Founder of ground-breaking SA initiative recognised for driving innovative management ideas

Founder of ground-breaking SA initiative recognised for driving innovative management ideas
Dr Louise van Rhyn, founder of non-profit Symphonia for South Africa

Thinkers50, the first-ever global ranking of management thinkers, has named Dr Louise van Rhyn, founder of non-profit Symphonia for South Africa, and its flagship programme Partners for Possibility (PfP), as its 2021 recipient of the Ideas Into Practice Award. The award recognises van Rhyn for pioneering and building the multi-award winning PfP programme.

Since 2001, Thinkers50 has identified, ranked and shared the very best management ideas globally. The Thinkers50 list has been published every two years, and remains the premier ranking of its kind. The scope of Thinkers50 has broadened to include a range of activities that support its mission of providing innovative access to powerful business and management ideas, premised on the core belief that ideas have the power to change the world, management is essential to human affairs and new thinking can create a better future.

‘’This latest validation is not only a phenomenal recognition of Louise’s tenacity and tireless dedication to creating and building the PfP programme, but a testament to her success in following her life’s purpose: creating a better future for ALL. As a social entrepreneur, progressive thinker, thought leader and academic, we applaud Louise for pioneering a movement that has improved over a million lives in SA,’’ said Dorcas Dube, Marketing and Communication Manager for Symphonia for South Africa.

South Africa’s education system is struggling: it deepens social differences that have remained after apartheid, intensifies inequality, and poses a huge obstacle to economic growth. Not willing to accept this, van Rhyn was eager to apply the skills she had gained through working with diverse local and global organisations for the benefit of all South Africa’s children.

Against that backdrop, van Rhyn, who holds a doctoral degree in large-scale complex social change, founded Symphonia for South Africa – an organisation that aims to strengthen the fabric of South Africa’s society by mobilising active citizenship, conscious leadership and cross-sectoral collaboration around critical social challenges. In 2010 she launched PfP, a leadership development programme that focusses on improving the quality of education by capacitating school principals who serve under-resourced communities and building their leadership skills through partnerships with business leaders.

van Rhyn became the first business leader to partner with a principal in an effort to improve a school’s education outcomes. Her partnership with Ridwan Samodien, principal of Kannemeyer Primary School in Grassy

Park, Cape Town, led to positive change at the school and the community at large. The school’s success, and the success of this first partnership, has been the model for the PfP programme that exists today, and the lessons learnt along the way have been applied to subsequent partnerships, as school principals and business leaders continue strive to improve education in South Africa together.

In September, van Rhyn was shortlisted for the Ideas Into Practice Award along with:

  • Fellow South African social entrepreneur, Marlon Parker;
  • Economist and author, Dr Dambisa Moyo;
  • Founder of social company Change Dyslexia, Luz Rello Sanchez;
  • Founder of Foundation Transformation Paraguay, Gabriela Teasdale;
  • Founder of Jaipur Rugs, NK Chaudhary;
  • Distinguished thought leader, Subir Chowdhury;
  • CEO of DBS Bank, Piyush Gupta; and
  • Specialist in Strategy and Digital Implementation, Robin Speculand.

The announcement of the winners was made at the Thinkers50 Awards Gala, which took place as two-day virtual event hosted from the Thinkers50 studio in London. Dubbed ‘’the Oscars of Management Thinking” by the Financial Times, this year’s gala event marked the 20th anniversary of the Thinkers50 Ranking and saw business and management thinkers from around the world sharing two days of ideas, inspiration and celebration.

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