An inspirational young South African who has mentored numerous young leaders, has found herself on the podium winning a global award while competing against participants from 25 other countries.
A team, led by Monash South Africa (MSA) employee and student Bronwyn Dugtig, has won $25,000 in funding and mentorship in the McGuire Business Plan Competition – Laureate International Universities’ signature entrepreneurship competition that identifies and supports innovative entrepreneurial ventures. The award is open to students across the global Laureate network, and attracted entries from over 34 tertiary institutions across the globe.
Dugtig who is Head of Community Engagement at MSA, mentors approximately 50 students per annum, reaching approximately 500 students each year. Dugtig’s unique winning business idea, named My Voice, aims to give South African learners the skills required to engage, speak and lead within a democratic society.
My Voice’s extensively researched curriculum focuses on human rights, democratic institutions and their functions, policy development, and voter rights and responsibilities. Its content is defined and guided by the South African Constitution.
Dugtig says, “Globally, there is a trend towards people participating less in the democratic process. They become disillusioned when they don’t get the outcomes they want, but can’t make progress because they don’t know the channels to go through. We aim to teach people how to actively participate in a democracy, taking collective charge of all our futures.”
The win, while another feather in MSA’s cap, is testament to the strong outcome based education at MSA, President and Academic President of MSA, Prof Alwyn Louw stressed. “Our goal is to be aligned with the national agenda and nurture talent that can lead South Africa and other neighboring countries to new levels of growth. MSA has over the years produced nine Mandela Rhodes Scholars, while the Laureate Here for Good Award was won by another MSA student Lebo Sekhotla two years ago. The entire education journey at MSA is intended to be life-changing, for our students and their families, employers and local communities.”
Ten years since inception, the competition has grown in size and magnitude, attracting the highest number of entries this year. Laureate International Universities is the largest global network of degree-granting higher education institutions, with over a million students, as a result, more than 150 business plans were received from 34 network institutions.
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The business’ goals will be fast-tracked, thanks to winning the McGuire Business Plan Competition. Dugtig notes how this support will drive the success of her team’s fledgling business, “Winning the award has given us so much more confidence in our product and really legitimised our ideas. The entire pitch process is invaluable, as it allowed us to form a strong business plan and re-calibrate our approach. Being supported by Monash South Africa and Laureate gives our team the credibility required as we share our concept with schools across the country.”
The prize money and one year mentorship that is part of the prize presents opportunities that are not usually available to a start-up. For example, My Voice can build a professional brand and a world-class curriculum. As an apartisan organisation, My Voice will also need to conduct pilots in selected schools.
My Voice will follow a hybrid model, offering its services to both underprivileged and wealthy schools. This decision follows the insight that South African learners of all backgrounds require a greater understanding of the importance and role of participating in a democratic society. Ultimately, the team aims to produce a blended curriculum of both online and in-person tuition that can be replicated and scaled.
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“The research phase yielded great response. Teachers identified a widespread need for critical thinking, while learners asked for leadership development and voter education. This presents a powerful opportunity for the team to gather data and study the political discourse taking place among the youth of South Africa. This will result in knowledge that all South Africans and policy makers will benefit from,” Dugtig added.
“Through my work at Monash South Africa and my research for this business plan, I have come to the conclusion that young people are hungry for change and engagement. Sometimes young people are not taken as seriously as they should be, but we need to help prepare them to engage in civil society and step up into the economy. Through finding their voices, young people can create a future they want to see.”