides resources, support, knowledge, inspiration and collaborative partners makes the journey not only less isolating but more impactful.

Circle Of Excellence Conference: Game On! | By Zimkhitha Peter

Circle Of Excellence Conference: Game On! | By Zimkhitha Peter

In March this year, as the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation we hosted our Circle of Excellence (COE) conference.

It’s worth mentioning that this year’s conference was held just before South Africa hosted the Global Entrepreneurship Congress www.gec2017  which was hosted for the first time in the African Continent.

In this post, I will share one of this year’s conference takeaways and an exciting initiative that the Foundation is launching this year,  aimed at cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset in youth through game-based learning and gamification.

Hopefully by now we all agree that, firstly, entrepreneurship is not just about starting business but about releasing human potential and in that sense, everyone can be entrepreneurial. Entrepreneurialism is needed in all walks of life, in education, politics, sciences and the private sector.

Secondly, entrepreneurship can be taught, but how it is taught is key. You can’t teach someone to be an entrepreneur from a textbook or a lecture. Entrepreneurship requires practice. In the world of entrepreneurship education, game-based learning and gamification are an effective way of teaching entrepreneurship. Play has always been an effective way of learning. The practice of play is about developing a free and imaginative mind, allowing one to see a wealth of possibilities, a wealth of opportunities and a pathway to more innovative ways of being entrepreneurial (Neck et al).

Identifying opportunities and developing and implementing ideas are key competencies for successfully meeting the challenges of today’s world. “Learning from challenges” offers students an opportunity to experience the effectiveness of their actions. Today’s students are tomorrow’s employees and entrepreneurs. Through their education we can foster their skills and abilities and strengthen their values (http://www.youthstart.eu/en/whyitmatters/).

There are two specific entrepreneurship games that I would like to share with you

  1. Youthstart Entrepreneurial Challenge

One of the COE conference speakers, Johannes Lindner, the founder and lead expert of the “YouthStart Entrepreneurial Challenges” Programme (www.youthstart.eu), developed the “Youth Start Entrepreneurial Challenges based on the reference framework for Entrepreneurship Competencies and the TRIO Model for Entrepreneurship Education.

Lindner_Entrepreneurship Excellence

The Trio Model for entrepreneurship

The Trio Model is a holistic teaching system that encompasses three segments: “Core Entrepreneurial Education” comprises basic qualifications for entrepreneurial thinking and acting, more precisely the competence to develop and implement ideas. “Entrepreneurial Culture” refers to the promotion of personal competences in a social context. We speak of a culture of open-mindedness, empathy, teamwork and creativity as well as risk-taking and awareness of risks. “Entrepreneurial Civic Education” aims at enhancing social competencies and empowering students in their role as citizens. After all, democratic thinking and self-reflection help young people express their opinions and assume responsibility for themselves, others and the environment.

Youth entrepreneurship challenge is available online http://www.youthstart.eu/en/challenges/

Lindner_Entrepreneurship Excellence

  1. Our new initiative: Foundation’s entrepreneurship Olympiad

In September, the Foundation in partnership with the Cape Town chapter of Singularity University will host the first ever entrepreneurship Olympiad (Schools Impact Challenge). Blue Helix, the Foundation’s entrepreneurship game, exposes learners to a set of entrepreneurial challenges that are aimed at cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset.

How it works 

Students log onto the platform via any smart device (phone/tablet/laptop/…) and access a series of action-oriented challenges. These challenges introduce the mindsets and then task students with applying them in a variety of real-world scenarios.

The challenge submissions (text and/or pictures) are peer-reviewed (with moderation) and points are earned, based on the rating received. Points earned place students on a student leader board and count towards the class points for the class leader board.

Why it works

  • Students enjoy competing on the leader boards.
  • Students enjoy the real-world application of what they’re learning.
  • Available on-demand on mobile, in bite-sized increments, with near instant gratification.
  • The peer review spreads good ideas and provides different perspectives on the same challenges students have tackled themselves.
  • The challenges are designed to target the most critical element of any behaviour change – the core underlying beliefs/world-views/self-concept!

Low demand on teacher time

  • Requires a minimum of just 10 minutes of class time per week. (For a quick check in)
  • Minimum of just 20 minutes of moderation per week. (Accessible on-demand on any smart device)

GAME ON

Watch this space for the 2017 entrepreneurship Olympiad!!!