Spoor: The track or scent of an animal.
This is how my business mission in the education sector of “cloud-based learning” became linked with an incredibly fascinating South-African NGO – Good Work Foundation – and one of the most exciting Safari and conservation business – Londolozi Game Reserve.
The safari began with a serious, significant business mission to harvest a 4.5 trillion USD market ….
As part of the senior management team of one of the most successful Corporate in Telco and IT/OT Services – Deutsche Telekom, I was tasked to explore new digital business opportunities. At this point in time we wanted to seize one of the three biggest markets in the world – the education space.
Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”How I gained everything because I gave something away
So, I wanted to figure out how disruption in the education sector could be fuelled in the digital era and which potential new business models are arising. Burning questions came to my mind and ideas how to fix outdated or ineffective education systems:
would we need teachers and professors going forward?
Shouldn´t we discontinue spending billions on brick and mortar for useless buildings?
Could we offer the ivy league of learning to many million learners via cloud-based learning platforms?
What are all these NGOs doing? and why do venture capitalists start to invest billions into a few startups?
The first spoor …… To understand which problems were worth attempting to fix globally I went to very different places to learn from very diverse and exceptional people.
I wanted to learn from people and places which experience true adversity. My hypothesis was that only there would I find the answer to what people really want and what technology could do to fix the vast challenges in education.
Without noticing it, I was on a safari trip and first steps to learn how to track….
One of my discovery trips around the globe led me to South Africa and the Good Work Foundation (GWF). This local NGO had the mission to offer a sustainable holistic concept of education for the rural places of Africa where limited electricity, no internet and broken public transport are just a few of the realities of day-to-day life.
GWF had just opened their first Digital Learning Centre in Hazyview, in the Mpumalanga province, close to the Kruger National Park. The centre was launched by Trevor Manuel; the former Minister of Finance and a friend of Nelson Mandela.
I was there for just one day. A single day which would change my life.
Kate Groch, the CEO and founder of GWF, shared her view on the education system in South Africa. It was about her experience in learning and teaching in the African context and local communities. Kate’s most wonderful quality is she always places the needs and wants of the people first. Her relentless will to offer opportunities and participation in society was almost supernatural. We were talking about skills, curricula, didactics, the use of technology and digital devices, employability and many others. But the true essence of our conversation was about caring, love, community, sharing, self-consciousness and respect.
We were meeting with a huge variety of people. It was a great honour to meet with Dave and Boyd Varty – trustees of GWF and owners of Londolozi Private Game Reserve.
From the very first second when I met Kate and these two men I felt a strong energy and confidence filling our hearts with a common uniting spirit.
Shortly before departing I walked again into the “barn” of the Digital Learning Centre. I took a long look at the iconic artificial “digital tree“ inside of this wonder-filled place for gathering and learning from. A local South-African colleague came by and told me the best way to approach my business mission. She said for a good safari I should just walk out of the door and follow the first fresh spoor and track it – no matter what spoor (Afrikaans word for “footprint”) it appeared to be – things would fall into place.
The problem: I did not have the slightest idea what tracking was about. I didn´t know anything about the wild or a game reserve like Londolozi. And let´s not forget: I still was on a business trip to explore a potential multi-billion dollar opportunity for my employer and was committed to find the right approach. My confusion was huge.
But one thing became very clear to me. I was very fortunate during my professional career in the past 20 years. I achieved decent impact for many businesses and met many inspirational people and had the pleasure to learn from these amazing personalities.
I liked what I did a lot. But now I realised I did not love it. My first business trip to Africa turned into a safari. In Hazyview, at Good Work Foundation campus I found the first spoor – and started to track what I truly love…
To be continued…