The real bottom line – purpose driven business

The real bottom line – purpose driven business

IMG_7477The Foundation’s mission has been summarised as creating responsible entrepreneurs for the common good. Often people express surprise that the promotion of entrepreneurship can be linked to the common good.  But we have become convinced that having noble intentions is not just a nice to have but essential for significant and sustainable success.

As Mr Gray says: ‘Acting in society’s interests can be and is good business. Over 40 years ago Allan Gray was founded with this conviction and ethos, yet has managed to prosper in South Africa’s intensely competitive field of asset management.’ As he further explains in a recent interview, “Making a profit has never been an end in itself, but a consequence of pursuing a sense of purpose; to really want to make a difference, not only for clients but all other stakeholders, from employees to the community, the taxman and society at large. It is only if the client is satisfied that the firm is enabled to help more and more clients. Maximising shareholder value is a crazy philosophy because it’s short term; it’s not sustainable.”

In fact such is the strength of this belief, that the Allan Gray Centre for Values Based Leadership has been established to provide further intellectual momentum and broader understanding of this conviction that a business cannot only exist for profit. There needs to be a larger purpose.  Talking about these two, making money and making a difference, Lisa McLeod points out: “Creating a culture of purpose is how you do both!”

Recently venture capitalist, Anthony Tjan made the following observation: “It turns out there are many ways to make a billion dollars: real estate, investing, gaming and entertainment, retail, technology, and good old-fashioned inheritance. But the most interesting (and most respected) businesses and personalities are also the ones with the strongest and most authentic purposes behind them.” This should not come as a surprise because creating an exceptional business is hard work and in order to put in that amount of effort one needs to be answering the “why” question for a business (why are we doing this?) Only answering the “what” question (what does our business do?) is not sufficient to sustain the level of commitment required to build a great business.  As business author Gray Hamel states in his book, “What Matters Now” says: “A noble purpose inspires sacrifice, stimulates innovation and encourages resilience.”

Yet it is not only resilience that purpose inspires to support the emergence of exceptional enterprise, there is a further dynamic that makes purpose essential to the process. If your intention is to build great things, it helps to be driven by a spirit of significance. As Paul Graham states “The startup founders who end up richest are not the ones driven by money. The ones driven by money take the big acquisition offer that nearly every successful startup gets en route. The ones who keep going are driven by something else. They may not say so explicitly, but they’re usually trying to improve the world. Which means people with a desire to improve the world have a natural advantage.”

Finally we have moved into an era where we now have the tools and technology to pursue purpose in previously impossible ways.  We are able to move out of the “red ocean” of competition and controlling of scarce resources to the “blue ocean” of new ideas and building new things.  These possibilities enable purpose to drive new innovation and shape the future.  In fact Aaron Hurst in the Purpose Economy, suggests that after the agrarian, industrial and most recent information economy we are now moving into the purpose economy, embracing community and creative endeavour.

These shifts remind me of the words of Vivek Wadhwa from Singularity University at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress last year: “This is the most innovative time in human history – when entrepreneurs can do what only governments could before – solve humanity’s grand challenges.”

Now there is a purpose worth making the bottom line.


Opportunities for young African entrepreneurs pursuing innovative solutions

Opportunities for young African entrepreneurs pursuing innovative solutions

A recent research paper on entrepreneurship development as a mechanism to curb youth unemployment, found that more than half of Africa’s population is under the age of 21 and two-thirds is under 30 years. In all African countries, the median age of the population is 20 years and up to one fifth is between the ages of 15 and 24. Youth will therefore be central to the future of Africa. It is thus vital that youth development and empowerment opportunities are created for young people to create innovative solutions, avoid poverty and lead better and more fulfilling lives.

The Anzisha Prize (@anzishaprize) is one such opportunity. Now in its fifth year, the Anzisha Prize is the premier award for young African entrepreneurs aged 15-22 whose passion for Africa drives them to design and develop projects that transform their communities and the continent. The Prize is the result of a partnership between the African Leadership Academy and The Mastercard Foundation. This year, 12 finalists will be selected to share a grand prize of $75,000.

Early bird applications will be reviewed from 15 March 2015 and the deadline for entries is 15 April 2015. Semi-finalists will be chosen on a rolling admissions basis so the earlier you submit your application, the better. The prize is named for the Swahili word for initiative, which is what the judges will undoubtedly look for as they screen applications according to the following criteria:

  • Impact
  • Ingenuity
  • Scalability
  • Leadership Potential

ludwichAllan Gray Fellow, Ludwick Marishane, (@TheHeadboy) demonstrated all of the above and earned a place as one of eight finalists in the inaugural Anzisha Prize competition in 2011. Reflecting on his journey, the accomplished Founder and Inventor of DryBath® believes that no idea is too small. Marishane advises entrants to see the prize not just in terms of its financial reward but for the media-profiling, networking and business support opportunities that it presents. “I have made a life-long friendship with a fellow finalist. It’s wonderful getting peer advice and having him to bounce my ideas off,” he says.

