Our founders’ story

Louise and Ridwan: the visionaries and driving
force behind it all

Louise spent her early working life as a computer programmer, analyst and project manager. She completed an MBA in 1992. In 1998, her family moved to the UK when she was offered a position in a change management consultancy. In 2001, her committement to the idea of “possibility” was ignited when she read Benjamin and Rosamund Zander’s book, The Art of Possibility.

However, the Zander’s story also prompted Louise to begin a doctorate, which she had yearned to do, and between 2001and 2005 she read for a PhD in Large-Scale Complex Social Change at the University of Hertfordshire.

‘’I knew then that my family and I were going to return to South Africa and that I was being called to create opportunities for South Africans to talk together about the future that we envisaged for our beautiful and wounded country,’’ says Louise.

Louise and her family moved back to South Africa in 2003, but because her network was in the UK she still spent much of her time working in Europe. However, in 2008  she decided to invite the Zanders to South Africa to help her reignite the story that the country is “Alive with Possibility”. At the time, she had no clue that this would kindle the idea of partnerships for possibility; but that same year she established SSA, the social enterprise that now implements the PfP programme.

A year later, the Dinokeng Scenarios Report, which sets out three possible futures for South Africa, was published. Louise describes reading about the “Walk Together” scenario, in which civil society, business, and labour actively engage with the state and form partnerships to improve performance in the public sector, as a ‘’Damascus-like moment’’.  

Art of Possibilty

In 2009 Louise invited Peter Block, the bestselling author, consultant and speaker on organisational development, community building and civic engagement, to come to South Africa to help build our capacity to develop community and heal our nation. That year, and again in 2010, Peter partnered with SSA to deliver a series of Community Building workshops. From these sessions, the idea of “School at the Centre of Community” emerged.

A few months later Louise attended a talk by Professor Brian O’Connell, who helped her to see that the state of public education posed the single greatest risk to the future of our country.  She decided to focus her attention on making Walk Together a reality in education by mobilising citizens and communities to partner with and support principals in under-resourced schools.

Dinokeng Scenarios

In 2010, Louise took a bold step by becoming the first business leader to partner with a school principal. Her partnership with Principal Ridwan Samodien of Kannemeyer Primary School (KPS) in Grassy Park, Cape Town , strengthened his confidence and skills as a leader and led to positive change at the school.

This is a success story in a South African community where success stories are rare. Ridwan’s leadership has, in large part, lead to the school acquiring a brand new hall, a fully functional library and several specialised classrooms, including science and ICT labs, where effective teaching and learning are possible. The teaching staff are happy and motivated, and members of the parent body are interested and involved in the schooling of their children.

Unexpectedly, Louise discovered that the experience had tested and grown her own leadership capacity because nothing worked quite as she had hoped; she had no control or authority and could not “make” anybody at KPS do what she wanted them to do, so had to hone her influencing skills.

The impact of that partnership and the lessons learnt birthed the PfP programme that exists today with Ridwan as its co-founder.

As a result of his bold decision to partner with Louise, over 1,400 principals and more than a million children have benefited from the programme – within 10 years.

Inspired by the influence of PfP on his life, while he continues to lead KPS, Ridwan has become an accredited facilitator of one of PfP’s formal training courses, Time to Think. He is currently pursuing accreditation to facilitate another of the PfP core courses, Flawless Consulting.

The Partners for Possibility Story

Ready to reach your leadership potential, while using your business skills to improve education in South Africa?