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From Good Work to greatness: GWF’s Gemma Thompson joins the 2024 Tutu Leadership Programme cohort

We love witnessing our team stepping up, reaching for their dreams and making the world a better place in the process. Good Work Foundation’s (GWF) own head of development, Gemma Thompson, is doing just that! She’s been selected for the prestigious 2024 Tutu Leadership Programme.

Every year, the programme – coordinated by the African Leadership Institute and run in partnership with Oxford University – looks to grow Africa's future leaders by providing a multifaceted learning experience to a select group of 20 to 25 high-potential candidates. In 2024, the programme received more than 400 nominations from across the continent. From this pool, a cohort of 24 outstanding individuals was chosen and they are poised to transform into powerful leaders who will drive transformation across Africa.

This year’s group is like a constellation of Africa’s brightest stars, shining from Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. These young leaders, referred to by the programme as associates until they complete the Fellowship, work in fields such as finance, technology, human rights and the arts – and, of course, education, in the case of Gemma in her role at GWF.

Gemma and fellows Monde Nkosi and Dr Emmanuel Sam
Gemma and fellows Monde Nkosi and Dr Emmanuel Sam in front of the beautiful Mont Fleur venue.

Unearthing leadership potential

Gemma’s journey to the Tutu Leadership Programme began with a nomination by GWF founder Kate Groch, who recognised her potential for impactful leadership. Gemma reflects, “The programme came up on LinkedIn, and Kate and I discussed it. She motivated me and then I submitted what was required to apply. For me, this is an opportunity to grow as a leader and learn from other passionate individuals across Africa.”

The programme’s kick-off session was held at the Mont Fleur conference venue in Stellenbosch from 20 to 27 April 2024. So far, the experience has already left a profound impact on Gemma: “One of the biggest things that stood out to me was the focus on self-leadership. I’ve always found it very easy to advocate for other people, but difficult to advocate for myself. This programme has helped me realise I can be strong for myself and strong for others. If you can’t lead yourself, it’s difficult to lead others.”

Gemma’s experience goes beyond self-discovery; in the programme she is part of a bigger “village” where a spirit of collaboration is chief. This unites the associates in a common purpose to tackle a variety of complex issues in Africa, from corruption to envisioning the future of education and technology.

Gemma with Trevor Manuel
Gemma with a long-time GWF supporter – former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel.
Gemma with Mavuso Msimang
Gemma with South African civil servant, politician and conservationist Mavuso Msimang.

Harnessing the power of technology in education

As part of their programme responsibilities, the associates are expected to collaborate on a scenario planning project exploring how education on the African continent can be shaped using emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and the internet of things (IoT).

The group project culminates in a presentation at Oxford University's Saïd Business School in September, where they will present their findings and solutions.

“We’ve all become really good friends,” she says. “There were a lot of ideas around how we can harness the collective power and hopes of young people across the continent. We want to see Africa thrive, and the Tutu Fellowship Programme promises to be a transformative experience that will provide us as associates with the insights and tools to bring about real change.”

When it comes to applying the lessons learnt to her role at Good Work Foundation, Gemma says she sees this experience not only improving her leadership capabilities, but also providing her with the knowledge to develop new programmes within GWF to help nurture the next generation of leaders among the staff and students.

She also aims to leverage the connections gained from the programme to expand GWF’s impact, potentially extending its reach across other countries in Africa and furthering the foundation’s mission of providing educational opportunities to more young people in rural communities.

Tutu  fellows with special guests
Some of the Tutu fellows with the special guests at the introductory session, Gloria Serobe and Heather Sonn.
Post-fellowship week party!.jpg
Gemma glams up to attend a post-fellowship week party.

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