These are the stories that make the #AnzishaEffect come alive – the power to encourage others to follow in the footsteps of the Anzisha Fellows. Africa needs strong, innovative, entrepreneurial young leaders to create jobs, solve problems and drive our economies. Peer mentors, youth business networks and inspirational young role models fuel the creation of successive generations of young entrepreneurs.

A second opportunity is the UN Habitat Urban Youth Fund which empowers urban youth in developing countries by providing grants and capacity building to selected youth-led organisations. The Youth Fund aims to advance the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals by piloting innovative approaches to employment, good urban governance, shelter and secure tenure. On average, more than 8,000 youth-led organisations apply each year and approximately 30 organisations are selected to receive a grant up to $25,000 each as well as capacity-building support. Like Anzisha, applications for the UN Habitat Urban Youth Fund also close on 15 April 2015.


For more information visit:

Good luck young entrepreneurs! Don’t delay, apply today!


EP10 – Time to discover your entrepreneurial talents.

EP10 – Time to discover your entrepreneurial talents.

Allan Gray Orbis Foundation National Jamboree, Spier, Western Cape.The Foundation has long been convinced of the merits of the strengths revolution and we ensure that everyone entering the Foundation community identifies their top strengths using Gallup’s Strengthsfinder. It is a helpful tool for assisting each person to increase their engagement and effectiveness. Recently Gallup came out with a second instrument that piqued our interest – it is the Entrepreneurial Profile 10 (EP10).

As Gallup explains, EP10 is a 30-minute assessment completed online, that measures 10 scientifically proven talents of successful entrepreneurs. It allows for early identification of entrepreneurial talent and provides a personalised developmental report that includes a personal intensity ranking for each talent. The assessment can be accessed here and costs $12. Alternatively for the more detailed, a book has been written on the instrument, with each book containing a code to take the assessment.

The 10 suggested talents and their explanations are listed below:


1. Business Focus The Business Focus talent couples sharp business instincts and a fascination with making money. They have an uncanny ability to look at data from which they can form unique insights. Ultimately, they evaluate decisions through the prism of profitability.
2. Confidence The Confidence talent is keenly aware of their abilities. They harness this awareness to take quick and decisive action. They seize opportunities knowing they will succeed and use their talents to persist in the face of uncertainty and failure.
3. Creative Thinker The Creative Thinker talent has a curious intellect that helps them constantly imagine new products, services, and solutions. They are quick learners who explore various options and consider novel solutions as they anticipate the future needs of their customers.
4. Delegator The Delegator talent can trust and empower others to help grow their business. They know what their employees do best and position them to take responsibility for tasks at which they are most likely to excel. They can relinquish control and focus on growing the business.
5. Determination The Determination talent pursues their goals with tenacity. They are intensely committed to success and are eager to take quick action. They rely on high motivation to turn adversity into opportunity. They can see beyond roadblocks and visualize a better future.
6. Independent The Independent talent can single-handedly start and operate a business. They rely on high energy and extreme commitment to succeed in the gruelling grind of business creation. They firmly believe their actions decide the fate of their business and are motivated to make things happen.
7. Knowledge-Seeker The Knowledge-Seeker talent understands that information is a valuable asset. They have a deep desire to acquire knowledge about all aspects of their business. They search for new information to solve problems and succeed in complex business environments.
8. Promotor The Promoter talent speaks boldly on behalf of their company. They consistently communicate a clear vision of their business to customers and employees. They are great salespersons with an ability to form deep relationships and convince others to follow their well-defined business growth strategy.
9. Relationship-Builder The Relationship-Builder talent has strong interpersonal skills that allow them to build a robust and diverse personal network. They rely on relationships to access resources and information essential to the success of their business.
10. Risk-Taker The Risk-Taker talent embraces challenges with enthusiasm. They have a strong, charismatic, and confident personality. They naturally focus on the rewards of success instead of potential failure. They emotionally connect with customers and exceed their expectations.

Source: EP10 Report

While not in complete agreement with all of the dimensions listed, for example Business Focus, where we believe that purpose is a better driver than money, the EP10 is a convenient tool to gain a sense of one’s entrepreneurial aptitude and competence.

But beyond the specifics of the tool itself, what is particularly intriguing is the vision behind the tool. It is a powerful plan for identifying and developing tomorrow’s business-builders because of the disproportionate economic impact that these individuals can have on the future.

The premise, as described by tool’s co-author Jim Clifton, is that “all talents, of any kind, explode with early identification and intentional development.”  Knowing this to be true in some fields of human endeavour, we are well accustomed to the identification and development of rare academic, musical and sporting talent. However why do we not do the same with individuals with that rare ability to build a business? Particularly when one considers the now almost undisputed positive societal impact of responsible business builders.

