Leadership for Public Innovation Conference

On 15 and 16 June over 70 people gathered at the Old Mutual headquarters in Cape Town to engage in robust discussion about how best to support young people to drive public innovation in South Africa. The conference was organised by TSiBA Education with support from Old Mutual and the DG Murray Trust. Key objectives of the conference were to share with and engage practitioners in a vision for how to collaborate in the field of leadership development, profile best practice, and  begin the process of developing a youth leadership development community of practice.

The day began with stories of five young people who have taken the lead in tackling some crucial issues – from education, to political awareness, to entrepreneurship and even science and the environment.  The video below details their visions for South Africa:

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After this inspiring start the audience engaged with Rhoda Khadalie and Mark Lotter from the Impumelelo Social Innovations Centre who highlighted some incredible projects in the public sector that set the standard for innovation in service delivery. These innovators include the Marianhill Landfill Conservancy that powers 3000 households off the waste from the Marianhill landfill, has rehabilitated the surrounding area into a nature conservancy and is set to earn millions of Rands in carbon-offset credits for Ethekwini. Another major innovation is the Phelophepha Health Train that provides highy-quality healthcare to under-served communities across the country. While innovation is often thought of only as the preserve of the private sector, these examples clearly show that innovation can be instilled in the public sector to ensure high-quality solutions to major social challenges.

As the day moved towards dialogue sessions, presentations were made on leadership from a corporate perspective, as well as a reflection on some of the learnings from a soon-to-be launched book of interviews with leadership development thoughtleaders. The presentation below on Leadership for Public Innovation tried to set the scene for robust discussion on how collaboration between organisations and interventions can lead to the best outcomes for young people seeking to make an impact.

The critical dialogue for the day asked the question,  How can we begin to develop a community of practice for Leadership Development? There were emerging themes around the need for sharing best practice, creating a platform for sharing experiences, and also one-on-one connections being formed between organisations. While this conference was the start of that conversation, the DG Murray Trust hopes to be able to support the sector to establish a community of practice that deepens the impact of youth development and leadership development work over the next few years.

The second day of the conference, June 16 – the 35th anniversary of the Soweto Uprising – had a very different tone and focussed on creating a space for intergenerational dialogue. Alongside the participants in the programme, 60 Grade 11 learners from the Spirit of Youth Programme, joined seasoned activists for a discussion on their experiences of taking action. Antoinette Sithole, the sister of Hector Pietersen, shared her memories of the uprising and the moment captured so viscerally by photographer Sam Nzima. Later, Ahmed Kathrada and Barbara Hogan shared their stories about being part of the struggle, while the young participants shared their hopes and frustrations about grappling with their struggles today.

This conference is the beginning of a broader conversation between generations, between practitioners, and between civil society, business and government about how young people can take their place as drivers of public innovation in South Africa. More updates and outcomes will follow shortly.


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