Partners for Possibility on the global stage in London


A South African social entrepreneur has been acknowledged as one of the globe’s most progressive thinkers at the international Thinkers50 Awards in London on Tuesday, 13 November.

Dr Louise van Rhyn has been acknowledged as one of the globe’s most progressive thinkers at the international Thinkers50 Awards. (Image: Partners for Possibility)

Partners for Possibility acknowledged at global Thinkers50 Awards in London

  • Organisation and founder nominated for Thinkers50 category prize
  • Founder invited to share unique programme on stage at gala event
  • Organisation recognised by Forbes as “inspiring to say the least”

Dr Louise van Rhyn, the founder and CEO of Partners for Possibility (PfP), was nominated for the Thinkers50 Distinguished Achievement Awards. She was also asked to speak at the event, introducing the Partners for Possibility programme to an audience that included global thinkers like business guru Tom Peters, author and speaker Simon Sinek, author Liz Wiseman, philosopher and author Charles Handy and journalist Dan Pontefract.

“It was truly an honour to be asked to address such an esteemed audience. I shared with them our nation-building process of pairing business leaders with school principals in a leadership development programme of co-learning and co-action and some of the hundreds of beautiful stories that have come from these powerful partnerships,” says Louise.

Partners for Possibility started at one school in Cape Town in 2010 and has since grown to nearly 700 schools across South Africa. At each school, the organisation pairs a school principal with a business leader and together they attend leadership development programmes, before setting their sights on the specific challenges facing their school.

“As part of the programme, we teach the partners to start with curiosity and a true belief that each of them can learn from the process. We also support each partnership with the support from a Learning Process Facilitator, which helps them on their year-long journey together.

“Partners experience the journey as a transformative, nation-building experience, which enables them to bridge social and economic boundaries and experience genuine deep levels of social cohesion,” says Louise.

For the 2017 Awards, Louise was nominated for an award in the “Ideas into Practice” category, with the judges commenting on the fact that Partners for Possibility is a home-grown solution for the specific and pressing issues facing under-resourced schools in South Africa. Overall, this category identifies leaders who have “made a meaningful contribution in the real world”.

The complete list of categories includes leading thinkers such as Scott Anthony, author and managing partner at Innosight, Howard Yu, Professor of Strategic Management and Innovation at IMD in Switzerland, author and speaker Simon Sinek and Harvard Fellow Heidi Gardner.

Despite the fact that the award did not go to Louise, being nominated as one of six nominees in the category is a tremendous honour and one for which Louise is extremely grateful.

Her talk was welcomed by guests and attending journalists. Dan Pontefract, who writes on, wrote: “Another was learning about the wonderful work going on in South Africa. Louise van Rhyn gave a talk that filled my heart with joy. Imagine planting executives into under-resourced schools to learn from principals, educators and school children about their difficulties. Imagine the reciprocal learning that the administrators and educators receive from the executive. The program is called Partners for Possibility and it was inspiring to say the least.”

“As a partner to the Partners for Possibility programme, Brand South Africa congratulates Partners for Possibility on its nomination at the global Thinkers50 Awards. The quest to bring about systemic and durable change in the quality of education for our young people is of great importance for the country’s future. It is reaffirming when the global stages recognize active citizenship as it urges continuous contribution towards the improvement of the country”, said Brand South Africa’s General Manager: Stakeholder Ms Mpumi Mabuza.

About Thinkers50

Thinkers50 is a global rating of management gurus in various fields of excellence. It was started in 2001 and it regularly recognises the top leadership and management thinkers in a range of fields, including Innovation, Digital Thinking, Ideas into Practice and Lifetime Achievement.

About Partners for Possibility

Partners for Possibility started with one school – Kannemeyer Primary – in 2010 and has since grown to a network of schools in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. In each school, a business leader works closely with a school principal to identify the school’s most pressing challenges and to address these.

The PfP programme allows for very specific solutions for every participating school. Each partnership is supported by a Learning Process Facilitator and they regularly meet with other partnerships in a wider Leadership Circle to share ideas, discuss challenges and motivate each other.

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