The systematic identification of entrepreneurial talent becomes an even greater imperative when one considers that initial Gallup research suggests that high entrepreneurial talent is rarer than high IQ.  It is claimed that only about five in 1,000 people have the aptitude for starting and growing a significant business.  On the IQ side, 20 in 1,000 have IQ’s high enough to be accepted into Mensa.  Exceptional intellectual talent is therefore four times as common as exceptional entrepreneurial talent.

To bring this thinking back to South Africa, there were just under 600,000 learners writing matric in 2014.  Based on the above scarcity of exceptional talent, this would predict that there are approximately 3,000 individuals coming out of the school system each year with rare entrepreneurial talent – are we finding these individuals, are we developing them?  The Foundation is committed to bringing around a 100 of these individuals a year into our entrepreneurial development pipeline.  What is the pathway for the remaining 2,900?

It would make an important contribution to our entrepreneurial culture if we were able to harness tools such as the EP10 and other selection processes to develop a comprehensive entrepreneurial talent system whereby we had had full visibility of the “blue-chip” potential entrepreneurs coming out of the secondary education system.  These individuals would then be subjected to intentional accelerated development, including specialised entrepreneurial curriculum, appropriate internships and mentoring. This relatively achievable intervention would likely have a significant impact on our economic future.  It is not beyond our combined capabilities, in a fact on a small scale, it is very much what the Foundation has been doing for the last 10 years.

Opportunity for young SA entrepreneurs to experience the Start-Up Nation itself.

Opportunity for young SA entrepreneurs to experience the Start-Up Nation itself.

There is little that compares to experiencing things first hand, particularly when that exposure offers a window into a whole new level of possibility. Such opportunities often expand our horizons and shatter the limitations of our previously moderate expectations. In the world of entrepreneurship there is a small country with a big reputation and few who experience it first-hand are left unchanged.

The entrepreneurial magic of the nation of Israel was brought to the forefront a few years ago with the publication of the book, Start-Up Nation. It essentially tried to answer the question how such a young country of only 7.1 million people, surrounded by enemies and with no natural resources has been able to produce more start-up companies than countries like China and the UK.

Well now these is an opportunity for young South African entrepreneurs to find out for themselves by applying for a funded opportunity to participate in the first 2015 Young Entrepreneurs Trip to Israel & Palestine. Applications close on 30 January. The link to the online application can be found here. (There will also be other trips later in the year)

One of our Allan Gray Fellows, Douglas Hoernle, was fortunate to participate in the pilot trip late last year.  He had the following reflection on the opportunity:

“After personally experiencing the level of innovation and economic activity in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, I am in a position to dream bigger than I previously thought possible. The experience has helped me grow my personal and business dreams and I have no doubt it will help take my business to a much higher level.”

For more detail on the nature and activities of the trip, (including a final dinner with the Start-Up Nation author) host Dan Brotman provides an overview:

An extract from the 2014 “Young Trep” trip by Dan Brotman | Oct 22, 2014

Recognising the need to foster a stronger culture of entrepreneurship in South Africa, Investec and the South Africa-Israel Forum (SAIF) partnered to take a first-ever delegation of 20 young entrepreneurs to Israel late last year.

The purpose of the pilot trip was to expose South African job creators under the age of 35 to best practices in business and entrepreneurship in arguably the world’s most entrepreneurial country, Israel.

Those selected were diverse both in terms of backgrounds and industries, and are directly responsible for the creation of over 300 jobs through their businesses. One such participant is Modjadji Ramphadi, 32, from Johannesburg, who grew up in rural Limpopo and was unable to finish her studies due to lack of funds. She eventually resigned from her job as a receptionist and became an entrepreneur, starting her own cleaning company and beauty care line, which together employ 132 rural women today.

Doug Hoernle, 24, from Cape Town, is the founder of Rethink Education, which has developed chat-style online platforms to aid in the teaching of core maths and science. To date, Rethink Education has distributed maths and science content to over 400 000 South African high school learners, and Hoernle’s company recently received the 2014 African Content Award for the Best Mobile Education Content in Africa.

Other participants included South Africa’s first black female chocolatier, a young female farmer from the Free State and the owner of a chain of youth travel hostels.

One of the highlights of the trip was the opportunity to engage with two of Israel’s highest-profile former South African businesspeople, Morris Kahn and Maxine Fassberg.

Kahn, 84, met Aliyah from Benoni in 1956 without a university degree or formal business training. He went on to found the Aurec Group, which produced the Yellow Pages directory that eventually paved the way for Israeli software giant Amdocs, which now has more than 20 000 employees worldwide and customers in over 50 countries.

The media-shy philanthropist volunteered to share his life story publically for the first time, as he believed that young “born-free” South African entrepreneurs would benefit most from hearing about what he has learned about entrepreneurship during his lifetime.

Kahn became visibly emotional when he explained how moving it was to see South African entrepreneurs of all colours sitting around the dinner table and collaborating on new business ideas.

