Fundza: A revolution in teen reading

 

Mignon Hardie has been involved with the start-up and management of a number of SMEs including the Fundza Literacy Fund where she is a trustee and trust manager.

She’s warm-hearted with a welcoming charisma, down-to-earth nature and a genuine ‘do good’ approach to life that makes one question what the real purpose of life is. During her MBA at Stellenbosch University, it was the combination of learning about value-based organisations and the work philosophy of ‘make meaning, not money’ that resulted in Mignon resigning from her unsatisfying corporate position and set her ambitions to find a greater cause to support.

Together with other inspired individuals, she created a new demand in an uncontested market space. In the millennial world of technology, most children do not consider reading books as a hobby, even more so for children with deprived backgrounds who cannot relate to the current published material. The Fundza Literacy Trust is an NGO that seeks out and commissions good relevant stories and poems for short books with accessible English which reflects the lives and issues of these previously disadvantaged teenagers and young adults. By publishing interesting content through accessible channels such as Mxit (a free social network on mobile phones), they have up to 1.3m page views a month and 55,000 unique visitors.

It is fair to say that Fundza has created a reading revolution, in which 20,000 people each week are identifying with characters and relating to stories. Readers have (fictional) role models to aspire to and often share their own experiences by leaving up to 800 comments daily on the various stories.

Fundza has generated its own ‘blue ocean strategy’ and entered a market space that most business leaders would have otherwise walked away from due to its complexities, lack of information and questionable viability. Given South Africa’s history and the importance of developing the black youth, the Fundza books provide a unique way of dealing with social issues, facilitating education and engaging conversations of meaning. The stories are powerful; provide insight, awareness and hope.

With multiple media articles and interviews, there are no signs of Fundza slowing down in the future as they expand towards developing more South African writers and improving the back-end of the mobi-library technology experience. It is no wonder that they were named as one of the top 10 most innovative global companies in Education for 2013 by Fast Company.

One of her greatest challenges while working on the Fundza project was during the start-up phase gathering sponsorships and giving up a personal salary for almost a year. For Mignon, the way to overcome such a challenge is to focus on the end optimistic goal and know that there will always be a plan to make things work.

As a business leader, Mignon lives by the Nelson Mandela quote, ‘the time is always ripe to do right’. This explains her decision to change career paths, endure challenges and be a co-founder of a project that continuously gives back to the community. It is uncommon to hear someone say that coming to work is the best part of their day and actually believing them.

From my experience in meeting Mignon Hardie and her team, there is no doubt in my mind that she is a true Jim Collins’ Level 5 leader where she serves others first before she serves herself. The organisation has a flat structure where each individual has the opportunity to grow, engage and empower themselves and others. They are all Fundza brand ambassadors with a shared goal and emotional connection, a relaxed and non-competitive environment that Mignon has created for her team. I have never laughed (and nearly cried) as much during a meeting before and one of Mignon’s colleagues even said, ‘it is awesome to have a boss who is the giggliest of all’.

I left that meeting with tears in my eyes. A united team, giving back to the community, working together across all age and racial divides with the purpose of developing teens and young adults to enhance our nation’s development – that is a rare find!

Brigitte Roediger is brand manager at Spier Wine Farm and an MBA student at University of Stellenbosch Business School, South Africa. She is also an AMBA Global AMBAssador. Brigitte won the Global AMBAssadors Challenge with this article, examining a successful social business story and will participate in the PRME Summit in Slovenia, between 25 and 27 September 2013

PROMOTED VIDEO
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Data Analyst - Essex - £25,000

£23500 - £25000 per annum + Training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Data analyst/Sys...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Account Manager

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Account Manager is r...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Manager / Sales Executive

£18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Account Man...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee