At the EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity 2021 last Friday, Dr Norah Clarke, Director: Entrepreneurship at Universities South Africa (USAf), affirmed the leadership of the five communities of practice (CoPs) in Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE), saying they carry most of the work.
She told the audience at the event that the secret of the success behind EDHE lies in the programme’s communities of practice throughout the system. The Intervarsity 2021 finals were hosted at the Premier Hotel in Kempton Park.
“A lot of the co-ordination work is being done by either the Chair or the Deputy,” the EDHE Director said. “But these individuals are not being driven by winning a prize. They are motivated by a genuine passion in entrepreneurship development within their institutions. We wish to see the other members of the CoPs increasing their visibility and growing their leadership prowess by leading some of the task teams work within the CoPs.”
She further said that individuals wishing to participate in entrepreneurial activities at universities, that is, those wishing to make entrepreneurship part of their careers, had ample opportunity to pursue that aspiration through these structures. “Communities of Practice provide a wonderful opportunity for leadership growth and for the next layer of leaders to come through their ranks.”
Dr Clarke thus invited four of the chairs and deputies who were at the event, to ascend the stage to be publicly acknowledged for their much-appreciated contribution in this regard. The rest of the leaders were either watching remotely or could not attend at all.
The five CoPs are each led by a chairperson and deputy chairperson. These individuals were inaugurated at the EDHE Kick-off event in March 2021. They will serve in their posts for the duration of the programme’s three-year funding cycle, ending in 2023. The CoPs and their chairs and deputy chairs, respectively, are:
- EDHE CoP for Entrepreneurial Universities: Chairperspon: Professor Eugene Cloete, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation at Stellenbosch University. His deputy is Professor Eunice Seekoe, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University.
- EDHE CoP for Entrepreneurship in Learning and Teaching: Chairperson: Dr Thea van der Westhuizen, Academic Leader: Management and Entrepreneurship Discipline at the University of KwaZulu-Nata. She is deputised by Professor Tshidi Mohapeloa — Associate Professor: Enterprise Management at Rhodes University
- EDHE CoP for Entrepreneurship Research: Chairperson: Professor Natanya Meyer, Associate Professor: Business Management at the University of Johannesburg. The Deputy Chair is Dr Nana Vezi-Magigaba, Senior Lecturer: Business Management at the University of Zululand.
- EDHE CoP for Student Entrepreneurship: Chairperson: Ms Nadia Waggie, Head: Operations for Careers Service at the University of Cape Town. The Deputy Chair is Ms Karen Snyman, Student Entrepreneurship Specialist at Nelson Mandela University.
- EDHE Studentpreneurs CoP: Chairperson: Ms Phetha Mchunu, Bachelor of Law student at the University of the Witwatersrand. Her Deputy is Mr Chad Lucas, Bachelor of Commerce: General student at Sol Plaatje University.
Dr Clarke said, initially, the annual EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity event was intended to announce and recognise leading studentpreneurs. Over time, the EDHE team realised that there were other pivotal people to this programme’s continuation who needed to be recognised. That is how the idea of EDHE Awards, recognising deputy vice-chancellors doing exceptional work in support of entrepreneurship, was born. She said in the same spirit it was fitting to publicly acknowledge Chairs and Deputy chairs of CoPs as the foot soldiers of EDHE.
Alongside the CoPs, Dr Clarke also singled out Sol Plaatje University for the role it had played in hosting the launch of the Student Entrepreneurship Week (SEW) 2021 event in September. Playing a leading role in that regard was Ms Gail Motlhaudi (above), herself an EDHE Member of the CoP for Student Entrepreneurship, and a Lecturer in Economic and Management Sciences. Ms Motlhaudi is also the Coordinator of Sol Plaatje’s Student Entrepreneurship Centre. Dr Clarke described Ms Motlhaudi as “an academic who takes it upon herself to make entrepreneurship a success.”
Still on #SEW2021, Dr Clarke said they had learnt that undertaking this activity in the pandemic was almost impossible. Thirteen of USAf’s 26 member institutions had celebrated the event during 2021, nonetheless, and used it as a platform to raise awareness in students, of the benefits of participating in entrepreneurship.
“We’re very encouraged by what we saw this year – a wonderful opportunity for partners [i.e. potential sponsors] wishing to ride this wave with us.”
Coming up in 2022
While sharing some of the highlights in EDHE’s 2021 calendar, the EDHE Director also alerted the audience to EDHE events anticipated in 2022.
For one, the Economic Activation Offices that were mentioned earlier in the year would be launched as a pilot in 10 institutions, early in 2022. Economic Activation Offices are one-stop information centres and go-to places for students, community members and academic staff, for when they need to find out what is happening in the institution. It is at these offices that students and other interested parties will be able to learn how to access entrepreneurship support and explore available opportunities. These offices would be launched at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Durban University of Technology, Nelson Mandela University, Sol Plaatje University, University of Cape Town, University of Johannesburg, University of Limpopo, University of Venda, University of Zululand and Walter Sisulu University.
Staff manning these facilities would be given proper induction and the requisite training in the first quarter of the New Year.
Secondly, the EDHE Lekgotla would in 2022 be hosted by Nelson Mandela University. NMU’s Dean of Student Affairs, Mr Luthando Jack, had just confirmed that his Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sibongile Muthwa, had welcomed this development wholeheartedly, when his remote connectivity to the Intervarsity event was cut short. Dr Clarke said it was the wish of the programme team that the EDHE Lekgotla rotated and got hosted at a new university every year. She said the very inaugural Lekgotla event was launched at the University of Johannesburg in 2017, followed by the University of Cape Town in 2018 and the Durban University of Technology in 2019. The Lekgotla was a virtual event in 2020, as it was in 2021 – hosted from the University of Pretoria.
Thirdly, after Sol Plaatje, the Student Entrepreneurship Week would in 2022 be hosted at the University of Venda, whether in person or virtually.
Fourthly, the EDHE Awards were expanding. Initially established to honour entrepreneurial students and later expanded to include DVCs, the EDHE Awards would, starting in 2022, introduce an Entrepreneurship Learning and Teaching Award.
Lastly, Dr Clarke announced that in addition to the Allan Gray Orbis and SAB Foundations, the Entrepreneurship Organisation, led by a Mr Maseko Mokitimi, was rejoining the family of EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity supporters in 2022.
In conclusion, Dr Clarke did acknowledge that the EDHE programme had sailed through rough waters in 2020 and 2021, with the CoViD-19 pandemic. “A lot of things happened – in life, in work, in entrepreneurship. It might not be what we had planned, but I think that is one of the marks of a good entrepreneur… the ability to navigate those challenges and the changing environment,” she said.
The EDHE programme, founded in 2016, is a partnership between USAf and the Department of Higher Education and Training. The goals of this programme are to develop student entrepreneurship by mobilising students to create successful enterprises that will ultimately lead to wealth and job creation; entrepreneurship in academia by supporting academics in instilling an entrepreneurial mindset in their students through offering relevant knowledge, transferring practical skills and promoting the application of business principles across all disciplines; and developing entrepreneurial universities by deliberately creating an entrepreneurial culture in an environment that fosters innovation and entrepreneurialism.
Primarily funded through the DHET’s University Capacity Development Programme, EDHE has over time also attracted other partners as mentioned earlier, and the British Council, which supports specific projects such as EDHE research and the Executive Leadership Workshop for DVCs, year on year.
Nqobile Tembe, the Writer, is a Communication Consultant contracted to Universities South Africa.