“A gathering like this would have been illegal when I last lived in South Africa,” he said.

South African-born Intel Israel Vice-President Maxine Fassberg is arguably one of Israel’s highest ranking businesswomen, and was selected as one of 14 women to light torches at this year’s Israel Independence Day ceremony.

Fassberg engaged with the group on issues ranging from women in business to affirmative action. When asked whether businesswomen needed to choose between having a family or career, she pulled out a photograph of her grandson and beamed: “Look at me, I have both! You should never have to choose between the two.”

Participant Phakiso Tsotetsi is the founder of The Hook Up Dinner, a growing initiative that gives start-ups from across South Africa a platform from which to connect, engage and contribute to each others’ success, while also providing entrepreneurs with a valuable interface to corporate South Africa.

The group also visited Ramallah, where they met Bashar Masri, a Palestinian-American entrepreneur and founder of Rawabi, the first planned Palestinian city in the West Bank. They also met with young Palestinian entrepreneurs and discussed the challenges of doing business in the West Bank.

The group shared the South African experience of reconciliation with their Palestinian counterparts and explained that, although their country underwent a peaceful transition in 1994, there was still much work to be done until South Africa had truly become the “Rainbow Nation”.

The closing dinner with “Start Up Nation” author Saul Singer, gave the group time to reflect on the intense week they had experienced.


Planning to build a different future?  Start here.

Planning to build a different future? Start here.

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“Instead of pursuing many-sided mediocrity…, a definite person determines the one best thing to do and then does it. Instead of working tirelessly to make herself indistinguishable, she strives to be great at something substantive—to be a monopoly of one.”   Peter Thiel

Opportunity is not always what it seems. Just over a hundred years ago a small advert was placed in a London newspaper. It read as follows:

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success”

It was placed by Irish explorer, Ernest Shackleton, as he sought to build a team to cross Antarctica. Incredibly, despite its grim description, the advert resulted in an avalanche of 5,000 applications for the required 27 person team. Yet should we be surprised?  The words were an invitation to something much bigger than the possibility of discomfort and danger, they represented an opportunity for significance, an opportunity to fulfil that ongoing and deep seated search for meaning.

Now the Allan Gray Fellowship might not hold the threat of physical danger, even if entrepreneurship was once described as “staring into the abyss and eating glass”, but it too offers the opportunity for significance. As with the Shackleton expedition, it does not promise an easy ride, but one that will allow you to build a different future, a future that results from being equipped and supported to both imagine and create.

In each of the last 10 years, on average around 2000 matrics and first year students have found it in themselves to accept the challenge to shape a new future and apply for the Allan Gray Fellowship. They have ignored the obstacles and been stirred by the possibility of joining a community of now some 675 like-minded individuals to pursue responsible entrepreneurship for the common good. They have been encouraged by the stories of existing Allan Gray Fellows and Candidate Fellows such as KholofeloMashokane, Dominic, Arushka and Siya.

They have been struck by our passionate dream to intentionally develop the entrepreneurial and innovative talents of young people—to nurture their initiative, curiosity, imagination, creativity, as well as their analytical abilities—alongside the essential qualities of character such as commitment, empathy and a strong moral foundation?

Will you join them?

The Foundation has this week embarked on its annual journey to find those individuals who sense a bigger purpose for their lives and who want to help shape our future.  Visit our website to find out how you can Shape Your Future with an Allan Gray Fellowship 

Learn more by watching the Foundation Experience video below






It’s a wrap for 2014 – what were the top 5 posts of the year?

It’s a wrap for 2014 – what were the top 5 posts of the year?


Kholofelo Moyaba
Top post for 2014 features Allan Gray Fellow, Kholofelo Moyaba

At the beginning of this year the Foundation embarked into the world of blogging as we looked to share more of our thinking and stories as part of our contribution to building more entrepreneurial culture and understanding as well as to better communicate the opportunities, learnings and challenges related to the Foundation’s mission.

So for the last 44 weekswe have consistently sent out our weekly blog (and a few more) making this the 50thand last post of the year. During this time we have gathered around 30,000 views and a committed group of nearly 500 followers.  As we come to the end of the first year of this journey we wanted to share some of the highlights and learnings.

The blog provided an opportunity for the Foundation to share information in a number of areas related to the mission of the Foundation. We categorised them as follows:

Comment Giving context and comment to external developments such as the release of the annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2
Entrepreneurial Mindset Pillars Unpacking the attitudes and mindset that underpin the Foundation’s five pillars, which in our view form the core requirements for entrepreneurial effectiveness 6
Event Providing commentary on important entrepreneurship related events in which the Foundation participates such as the Global Entrepreneurship Congress 5
Foundation:  Giving insight into some specific areas of the Foundation’s mission such as selection 4
Story Sharing the progress of individual Scholars, Candidate Fellows and Fellows 1
Thought Leadership Articulating the Foundation’s learnings and thoughts around areas of knowledge related to our work such as Entrepreneurial mindset. 3
Arushka Bugwandeen
2nd highest ranked post features Allan Gray Fellow, Arushka Bugwandeen

Unsurprisingly the power of human interest prevailed and the most popular type of blog posts were those telling the stories of our Fellows and Scholars.  Interestingly there wasrelatively limited engagement with the attitudes and mindset that make up the Foundation pillars. While the Foundation remains passionate about continuing to learn more about unlocking the entrepreneurial code, we need to do a better job of sharing this excitement with others!

