In October this year Zimkitha Lugodlo, the Foundation’s Association Director, visited Boston, Massachusetts in the USA. She had a packed programme that included meetings with representatives from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as well as a workshop that took an in-depth look at one of the entrepreneurship programmes available to MIT students.
First on Zimkitha’s agenda was meeting with the Associate Director of Harvard’s Alumni Association, Lauren Brodsky. She gleaned valuable information regarding best practice when running an alumni association. “Our discussion focused on issues of governance and structure. It was insightful to learn how they keep their community engaged – by forming and running interest groups that they call Harvard clubs.”
At MIT she met with the Director of the Martin Trust Centre for MIT Entrepreneurship. Numerous programmes and events run at this centre, and they’re all geared to provide students interested in entrepreneurship with the necessary expertise, support and connections to become effective entrepreneurs. “I was challenged and inspired by the fact that their approach to Entrepreneurship Education was based on both theory and practice,” says Zimkitha.
She was also inspired by the success of one of the Martin Trust Centre’s programmes, the MIT Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator (MIT GFSA). This programme, which ran for the first time in the summer of 2012, now has international scope with student teams from MIT as well as universities in Turkey, Scotland, Russia, Germany, China and Canada. The programme focuses on the startup phase of the student teams’ businesses and provides them support by way of funding, individual stipends, work space as well as individualised instruction and guidance. It then culminates in a demo day where teams present their finished prototypes and business plans that, by this time, had been tested and reworked countless times to ensure commercial viability. Of the MIT GFSA Zimkitha says, “I was struck by the simplicity and quality engagements.”
The concept of accelerator programmes, and the MIT GFSA in particular, was discussed during a workshop session attended by representatives from the Kauffman Foundation, the Rockerfeller Foundation, Duke University, and World Bank to name but a few. Zimkitha represented the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation and brought home with her many valuable insights regarding accelerator programmes and best practices. During this session she was also able to share some of our own best practices. The fact that we take a long-term approach through our Foundation Pipeline, starting with a student’s high school career and continuing all through and after their university career, sets us apart. Our approach presents a unique case study to the body of research on entrepreneurship education, but more than that, it ensures that the world will be watching.