Dear Bertha Centre & GSB teams
As you know, the establishment of a UCT GSB presence in Philippi is a major project for the Bertha Centre, for the Solution Space, for the GSB and for UCT this year. Not only will this be a symbolically significant move for a university that is under both internal and external pressure to transform and become more inclusive, but more importantly will be a great opportunity for exposure, action and research.
I wanted to let you know that I have asked Beulah Thumbadoo to take on the role to lead and animate the GSB project in Philippi Village, and I’m delighted that she’s accepted the role, starting from next Mon 2 February in an (almost) full time capacity.
Beulah’s passion for youth development and empowerment (the main purpose of Philippi Village as a whole), understanding of university institutional structures (including UCT and now GSB), deep moral values, thoughtful and sensitive approaches makes her incredibly well suited for the role. Her part time role in UCT DAD convening a dialogue around social justice in higher education institutions is also very helpful, and feeds right into this project.
I wanted to thank Beulah for her work in the Education Innovations team to date and for jumping on board with this strategic project.
I also wanted to thank Louise and Camilla who will be continuing the education work through this transition.
Part of Beulah’s role is to animate Philippi with the work of the GSB and its academic programmes, the activities of Solution Space and the work of the Bertha Centre, so she’ll be coming to you as well for input, ideas and action. We all need to support her in this role, and all contribute to its success.
Have a great weekend everyone!
Beulah Thumbadoo joined the Adult Literacy Unit in Wits University’s Centre for Continuing Education in 1991. As head of the unit, I had met her eighteen months earlier when she attended a workshop of publishers, librarians and literacy activists that we had convened to consider strategies to promote the publication of intermediate reading matter for newly-literate adults – or what we decided to call Easy Reading for Adults (ERA).
The structure we proposed to set up within the unit, The ERA Initiative, captured Beulah’s imagination. It offered a unique opportunity to satisfy her belief in the importance of a reading culture in the pursuit of justice and a better life for all. At 25 Beulah was fiercely committed to the cause of Black Consciousness and to a set of religious values that were intense but undogmatic. The commitment and values – mellowed now, but as strong as ever – have been of the greatest importance in the growth of Beulah’s capacity for leadership and a tenacious maintenance of the mission, sometimes against serious odds.
I will not duplicate Beulah’s CV, but wish to point to some of her achievements that have stood out for me since 1991.
Although Beulah was young and inexperienced, I and her steering committee gave her a considerable degree of autonomy in shaping the work of the ERA Initiative. Her ability to make use of the support available to her, but also to get the bit between her teeth and make the project her own, was rare and gratifying.
While the project was still located at Wits, she managed the publication of a regular, incremental annotated bibliography of accessible reading matter for adults. This required considerable activism in locating the literature, convening review committees – themselves a noteworthy innovation in this field – and ensuring that the resource we produced became an active tool for those promoting reading. Another very demanding project was a sponsored annual short story competition in all the country’s languages, intended to encourage local reading.
After Beulah moved ERA out of Wits to form a Trust (part of its expected trajectory) she became the main driver of the initiative. Her ability to make great use of a vibrant and critical body of trustees was an important feature of the mission, as was her strictly ethical use of the ongoing funding, and her warm relationship with the donors. Undoubtedly the most remarkable achievement of this period was her leadership of a major intervention in which some of this country’s leading publishers developed and produced readers for adults in the country’s various languages. This project made use of a distribution project (originally part of the work on the critical bibliography) that saw many specially designed book boxes of customised collections of readers being delivered to libraries and literacy classes around the country.
Sadly, the failure after 1994 of the national delivery of adult education that we all expected together with the general crisis of the education publishing industry meant that the publication drive had disappointing impact. In addition Beulah also had to observe how the national book development policy whose creation she facilitated was adopted but never implemented. Yet she worked to ensure gains in spite of the environmental collapse. She conducted an experimental book spaza (street store) which led to a report on the responses of passers-by to the readers, and she campaigned tirelessly at ministerial level and in the Department of Education to have the need to promote reading recognised – with some success, in spite of the malfunctioning of official structures. Much more recently her cumulative experience has been put into an ADEA guide that has had some promising responses from Africa and elsewhere.
Perhaps, however, the most enduring expression of Beulah’s spirit in the promotion of reading has been the continuing annual short story competition. This has changed in various ways from the original format of the early 1990s, and is now a productive and glamorous annual event encouraging and rewarding both writing and reading throughout the land.
As I have indicated, this is not a comprehensive account, but it should be enough to show the character and talents that Beulah offers to those who wish to use her services. It should also be clear that Beulah makes serious demands on herself, and expects high levels of ethical and professional mission-drivenness from those with whom she works.
I have known Beulah Thumbadoo both professionally and personally over a number of years. My initial contact with her resulted from her work as an elected Ashoka Fellow. At the time I was the regional CEO of Ashoka in Southern Africa and Beulah’s work as an advocate, lobbyist and campaigner for literacy was recognised as laudable by Ashoka International. The organisation is the premier social entrepreneurship organisation in the world with a strong emphasis on promoting sustainable development ventures.
In addition to her exemplary record as a Fellow, Beulah was selected to advise on a global forum of Ashoka Fellows that plotted the strategic direction for Fellowship within Ashoka. She brought her extensive knowledge and practical attitude to the task and proved to be an asset to the organisation. Her loyalty and commitment to the concept of sustainable development was clearly evident and resulted in my recruiting her to serve in the capacity of recruitment consultant in the drive to elect Ashoka Fellows in 2008/9. The process requires deliberate astute assessment of candidates and Beulah proved to be instructive, insightful and greatly valuable in terms of meeting the criteria and taking account of the greater development picture within the country. Context was critical to the work and Beulah, due to her extensive engagement with the development sector was able to create the necessary contextual understanding that resulted in successful election of 8 new Ashoka Fellows in the region that year.
She impressed with her professionalism and attention to detail as well as her maturity that was clearly exhibited in mentoring and developing a junior staff member. However this process also revealed that Beulah is a dedicated worker, especially if she feels commitment to the task at hand. In fact I have rarely known her to accept even consultancy positions where there is no commitment to development imperatives. Her work with GIBS to produce “From Dust to Diamonds” the quintessential guide to social entrepreneurs in SA was significant in creating interest and publicity for the relatively new social entrepreneurship thinking in the country. Her writing and conceptualising of the stories in the book surfaced significant debate around the value of the concept as did her model for successful social entrepreneurship which forms an appendix.
Her forays in the world of writing did not stop with the publication of “From Dust to Diamonds” – she is increasingly being recognised as an advocate for writing both nationally and on the continent. Beulah demonstrated her ability to orchestrate and manage a campaign that encompassed selection of works, a celebrity judging panel through to event organising over a period of 18 years, with the highly successful BTA/Anglo Platinum Short Story Competition. She effectively promoted the short story competition with little assistance from the corporate sponsor, but created maximum impact in the identification of new writers in the country. More recently her expertise in the area was recognised as she was invited to judge a continental short story competition hosted by the Commonwealth.
Beulah’s decision to return to University to complete a Masters in Applied Ethics demonstrates her need to pursue the theoretical understanding in an area that is relatively new to her professional interests. Beulah is now also a committed animal rights activist and pursued this theme in her recently completed Master’s dissertation. She volunteered and served on the executive of the RAGE (Rhino Action Group Effort) campaign in Gauteng until she moved to Cape Town earlier this year.
I appreciated her sense of dedication and commitment to her tasks. However she is most productive when guidelines and policies are clear and she is allowed to develop strategies that best address an issue. She understands and is able to take account of organisational strategies and limitations, although she does need to understand the framework within which such organisational decisions are taken. Beulah has the ability to manage a team effectively and is a boon to an organisation that is concerned with developing junior staff. Yet she is perfectly comfortable and contributes directly to decisions at senior management level.
In this letter I have no hesitation in re-affirming everything that I wrote in my earlier letter of recommendation.
Since 2006 Beulah has continued with various consultancies and commitments. Perhaps the most remarkable achievement was to keep the national short story competition going with great flair.
However, her most notable innovation of the last two years has been her move to the study of applied ethics. The Wits University Masters programme in this discipline is unusually impressive, and it has been a pleasure to see the growth of Beulah’s skills in writing and argument on questions of ethics.
In selecting her special research project Beulah decided to work on the ethics of the treatment of animals. This picked up on a long-standing love for sentient beings, and especially a delight in her own dogs. Her concern had not only been reflected in her private life, but in an extension of her talents as an activist to this sphere.
A feature of Beulah’s Masters research has been her growing focus on pragmatic engagement with the life conditions of animals reduced to instruments of industrial food production and research applications. She has given special attention to the role of legislation as a key condition for successful action regarding the treatment of animals.
The addition of this coolly rational element to Beulah’s very warm talent for making things happen and creating events – her social entrepreneurship – should make her a formidable actor for the important movement beyond merely human rights.
I have known Beulah Thumbadoo, in a personal as well as professional capacity, for over twenty years.
I can comfortably say, and with great confidence, that the intelligence, wisdom, analytical skills and integrity she brings to everything she does made her an invaluable and much respected colleague during the time she was employed by Penguin Books in a permanent position in our South African publishing division.
More recently, in 2010, Penguin outsourced to Beulah the start up, planning, organisation and fulfillment of our inaugural literary award, the Penguin Prize for African Writing – Fiction and Non-Fiction. In this capacity, she was responsible for driving and managing the entire project, from engaging separate panels of judges for both categories, setting up teams of readers for the large number of entries from authors who submitted works, and ensuring that manuscripts and assessments were timeously sent and feedback received, to enable us to arrive at a longlist and then a shortlist of potential winners. Beulah also co-managed the event at which the winners were announced.
This was a complicated and often sensitive process, requiring excellent communication and organisational skills, and Beulah delivered on all counts – on time and within budget.
I would most certainly recommend Beulah, with her diverse skills and talents, to bring energy, commitment and professionalism to any task or project she takes on.
Beulah Thumbadoo has provided exceptional quality of work as a consultant on behalf of Temo Consulting. We would recommend her for similar project work.
Temo Consulting was appointed by the Gauteng Department of Local Government to conduct a baseline assessment of the business processes for providing documentation required in the course of an audit. The outcome of the assessment was a strategy for integrated document management.
Beulah Thumbadoo had been contracted to conduct this baseline assessment at the Randfontein Municipality.
Specific activities in the scope of work included:
• Project set up at the site
• Desktop review and development of assessment tool (in consultation with steering committee)
• Data collection
• Confirmation of findings
• Report generation
• Develop integrated document management strategy
All the deliverables pertaining to the project were delivered on time and were of very good quality. The client was satisfied with the project and we would not hesitate to recommend Beulah for project work.
Beulah Thumbadoo assisted me in undertaking a review of the SA market for vocational qualifications on behalf of a major international examinations board. Beulah identified key stakeholders and organised a wide range of interviews, in order to reflect the client brief.
Beulah undertook approximately 10 interviews herself and summarised the key points arising from these discussions. She contributed in a major way to the subsequent market analysis and in developing strategic recommendations.
Throughout this process I found Beulah to be excellent at building relationships with interviewees and perceptive in her analysis of market conditions and the opportunities and risks arising.
She is also very well-organised, thoroughly reliable and conscientious. At the same time she brings a sense of humour and lightness of touch to her dealings that makes it a pleasure to work with her.