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Allan Gray Orbis Foundation update: What must rise?

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s mission is to cultivate the entrepreneurial potential of young people. To do this, we try to help candidates build entrepreneurial growth mindsets, which can lead to success in many other spheres of life. Zimkhitha Peter looks back at the Foundation’s achievements in 2016.

The past year has been described as a year of fallism in South Africa. The #FeesMustFall movement has given rise to a new generation of controversial student activists. Following on that, #MustFall became a mantra for anything and anyone that we disagreed with.

Towards the end of the year, some prominent South African leaders started asking ‘What must rise?’ as a counter to fallism. What can we all put our energies towards improving our society? This reframing is characteristic of the Foundation’s approach to investing in young people who want to positively change our country. For us at the Foundation, we believe that for South Africa to begin to fulfil its exciting potential and to prosper, the entrepreneurial mindset must rise.

For South Africa to begin to fulfil its exciting potential and to prosper, the entrepreneurial mindset must rise.

What is an entrepreneurial mindset?

We believe that being able to recognise opportunities and creatively generate new ideas (Intellectual Imagination), having a bias for action (Personal Initiative), focusing on the future and being self-efficient (Spirit of Significance), having resilience and accepting risk (Courageous Commitment) and possessing the motivation and desire to achieve (Achievement Excellence) are all critical to becoming a successful entrepreneur. Not only do we select for these qualities, but our programmes are designed to develop them further. This is demonstrated by the achievements of our beneficiaries in 2016. These attributes add up to an entrepreneurial mindset.

In their bestselling book ‘Put Your Mindset to Work’, James Reed and Paul Stoltz describe mindset as what you see, think and believe. Each person’s unique mindset is coloured by life experience, personal traits and education, and can thus be developed. Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, goes further by describing the difference between fixed and growth mindsets. People with a fixed mindset believe that their capacity and ability are static. Since they believe they are limited, they tend to give up easily when they face a challenge that they don’t have the immediate ability to conquer. A growth mindset, on the other hand, is rooted in the belief that capacity and ability can be developed, challenges must be embraced with innovative solutions and that criticism is a learning opportunity. Since they believe that they can grow, they tend to be more persistent.

The Foundation’s programme and curriculum are focused on providing structure and opportunity for all our beneficiaries to engage in the deliberate practice and hard work that we believe will lead to the development of an entrepreneurial mindset.

Summary of the achievements of Foundation beneficiaries in 2016

Over 50 Allan Gray Scholars doing their high school education were elected to leadership positions, including as prefects. Two Scholars were appointed as Deputy Head students of their respective schools, Bishops Diocesan College and St. Cyprians, while another represented SA Schools in the World Knowledge Forum in Japan.

Nine Candidate Fellows became members of the Golden Key Honours Society. One Candidate Fellow started a home security app called Jonga, which achieved third place at the Global Social Venture Competition. Another Candidate Fellow attended the One Young World Conference in Ottawa, Canada and one was head of the University of Cape Town’s delegation to the Model United Nations in Rome. Another seven Candidate Fellows were awarded Mandela Rhodes Scholarships at the end of the year.

This year the Association of Allan Gray Fellows, in collaboration with our empowerment partner E2, launched an accelerator programme for Fellow-led start-up businesses. The accelerator took the form of a three-month programme of intensive work to prepare start-ups to pitch to investors, culminating in a Demo Day at the end of November 2016, where the businesses presented to a carefully selected audience of stakeholders.

2016 Foundation selection

Allan Gray Fellowship

Our university Fellowship continues to excite and draw applicants from all provinces in South Africa, and we seek to select those with the greatest potential to become high-impact, responsible entrepreneurs. Only 6% of those who applied for the Fellowship opportunity were selected, as shown in Table 1.

Allan Gray fellowship

Allan Gray Scholarship

This year 30 Grade 7 candidates were selected for an Allan Gray Scholarship for high school, as shown in Table 2. A further 10 scholarships will be funded by our partner, the Standard Bank Tutuwa initiative.

Allan Gray scholarship

Through our candidate Fellows and our work in education, the Foundation finds itself currently in the midst of the student struggles. The issues we need to resolve are challenging. Like many other institutions involved in education in South Africa, we find ourselves needing to exercise our own entrepreneurial mindset. These are uncomfortable times, but we are being pushed to lift our game as an institution and to think hard about how we add value. Our commitment remains unwavering to seeing an equitable, entrepreneurial South Africa that is flourishing with meaningful employment.

Businesses started by fellows who participated in the accelerator programme

Interested learners can find more information about the Scholarship and Fellowship opportunities at: 

Deadlines for applications for Fellowship opportunities, to study at university, are 28 April 2017 for Grade 12 learners and 18 August 2017 for first and second year university students. Grade 6 learners must apply for a Scholarship opportunity, for their high school education, by 29 September 2017.

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