The Association of Allan Gray Fellows held its first national event of the year this past June. It was a leadership seminar entitled ‘The Intellectual Needs Society’ and constituted the second leadership event in the life of the Association. Allan Gray Fellows flew in from all over the country to attend the event in Johannesburg from 28-29 June.
The seminar’s theme was based on an address by Julius Nyerere, one of Africa’s most respected figures. As a teacher, politician and president of Tanzania, he was passionate about education. When he addressed the University of Liberia in 1968 he stated, “Intellectuals have a special contribution to make to the development of our nations, and to Africa. And I am asking that their knowledge, and the greater understanding that they should possess, should be used for the benefit of the society of which we are all members.”
The seminar focused on three aspects of leadership:
- Personal Leadership,
- Thought Leadership and
- Societal Leadership.
The Personal Leadership component was facilitated by Veda Sunassee, a faculty member at the African Leadership Academy’s Centre for Entrepreneurial Leadership. During one of these sessions the Fellows received a copy of their original Fellowship application forms. In particular, we were encouraged to look at the answer we gave to the question “What is the South Africa you want to see in the next 10 years?” As Fellows we were reminded of the commitment we made to ourselves to transform our society for the better.
The Thought Leadership sessions comprised 3 Master Classes on Africa. They were led by entrepreneurs within and experts on the African context. These sessions challenged and developed thinking around the context within which the intellectuals in our community operate. Master Class 1 was presented by Robin Miller who spoke on the use of ICT to for Africa’s development. The title of Master Class 2, presented by Victor Kgomoeswana, was ‘Africa is open for Business’. It explored the book he had written with the same title.
Misan Rewane presented Master Class 3, a case study of West African Vocational Education.
All these aspects of leadership came together in practice during the Societal Leadership session. This session saw the facilitation of a Consulting Challenge, which has as its objective the putting to use of our intellectual capital in society. Fellows were assigned the challenge of providing consulting services to a youth development agency over a minimum period of three months. After teaming up with four or five other Fellows, they selected one of the following agencies to work with over the next year:
- Umuzi photo club
- Creative Thinking
The Association’s aim with this leadership seminar was to aid Fellows in identifying that they are the ‘intellectuals’ Julius Nyerere envisioned – a group of individuals privileged by their education and socioeconomic fortune who have a responsibility to use their relative privilege to effect positive change in the society they operate in. We also hope that this seminar helped the Fellows realise that before they can influence change in society we need to look inward and consider our goals and dreams and how they might align with that which is outward.
I believe that the leadership seminar succeeded in its aims. Fellows walked away having activated a mode of introspection as well as ‘outrospection’ and feeling challenged – convicted to continue living out the vision they had when first joining the Foundation, that of transforming the socioeconomic landscape of the region.
As a Fellow myself this seminar reminded me how important it is to have points of reflection and take stock. It’s needed if one is to refocus one’s vision and reposition oneself in order to achieve that vision. The seminar has also filled me with excitement to see the all the Fellows’ response to the challenge of using our relative privilege in aid of objectives that benefit the greater society.