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September 2019 update from the MRF: Looking back while planning forward

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September 2019 update from the MRF: Looking back while planning forward

Published 18 September 2019

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Looking back, while planning forward

Across the ages, the Akan people in West Africa have drawn wisdom from the mythical sankofa bird when contemplating future plans. As a pictorial expression, the bird has its head turned backwards, while its feet are firmly planted forward. The meaning inherent in this totem is the belief that the past plays a crucial role as a guide for the future. Therefore as The Mandela Rhodes Foundation enters a new phase in its evolution, it is crucial that we bring forth the pearls of knowledge and valuable lessons from our past.

Reflecting on my own journey with its delights and inevitable complexities, I do not take lightly the distinct honour and sense of historical significance in being the first ever alumnus of the Foundation’s programmes to take up the office of the CEO. This is a great testament to the very vision of the MRF, that young Africans take their abilities and skills, and lead our continent into true equity and prosperity. I relish the opportunity to lead the MRF, knowing that I stand on the shoulders of giants.

Our strategic mandate over the next few years centres on the theme of expanding our impact, and will be grounded by four pillars. The biggest opportunity for the MRF to amplify its impact is through our Alumni, who have begun to play influential roles in their various fields. The first pillar will explore platforms and partnerships that harness the energy of the MRF’s over 400 Alumni from 24 African countries. Secondly, we plan to increase our African footprint through a Pan-African outreach campaign. The third pillar aims to leverage the MRF’s brand and drive thought leadership that advances our four principles, namely reconciliation, education, entrepreneurship and leadership, through platforms such as Young African magazine, symposiums, and podcasts. Finally, we will ensure that we continue to deliver the exceptional offering of our in-residence leadership development programme, with a particular focus on embedding the second-year modules piloted this year.

The MRF team will over the next few months spend concentrated time formulating the integral details under each strategic pillar, guided by the wisdom of the sankofa bird. We will renew our commitment to the mission our founding patron Mr. Mandela envisioned pertaining to the purpose of the Foundation, ensuring that any contextually relevant dictum from him to us, is not left behind. It will be vital to review the past successes of our fundraising strategy, while being cognizant of the changed global economic environment and the need to adapt and tailor our approaches accordingly. It will be crucial to ensure that we resource vacancies and new posts with appropriate skills that align with our strategy. And most importantly, we will dedicate time to embedding a shared organisational culture amongst our staff, who are the heartbeat that ensures the successful delivery of our vision. The team is in fact currently hard at work running the Completion Workshop for the Class of 2019, and making final preparations for the Class of 2020 selection panels convening in October.

I would like to express my gratitude to the Board of Trustees, donors, key stakeholders, staff and Mandela Rhodes Scholars for the genuine support I have felt since I took up the post of CEO on 1 August 2019. I look forward to engaging, sharing, and co-creating with you in this next chapter, as we continue to make real Mr. Mandela’s dream that the work of The Mandela Rhodes Foundation substantively contributes to a better life for the people of Africa.

Judy Sikuza
CEO, The Mandela Rhodes Foundation

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