Thesewere the five most popular posts of 2014 in order of popularity:

1 KholofeloMoyaba, developing a Spirit of Significance  Story
2 Arushka Bugwandeen – long term significance  Story
3 African Schools for Excellence – recovering a lost word in our education Comment
4 How many entrepreneurs are there in South Africa? – Reflections on the launch of the South African 2013 GEM Report  Comment
5 Imagining against the odds  Story

Three of the top five were stories and the remaining two were comment. Further confirmation of the interest in these two areas.

So what were the most important leanings from this first year?

1.       Add value.

There is an overwhelming amount of quality information out there at the moment and unless you are adding real value there will be limited interest.  While we may think there is little more important than the attitudes and mindsets making up the Foundation pillars, unless we are able to communicate them in a way that adds genuine value there will be marginal take up.

2.       Give before you get

One of the most popular blogs of the year was a post describing the great work being done by African Schools for Excellence.  We had no compelling reason to write this blog except to create more awareness of this positive development in education and yet it turned out to be one of the more important pieces of the year.

3.       Find your Tribe

Perhaps the biggest learning of the year was the lack of engagement on the blog. We hoped to start a conversation and spark debate around areas important to entrepreneurship. Yet, as reflected by the sparse number of comments, this did not happen. We need to work harder to find that connection and this will be our focus in 2015.

That brings us to an end of 2014.  Thank you for being part of the journey and for your valued support. After taking on board the lessons of 2014, we are excited at what lies ahead for an even better blogging 2015.

We hope you have a restful festive season and we will be back in action in the week of the 12th January.

The 10 books that have most influenced the Foundation’s journey

The 10 books that have most influenced the Foundation’s journey

“Books are a uniquely portable magic” – Stephen King

It is difficult to over-estimate the impact that books can have on both an individual and an organisation.  Thankfully as we move closer to the end of the year more spaces open up to do that long awaited reading we have been promising ourselves. So in our pursuit to be a learning organisation, we thought we would combine the usual year end book list with a reflection on the books that have had the most influence on the Foundation’s journey. It was E.P. Whipple who said that “books are lighthouses erected in the great sea of time.”  In looking back at the waters that we have covered so far, these are the “lighthouses” in the development of the Foundation:

The_7_Habits_of_Highly_Effective_People1.     Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Steven Covey

This is an undisputed classic and was the starting point for the Foundation’s own pursuit of effectiveness.  One of the early workshops we conducted took people through the seven habits and it became a rite of passage into the Foundation to have to complete this training.



Good-to-Great2.     Good to Great – Jim Collins

Another classic and unsurprisingly another workshop for the entire Foundation.  Over the years we continue going back to exploring the nature of the hedgehog principal for the Foundation or assessing ourselves against the benchmark of Level 5 leadership. The essence of a Hedgehog Concept is to attain piercing clarity about how to produce the best long-term results, and then exercising the relentless discipline to say, “No thank you” to opportunities that fail the hedgehog test. We respond to this concept by saying we want to be best in the world at:  “Activating the entrepreneurial potential of individuals in Africa”

the-artofpossibility-199x3003.     Art of Possibility – Ben & Rosamund Zander

This book quickly became part of the language of the Foundation and was the perfect launching pad for helping people understand the mindset to which we wished to expose theme.  “Giving people an A” and “Rule Number 6” became part of the modus operandi of our final selection camps over the last nine years.




RE-IMAGINE US PB Reduced4.     Re-Imagine – Tom Peters

A more recent work from an old expert, helped to re-energise the way that the Foundation worked with its people.  It was as a result of this book that we dumped the description employee and termed everyone working at the Foundation talent.  As Tom says “Talent – I love that word! So different from ‘employees’, so different from ‘personnel’.”



The_Mind_of_a_Fox_25.     Mind of a Fox – Clem Sunter & Chantell Ilbury

Finally some local content! The strategic approach explained by Clem and Chantell was incredibly helpful in thinking about future scenarios in an increasingly complex world.   It pushed us to better understand what it would take to achieve what became known as our “October Sky” scenario rather than being dragged down into “Finding Nemo”. We were so taken by this learning that the offering for the Circle of Excellence Principals one year included being taken though the Mind of a Fox workshop with Chantell.



