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 community
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.
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.
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
“You 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.