Background and history
Beulah’s undergraduate studies with majors in English and Private Law equipped her to enter the world of work in 1987 as an administrator at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, and then as Editorial Assistant in the Local Publishing division of Penguin Books, Johannesburg in 1989.
In 1991 she joined the ERA (Easy Reading for Adults) Initiative at Wits University which became the canvas upon which her talent for taking nebulous concepts and giving them form and life was nurtured. She was encouraged and supported to grapple with how to ‘build an environment in which reading is encouraged by supporting the production and dissemination of easy reading material for adults’. This was a national educational mission that captured her imagination, engaged her interest and honed her ability to carry full responsibility for a task from conceptualisation through to delivery.
Beulah learnt how to fundraise, write persuasively and conduct advocacy work within the parameters of a clear mission. By 1999 ERA boasted a number of successful projects such as the ERA Book Box, a portable adult literacy library; an annotated catalogue of easy readers; ERA shelves in libraries across the country; a short story competition and 40 readers in African Languages.
Despite these achievements she believed reading needed a special national platform to thrive and so she lobbied government to this end. The result, Masifunde Sonke, Let’s all read together, was launched in 2001 which saw her elected an Ashoka Fellow (public innovator) and nominated to two Ministerial Committees in the Department of Education, South Africa.
Through Ashoka: Innovators for the Public she became immersed in the broader, innovative world of social entrepreneurship which has emerged as a global phenomenon over the past decade. This launched her work as an independent service provider which was fuelled by admiration for social entrepreneurs who succeeded in making their innovations thrive in the face of great odds and a strategic decision to offer her skills to a variety of programmes and plans supported by the national development agenda.
Beulah Thumbadoo & Associates (BTA) has taken on short and medium term assignments with clients such as The Department of Arts & Culture, SA, The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Pretoria, the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), Ashoka Southern Africa, the SETAs, the National Business Initiative and the Department of Education to name a few.
By 2007 BTA’s skills, experience and successes were significant. Beulah embarked on a course of study in line with a lifelong interest: the quest to understand how to go about resolving ethical dilemmas and to deepen her understanding of what makes an action right or wrong. She completed a Masters’ degree in Applied Ethics for Professionals at Wits University in 2011 which ignited a determined interest to find ways to minimise suffering amongst all who share our world. She qualified as an Integral Life Coach from the Graduate School of Business, UCT in 2016 and sees coaching and mentoring as another pathway to living her mission.
Work experience and skills
- Project management – from conception through to delivery
- Fund raising and high level donor liaison
- Networking with purpose
- Stakeholder liaison
- Strategic planning and positioning
- Communications and document management
- Research and the writing of research papers
- Proposal, profile and speech writing
- Copy editing and other aspects of publishing
- Improving the logic and coherency of documents
- Co-authored From Dust to Diamonds: Stories of South African social entrepreneurs and authored Making Reading Matter: Guidelines for selecting, producing and disseminating easy readers for adults in Perspectives on African Book Development-ADEA.
- Researched, compiled and published the face of the spirit: illuminating a century of essays by South African women for the Department of Arts & Culture, SA.
- Elected an Ashoka Fellow and is one of two South Africans featured in How to Change the World Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas by David Bornstein–Oxford. www.ashoka.org
- Lifetime Achievement Award from the Department of Education & Adult Learning Network in 2007.
- Managed the BTA/Anglo Platinum Short Story Competition for 18 years.
- Judged the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Africa Chapter in 2011.