What does the challenge of being a challenger actually mean?
Well, to the group of us (including myself) travelling out to Durban, South Africa this summer as part of the South Africa Challenge, it will mean a number of things.
Firstly, I’ll be challenging the status quo. When I first mentioned that I’ll be travelling to SA to my friends and family, their immediate reaction was a mixture of concern for my safety, and confusion over why I wanted to spend part of my summer in a country known for a number of problems. Spending two weeks working on a social project whilst you’re developing leadership skills isn't everyone’s cup of tea, but to me this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something a little bit different.
More importantly - I will be challenging myself. We all have a preconception of South Africa, its people and culture; it’s formed from what we see in the media, what the people around us tell us, and often our lack of knowledge. I want to challenge my perceptions to see what the country is really like, and see the issues for myself gaining the knowledge first hand.
I also want to challenge myself to develop new skills; being in an unfamiliar environment, with a group of people you don’t know is probably the best way to start. As part of the leadership development programme, we will be looking at what makes us think and act in a certain way. It’s easy to point out the good and bad points in others, but the challenge is to look critically at yourself.
Lastly we’ll be challenging each other within the group to make the most of the experience. Getting to know a group of people with different backgrounds, experiences and attitudes will be exciting and daunting at the same time. Learning how to work as a team will be a challenge in its self.
So in answer to the question of what does the challenge of being a challenger mean - to me, it’s a mixture of challenging yourself, your preconceptions, your team and what others expect of you. The journey so far to South Africa has already gone some way to challenge a challenger, and I'm excited to see what else the experience throws at me.
‘’Remember, the difference between a boss and a leader... A boss says "Go" A leader says "Let's go".”
Despite being a leader for many months now, I believe there is always room for improvement, I know I’m not perfect, in fact, I’m so far off being perfect, but, I accept this and I’m learning. My motto in life is “learn from your mistakes and others around you” - you will never stop learning, no matter how clever or how long you’ve been a leader for; you always have the capacity to grow and learn from everyone you meet. I believe the perfect opportunity for one to expand their knowledge is through travelling and saying “let’s go” instead of “go”, hence, my participation and one of my committee member’s participation in the South Africa Challenge.
I aim for this trip to expand my knowledge of the wider world and through self- reflection discover what sort of leader I am and areas which I can improve on. This will help both me and my team in the long run. The biggest and greatest lesson I’m hoping to take away with me is how to manage different groups of people from different cultures, as a leader it’s about learning to respect different groups of people whether they are from different; ethnicities, religions and countries and knowing how to approach and manage the different groups, I know, due to my lack of travelling, that I lack this as a leader and hope to understand more and empathise with different cultures after experiencing such a diverse one first hand.
I’m excited about extending my knowledge further and to have this new experience.
I have always had an ambition to set up my own education based charity in Africa, having worked in schools in Kenya and seen first-hand the remarkable difference between our own education system and theirs. The children there who have so little begged us not to leave their classroom for lunch, and appear to take every word with such hunger. On the other hand, the children here who have so much, myself included, were able to take education for granted and sometimes even resent it. I feel this is such a backward notion.
I originally heard about the project through a colleague in my role as a Student Helper at Loughborough, and she put me in contact with Peter to discuss how he runs the project and how he came about to work on it. Initially my meeting with him was to focus on this, however as we discussed the project itself it captured my interest. It is an opportunity in which you can not only develop yourself through a very demanding and challenging project, but also see the effect and appreciation of the individuals and communities that we may be lucky enough to work with.
After discussing the project at length I was hooked, and decided to seize the opportunity as it presented itself and so signed up that night. Following my sign up, through research into the area my desire to work with education in the area increased even further. Shocking statistics, such as a 55% student dropout rate, with many schools forcing students out of education if they underperform to protect their statistics proved the problems that the SA education system struggles with are still deep set, with huge racial inequality, and a teaching standard that is far below standards that would be acceptable in many countries.
I believe that as a country we are remarkably lucky, being born into a privileged society, with excellent health care, education and financial support, and I also feel that we can have a large impact in poorer countries, even if just on a few individuals. These people did not choose to have the situation they were born into, but equally they will never be able to progress if we spoon feed our services. With this in mind, I have joined the project to attempt to provide people with a means of improving their own skill sets that could have a snowball effect on other areas of the education of local students.
It’s approximately 3pm on Tuesday 30 July and I’m sat on the Emirates flight EK16, headed for Durban, South Africa. With my left leg crossed onto my right and my moleskin notebook in front of me, I have five questions scribbled in poor graphite handwriting on the first page. The most important of which led me to this day. The question I ask is what really matters to me? ... READ MORE
So almost 2 months ago now, my two weeks staying at the world changers academy in Durban came to an end. It was an experience I will never forget and I can’t thank all the people that made it possible enough. I just wanted to provide a reflection of my experience.
South Africa is a beautiful country from its beaches through to its rolling hills.
The community that we spent most time with was the Zulu community. READ MORE...
So as I catch my breath sitting in Vancouver Airport after a fantastic month of travelling, I can’t help but begin to further reflect on some of my South Africa experiences. A big theme of the experience and something that I will continue to take in the rest of my life is the difference between fact and assumption. Something I will tackle in a later blog but for now here are some facts about the area we stayed in with some comments on some of them. Over the next couple of weeks I will begin to tackle each one in turn.
We all think we are doing fantastic things when people are asking us for money on the high street but during the trip I was able to visualise the legacy of badly managed aid.
During the second week, we were fortunate enough to go to a fantastically managed orphanage called Makaputu, providing a home to 49 young people. We were introduced to the centre last year but this year partnered with an American team that was working with some of the young people to look at their entrepreneurial attitude. Our team went in and delivered a session on creative thinking and basic business model canvassing. Both techniques to assist in them taking their business to the next level.
The future is not an accident waiting to happen. The future is being created today, by people who understand how the world works, and the power they have to change the world
I set out last week with a group of young people from the UK; so committed to their personal development that they would head to South Africa on a two week leadership challenge.
They came for different reasons; the adventure, the opportunity to visit Africa for the very first time and do something for charity, the opportunity to make memories that will last a lifetime. They didn’t really know what to expect, but they came anyway, demonstrating that deep down inside, they knew that ‘success lies on the other side of fear.’
When we last left off, my next step was making our way to South Africa. After arriving at Gatwick with as little time as possible to spare, we endured a solid 6 hour flight into Dubai International Airport. During this time, Coach* had left us with 5 questions to think about, which we were to answer during our reflection sessions. For me, it was insightful to have to stop and think about what really inspires me, who I see as leaders and what leadership itself is. On top of this, we will be discussing our personal stories - what has shaped us and the key points in our lives. This is something I've never taken a step back and thought about. I tend to stroll through life, not really thinking too much about the past - not through any kind of fear - just as something that is done. I truly look forward to not only hearing what the rest of the team has to say, and engaging in their stories, but also to reflecting on my own story, and getting the team's reaction to such.
During the 10 hour layover in Dubai is where the story behind this post really takes form. Whilst informally discussing exactly what the South Africa Challenge meant to us and what we were hoping to gain, we discussed the possibility of staying overnight in one of Durban's townships. During the day, we would be taking part in a VukAfrica of the township, and would be staying with a generous family overnight.
If you read this month’s wired, you’ll find a brilliant article by William Adams on the importance of creativity in business. Those who can’t innovate tend not to last long in business and creativity becomes a survival mechanism as much as getting ahead of the competition.
After hearing about an America entrepreneurship team leading a program in the local community, team SA jumped at the chance to pass on their knowledge. Amongst business professionals from Google, McKinsey and Blackrock, Jessica and I took the opportunity to pass on some of our creative skills. And in the process help young aspiring South African entrepreneurs to utilise problem solving in their lives.
It’s always great to see the enthusiasm from a new group of people as you take them on a journey into thinking outside boundaries and investigating the slightly mad world of creatives. Today was no exception. I completely enjoyed working to push people outside their comfort zone before bringing the group round and showing them how these ideas relate to their own business.
‘How can you relate the word moonstone to your business?’
‘How will people buy food in the future?’
‘How would your favorite superhero solve the problem?’
Although these questions may seem random, they can all help to stretch the imagination and provoke new thoughts and ideas about how your business can be creative.
A big thanks to the NYC team for letting us release creative chaos upon their entrepreneurship class and I hope they enjoyed the session as much as we did!