41ZFCA9QHSL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_ 26.     Now Discover your Strengths – Marcus Buckingham

The Foundation was inspired by this book to join the strengths revolution, convinced that building on people’s strengths was a far more effective approach to building a great organisation than trying to improve on their weaknesses.  Strengths are now a way of life at the Foundation forming part of induction and even the performance evaluation process. Everyone knows their top five strengths and tries to bring them to the fore in their daily work.   It hasn’t stopped with Talent either.  All Candidate Fellows are assessed and know their strengths as part of the Fellowship journey.

BOStrategy7.     Blue Ocean Strategy – Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne

The Foundation is determined to activate high impact responsible entrepreneurs and while there is no magic formula for pursuing high growth and innovation, one of the most robust frameworks we have come across for evaluating potential opportunities is the blue ocean strategy.    Many South African business are fighting in the fierce competition of “red ocean” while the real opportunities lie in finding the uncontested space of blue ocean. The analytical tool of the strategy canvas has proved very helpful for us to try and better understand our distinctive value proposition.

MindsetBook8.     Mindset – Carol Dweck

When one is in the business of developing talent, any clues as to how to better do this are gratefully received and one of the most exciting of these clues is the work of Carol Dweck in understanding the difference between a growth and a fixed mindset. Essentially her work revolves around two meanings for ability, not our previously understood single meaning: firstly a fixed ability that needs to be proven, and then a changeable ability that can be developed through learning.  The latter being a growth mindset and the link between this mindset and future achievement is becoming increasingly clear.

outliers-book-cover9.     Outliers – Malcom Gladwell

Continuing on this theme of talent and tied to the implications of the growth mindset, there has been an increasing body of evidence suggesting that talent is not so much the result of winning the gene pool lottery but much more about effort and hard work.  As Gladwell explores the dynamics and explanations for people that out-perform, so called outliers, one of the fascinating principles he comes across is the fact that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become world class in any activity.  We thus encourage the Allan Gray Scholars, Candidate Fellows and Fellows to discover their chosen field of interest and start the journey to 10,000 hours.


startup-communities10.  Start Up Communities – Brad Feld

As the Foundation’s Association of Allan Gray Fellows has started to take definition over the last few years we have tried to better understand how this community should interact and structure themselves.  The book that has had the most influence on this aspect of the Foundation has been Start Up Communities – to such an extent that we now conceptually see the Association as a start up community and look to find ways to demonstrate the “give before you get” philosophy promoted by Feld.


That completes the list of the 10 books that have most influenced the Foundation’s journey – so far.  Next month we will look at another list of books that have the potential to most influence the future stages of the Foundation’s journey.  In the meantime happy reading and please tell us about books that have influenced your organisations’ below.

Time for entrepreneurial action – no more excuses – Just do the “Make a R100” Challenge

Time for entrepreneurial action – no more excuses – Just do the “Make a R100” Challenge

Make a R100 Fb_header 851x315px3

Join the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation as we harness the platform of the 2014 Global Entrepreneurship Week in November to continue the entrepreneurial revolution in South Africa. We all have the potential to be entrepreneurial and here is your low risk opportunity to prove us right.  Take up the “Make a R100” challenge.

The Foundation is gearing up for Global Entrepreneurship Week 2014 and we need your help! Global Entrepreneurship Week (“GEW”) is the world’s largest celebration of the innovators and job creators who launch start-ups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare. During this one week from 17th to 23rd November 2014, GEW inspires people everywhere through local, national and global activities designed to help them explore their potential as self-starters and innovator. Only started in 2007, GEW now has over 140 countries participating. For a quick video explanation of the event have a look here.

As our contribution to this global movement the Foundation has initiated the “Make a R100” challenge, which is a campaign designed to encourage South Africans to experience the possibilities of entrepreneurial action in a non-intimidating way.  Everyone is challenged during  the month of November and particularly during the week of GEW to make a R100 profit (in a legal and ethical way) by providing a creative service or product to a willing buyer. Share your idea on our Social Media page and challenge your friends, family, colleagues and/or classmates to take up the challenge too.

Not wanting to ask anyone to do something that I wouldn’t do myself, there was little option but to take on the challenge.  The initial brainstorming didn’t produce any really inspiring results.  Would colleagues, really want to pay a premium on the coffee I was willing to buy from the coffee shop down the road? Offering myself as a butler for a few tasks seemed to lack any real innovation.  Finally I settled on the concept of scarcity as the driving principle for extracting a premium price – what could be scarcer than an ice cold drink on the top of Lions Head! So the planning and execution kicked off.  First purchasing enough stock at the local supermarket, before placing it into the fridge for overnight cooling. Thankfully the weather was generous and the chosen Saturday morning was a scorching hot day. My patience and resilience was tested hauling the 25 drinks up the mountain, not least with the cooler bag strap breaking half way up. While climbing I became so convinced of my idea that I was sure all I would need to do is open up the bag and the drinks would literally fly out themselves.  Well, it didn’t happen that way and I found myself confronted with the intimidating realisation that it was time to sell. An hour later with around R340 of sales on a 100% markup and a few loss leaders, a gross profit of R200 had resulted and the job was done!  I was amazed at the number of lessons that emerged from this simple exercise:

  • Deciding on product mix was vital, no one seemed that interested in flavoured water and diet drinks at the top of the mountain;
  • Knowing the context – I lost count of the people that thought the idea was brilliant but had not brought any money with them;
  • Don’t forget processes – reconciling actual profit later was a real challenge, even for an accountant, after getting carried away with unrecorded sales at the summit.

And I could go on with a much longer list, but after all the reflection one thing I will not forget is that powerful feeling as people handed over their notes on top of the mountain – the entrepreneurial search process finding validation in the exchange of value.  This is the magic of the entrepreneurial journey and one that awaits you in the “Make a R100” challenge.

In action

Now that my challenge is complete, it is time to challenge others to catalyse this campaign into the hearts and minds of South Africa as we aim for at least 10,000 people participating.  I therefore nominate the following to #MAKEA100

  • Gary Morolo (Entrepreneur and Trustee)
  • Adrian Gore (Endeavor Chairman)
  • Herman Mashaba (Entrepreneur)
  • Alexandra Fraser (Silicon Cape)
  • Michael Jordaan (Venture Capitalist)
  • Bridgette Gasa (NPC, Entrepreneur and Trustee)
  • Lucas Radebe (Sportsman and Businessman)
  • Michael Mol (Doctor and Celebrity)
  • Rapaleng  Rabana (Entrepreneur)
  • Gary Kirsten (Sportsman and Businessman)

All the best and enjoy the journey! Tell us about your experiences as you #MAKEAR100.

Evaluatorpreneurship – applying entrepreneurial principles to Monitoring & Evaluation. By Asgar Bhikoo

Evaluatorpreneurship – applying entrepreneurial principles to Monitoring & Evaluation. By Asgar Bhikoo

blog image_asgarFoundation Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist, Asgar Bhikoo brings us into the world of Monitoring & Evaluation (“M&E”) through sharing his experience of attending the European Evaluation Society Conference in September 2014. He took an unusual approach to this learning and came to some surprising conclusions. He shares these insights as part of the Foundation’s continuing quest to answer the fundamental question: does the programme make a difference?

The conference focused on Evaluation for an Equitable Society: independence, partnership and participation. At this conference I decided to challenge myself to see things from an entrepreneurial perspective, similarly to how we challenge our Candidate Fellows. Doing this stimulated my thinking, and I felt like the only individual wearing 3D glasses in a 3D movie!

How, you may ask? I approached this conference by thinking about the Foundation’s values: Pursuing a Spirit of Significance, Pursuing Excellence, Practicing Stewardship, Living an Entrepreneurial Mindset and Taking a Long-Term approach. Using these filters challenged my own thinking, and allowed me to challenge experts in the field.

Doing this allowed me to redefine Evaluation as a profession for myself, and to also ask the question: what are people not seeing? The things I spotted were as follows:

Evaluation is a skill that everyone has. It forms part of a continuum that starts from creating something to assessing whether or not the thing you have created has any value. This is highly applicable to an entrepreneurship context.  Entrepreneurs need to evaluate their ideas in order to be successful. My conclusion: there is an opportunity to be creative and not prescriptive in evaluation.

Some Evaluation methods have links to Market Research, Management Consulting, Organisational Development, Human Resources, Project Management, Psychology, Economics, Actuarial Science, Accounting along with communication skills. All these disciplines have connections to being an Entrepreneur. My conclusion: subjects in the Commercial and Social Sciences are interlinked, and therefore, thinking of social programmes as if it were a business will aid evaluators in framing questions differently for themselves, the sponsors of evaluation and those who the evaluation is intended to benefit.

blog image asgar_1Technology, communication and the world of research is changing. Faster reporting methods that get to the point and give a better understanding of how you relate to the rest of the world are needed to aid decision making. Who might naturally have these skills you may ask? An Entrepreneur of course!  My conclusion: an entrepreneurial approach to collect, analyse and report data for the purpose of sound and rapid decision making is needed. Think just in time, every time, all the time. Out with lengthy reports, in with the one page A3 and dashboardBetter yet, combine your graphs, pictures and audio. Your audience is smart and intuitive, so they will know what to do with the information with which you provide them. This is especially applicable, for example,  in conflict or disaster zones, where reporting could be the difference between life and death as humanitarian aid agencies need to  deploy aid accurately, effectively and efficiently.

The conference also focused on creating an equitable society. This was familiar to me, as it relates to the concept of taking action that will benefit society which is at the core of the Foundation’s vision to foster entrepreneurship for the common good.  2015 has been declared the International Year of Evaluation, with the aim of creating an Equitable Society. M&E professionals globally are asking themselves, “Did I play my part in ensuring equality for all in the work I did?”  This is a difficult question, which cuts down to your values as an individual. Michael Scriven (a leader in the field of Evaluation) challenged evaluators to think about this, and encouraged them to serve society with their unique expertise. My conclusion: Don’t step back from the challenge, get involved.

