The Foundation hosted its third Circle of Excellence conference at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy from 17th – 19th August 2012. The Circle of Excellence is an informal grouping of schools from which the Foundation mostly finds its candidate Fellows for its university Fellowship. The purpose of this collective is for leaders in education to come together and learn about strategies which promote excellence in education for South Africa. This year the theme of the conference was “From Excellence to Influence: The Leadership Journey to Significance”. The objective was to understand the role of entrepreneurial leadership in moving from excellence to influence within the regional educational environment.
The aim was to stimulate debate and action so that these schools could individually and collectively leverage educational excellence to broader influence, through raising awareness of the significance of entrepreneurial leadership. The conference this year was attended by 61 principals (or their deputies) and a further nine principals from schools where the Foundation places its young Scholars. Unique to this year’s event was the opportunity for principals to invite their partner community schools that they had been engaging with throughout the course of the year, which added a stimulating and diverse dimension to the event. The take-away challenge for principals was: “If your school did not exist…what difference would it make?”
Following on from the inspiration of Jonathan Jansen and Nick Binedell in 2011, Vincent Maphai, Anne van Zyl and Walter Baets all continued the challenges from their unique perspectives. Dr. Maphai shared his leadership journey of significance as he unfolded his personal and professional life highlights whilst focusing on the strong educational foundation that underpinned his significant career. Professor Baets challenged the participants on the need for values-based leadership and the fact that more than transformational leadership is required, adding that activating citizenship at the level of significance should be the bedrock for leadership. Anne van Zyl shared the vision of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy which was followed by an inspiring pupil-led school tour and entertainment.
One of the principals which attended summed up the event in a few words: “During the past few years I have had the privilege of attending a number of international educational conferences and with all due respect to the organisers and speakers concerned, I have found the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation events in many aspects of greater value than these international conferences. The inspiring educational impact that your Foundation is making on the South African landscape is phenomenal and being able to interact with the Fellows was inspiring.”