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

Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Morrissey pictured in 2013
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Robyn Lawley
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

KS1 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking KS...

C# R&D .NET Developer (Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET)

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NET Developer (Algori...

Year 3 Teacher needed- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: Look no further; this is the ...

Primary NQT Teachers

£95 - £105 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: Opportunities for NQTs for the...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In my grandfather's First World War footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during the war. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end