In conclusion, the conference allowed me to experience my profession in a similar manner to a Candidate Fellow experiencing the Fellowship Programme and thereby shifted my perspective. I have now redefined what I see and do in my profession. For me, Evaluation is the creation of social value through inclusive, collaborative and applied research.

A most excellent journey – five years of Circle of Excellence Principal Conferences

A most excellent journey – five years of Circle of Excellence Principal Conferences

COE_2010The Foundation recently hosted its fifth Circle of Excellence Principal’s conference in Grahamstown. The conference provides an opportunity to explore various aspects of educational excellence and the building of a national entrepreneurial pipeline with one of our key stakeholder groups – high schools.  The conference is always hosted at an educationally interesting location and over the years we have visited the remarkable Lebone II School in Bafokeng, Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy for  Girls and the innovative TSiBA University in Cape Town. Further thought has been stimulated by speakers such as Jonathan Jansen and Nick Binedell. But more than the impressive locations and the intellectually interesting content, the lasting legacy of this journey between the Foundation and Principals over the last five years is a powerful community of practice, now even more committed to unlocking greater human potential through harnessing the power of an entrepreneurial mindset.

But first things first. Why this Circle of Excellence? After the first few years of selection the Foundation realised it was experiencing an educational version of Pareto’s 80:20 law, although in our case the numbers shifted slightly to become the 60:40 law. Essentially in those initial years, despite reaching out across the country and corresponding with 1,000’s of high schools, 40 schools were producing 60% of the Candidate Fellows.  It became evident to us that we needed to build stronger relationships with the relatively small number of schools who were generating such a significant proportion of the candidates the Foundation was selecting – and so the Circle of Excellence was born. A recognition from the Foundation of those schools that were achieving excellence. To be clear, it is excellence from the Foundation’s perspective which is that the school has a consistent track record of being able to produce individuals ready for the 21st century – entrepreneurial and purpose driven.  This criteria, the ability to produce individuals eligible for selection as Candidate Fellows, is the sole criteria for membership of the 100 strong Circle of Excellence.  It is a diverse group from different contexts across the whole country.  These schools, representing only 1.5% of the high schools in South Africa have produced over 50% of the output of our selection camps over the last 9 years.

The reason for choosing Grahamstown as the location for the fifth Circle of Excellence conference was due to it recognised thought leadership in community engagement as well as allowing an opportunity to introduce the work of the Allan Gray Centre for Leadership Ethics to the Circle of Excellence community.  So in addition to the ongoing work of building the entrepreneurial pipeline emerging from these schools, community engagement and leadership ethics were the centre of discussion.

DiDi Hornsby, Director of Community Engagement at Rhodes University, gave a powerful overview of the paradigm shifts required in understanding community engagement. How we need to move from seeing community engagement as good deeds to a strategic partnership. In community engagement or service learning, just as in sport, learning the rules in classroom is not the same as playing the game on the field.

Service learning offers the opportunity for pupils to experience social values while playing the real game in the real field. Community engagement can be seen as a critical enabler of collectively seeking solutions to our societal challenges – a vital component of holistic 21st education. In this way community engagement becomes of strategic educational value and is an important differentiator for the school.  There are interesting parallels in the experiential requirements of community engagement learning and entrepreneurial learning. The full audio of the talk is available here  and the related presentation can be found here.

Prof Pedro Tabensky, Director of the Allan Gray Centre for Leadership Ethics, conducted a series of existential conversations as a way of introducing his practical approach to building ethical behaviour in an educational context.  One of his memorable phrases was stating that we are aiming to teach people how to be human – in the superlative sense.  There is no doubt we could do with more of that sense of our humanity.

Finally the Foundation’s desire for the conference to act as a catalyst and platform for building a more powerful entrepreneurial pipeline is starting to bear fruit.  Earlier this year the South African gathering of the International Boys School Conference (IBSC), hosted at Wynberg Boys High School, included a session from the Foundation to explain the importance of an entrepreneurial mindset and affording an opportunity for the delegates to engage with a number of Candidate Allan Gray Fellows and Fellows. This session was a direct result of the similar discussion conducted at the 2013 Circle of Excellence conference. In 2015 South Africa will be hosting the international conference of the IBSC at Diocesan College Bishops.  The theme of that conference will be innovation and creativity, again due to the influence of the COE conferences. At this year’s conference the Foundation extended this momentum with the introduction of tools to support schools in developing greater entrepreneurial mindset amongst their learners. It seems that a number of years later the shift is finally being made to understand that entrepreneurship is not about a narrow commercial interest, but that it has cultural significance through enabling the greater harnessing of human potential.