SPARK – A Trailblazer in Education & Women in Leadership roles
It may be spearheading the transformation of the South African educational landscape but SPARK Schools is also a trailblazer when it comes to women in leadership roles.
- This was the finding of three MBA students who were in Johannesburg recently as part of the Emzingo Social Impact fellowship programme.
- This lauded social impact leadership programme offers graduate, under-graduate students and young managers from corporates an international experience with high-level strategy, research or implementation projects while helping the recipient organisations achieve their objectives more effectively.
- The three Emzingo fellows – who spent a month at SPARK Schools – were Jake O’Brien, Diana Corzo and Katherine Eastman, all of whom are doing their MBAs at the IE Business School in Madrid.
- They assisted SPARK Schools with its five-year strategic plan, focusing on the educational industry landscape with a SWOT analysis, which included interviewing government officials, visiting SPARK schools and looking at corporate operational efficiencies. They also investigated educational models outside of South Africa and international trends in the sector.
Says O’Brien, who is from the US: “In 2018, I decided to pursue my MBA at IE Business School in Madrid to pivot my business knowledge into the consulting industry. During the course of study, I chose to come to South Africa with Emzingo to learn how the consulting industry can be leveraged to create a positive, social impact in the global market. My focus at Emzingo is in the education sector as I see it as the foundation of development and innovation. As a society grows more educated, they became more aware of social, political and economic problems and are more capable of creating and implementing innovative solutions to solve them.”
- Corzo, who is a Colombian who majored in finance and international commerce and business administration, adds: “This was my first international working experience and my first time in an education impact project. The experience has been amazing, not only as an MBA candidate, but as a human being and professional.”
- Their sentiments are echoed by American Katherine Eastman: “I am passionate about empowering women and young girls through wellness, yoga and social impact work. I would like to move into a Corporate Social Responsibility career once I have completed my MBA and bridge the gap between large corporations and social impact initiatives.”
- All were hugely impressed with SPARK Schools and its founder Stacey Brewer. (It was while Brewer was studying for an MBA at Gordon Institute of Business Science that the idea of SPARK was born).
Says O’Brien: “Brewer did this through pure determination. From her MBA thesis was born a company with more than 1000 employees, 21 schools and growing and more than 10 000 scholars. It is mind boggling.”
- His views are echoed by Eastman: “I am passionate about women in leadership positions and across the board at SPARK there are women in all the top positions. The ferocity and stature of these women leaders has really impressed me. Prior to doing my MBA, I came from a company that was male dominated in all the leadership positions. Seeing the culture that has been generated here has been inspiring.”
Says Frances Piper, Strategic Project Lead, SPARK Schools Support: “At SPARK Schools, we are educating our scholars to become global citizens. As such we value any opportunity to be exposed to global thinking and we jumped at the opportunity to partner with Emzingo.
- “We were fortunate to be selected by three MBA students from the IE Business School in Madrid who joined us to conduct local and global research that will help with our five-year strategy. We were very impressed with the caliber of the students, the quality of the research, the recommendations they delivered and their engagement levels. We look forward to applying for the next round in June.”