Mentor champion

Bronwyn Dugtig, the Head of Community Engagement at Monash South Africa, is the global winner of the McGuire Business Plan Competition


Tell us about the McGuire Business Plan Competition?

While working at Monash South Africa (MSA), I was completing a postgraduate diploma in Corporate Governance. One of MSA’s global partners – Laureate International Universities – advertised the McGuire Business competition through student networks and was immediately excited. For many years I have been mentoring young people who are social entrepreneurs, through my role as Head of Community Engagement at MSA and I’d had the concept of this venture for quite some time. So, I thought: here’s a chance to test my knowledge and know-how.

Preparation of the competition was really tough. The first part of the venture was a business plan submission, a 4-pager which consisted of the background, venture, financial forecast and a business canvas. I pulled a team together and completed this is just two days, so you can imagine how excited we were when we were short-listed! There were 150 submissions from almost 30 countries and we were thrilled to represent Africa in the top 3 for the post-graduate category.

The second part of the competition was much more work. Having proved that we had a good concept, the next step was to prepare a 45-minute pitch. We put a lot more time into this – most of the work was really unpacking our value proposition, marketing and growth strategy, revenue model that was all based on market research.

We structured our pitch around the call to safe-guard and promote democracy, but also offering a sustainable hybrid business model that will not be reliant on grants and funding. Ultimately, we had to show what we had to offer and then ask the McGuire panel to ‘sit at our table’, so to speak.

Young people are hungry for information of how to grow and improve themselves… however, they are not supported in this process.


Please share some background to your career?

I have always been passionate about people. As a young idealist growing up I wanted to do something that bigger than myself and make a positive impact on the world. This was probably first influenced by my dad, Brian du Rand, who was passionate about value-based business and transformation in South Africa. After school I travelled a lot while I was studying development studies correspondence and I learnt so much about people and the world, but nowhere in the world compares to South Africa!

When I came back to SA I started work at the United Nations, which was my dream job. I also worked part time Coolpolitics, which merged youth culture with political debate. At this point in my life I realised that my passion and strength comes from working with people, I met some of the students and academics at MSA through a mutual friend.

At MSA we have young people from all over the world who immediately fell in love with this uniquely African campus. I then decided to join the vision of MSA and applied for a job in the Community Engagement department. I have been working at MSA for six years and have never looked back. At MSA I have found my calling, which allows me to be part of a journey that impacts hundreds of young people. I started out at MSA as the Administrator of Community Engagement and four years later I found myself as Head of Department.

The secret to mentorship is honesty and vulnerability.


What is your secret when it comes to mentoring?

Throughout my career I have had very different but exceptional mentors who have taught and helped
me along the way. I mentor others in the same way as I was mentored.

The secret to mentorship is honesty and vulnerability. People need real people who aren’t afraid to talk about their fears – you can draw so much more strength from a real person than from someone who pretends to have already ‘made it’ or have all the answers.

Another important aspect is helping teach your mentee to take constructive critical feedback. If you can learn this early in your career you will move forward a lot faster.

I always teach my students that nothing beats hard work and that if you want something you have to put the hours in to get it – this includes attending mentoring sessions.

I love my job and I have really found my purpose in launching the careers of young leaders.

You cannot mentor someone who doesn’t want to be mentored. I always tell my students I will meet them halfway.


What are the difficulties mentors face?

One of the most difficult situations that a mentor can face is that they often feel like they are trying to row a boat with mentees who are not working together with you.

Mentorship is about empowerment, but it’s a two-way process that relies on the attitude of the mentee. I understand mentorship as the mentee steering a boat and different mentors provide the wind or motivation along the way. You cannot mentor someone who doesn’t want to be mentored. I always tell my students I will meet them halfway, and that they need to seek out and create their own opportunities including participating in the mentorship progress.


How have you benefitted from mentoring in your life?

I have had exceptional – but all different – mentors from all walks of life. They have all provided a unique perspective on my life, and all of these different experiences have allowed me to think differently about myself and how I influence others.


What are the main challenges young people face today?

Young people are hungry for information of how to grow and improve themselves… however, they are not supported in this process. Our research has shown us that young people are hungry to learn about politics and access information – however, at the same time, they feel powerless and have become dissolusioned in the political process.

Research has shown that fewer than 15% of the first-time voters in our last local elections even registered to vote and that 55% of university students feel democracy is not necessary for governance. Young people want to see change happen but they are not looking to democratic structures to help them achieve this.

Young people want to see change but are not looking to democratic structures to help them achieve this.


Tell us about your unique winning business idea, My Voice?

Working in the field of community engagement and citizenship, I have often worked with organisations who promote active citizenship through empowerment or teaching leadership. However, in developing empowered young leaders, we also need to teach them how to participate in the democratic process, voter education is an important aspect to stabilising our democracy and in turn stabilising our economy. MY VOICE incorporates a unique combination of six elements; critical thinking, leadership, public speaking, debate, active citizenship and voter education.


How did you research the content for My Voice?

This content is researched and designed by our team who are experts in their field, with a range of qualifications that include a PhD & MA in Political Studies, MA in Education: Design and Innovation, Corporate Governance, Development Studies, African Politics and International Relations. The MY VOICE Active Citizenship Curriculum will include a period of 8-10 weeks of actively discussing, debating and experiencing the topics of human rights, socio-economic and legal rights, democratic institutions and functioning, policy development, voter rights and responsibilities, leadership and so on.

Mentorship is about empowerment, but it’s a two-way process that relies on the attitude of the mentee.

You were guided by the South African Constitution… have you gained any greater insight from studying it?

The constitution is a beautiful constructed manifesto that is firmly based on human rights. A friend of mine often talks about human rights as two wings: one is our ‘rights’, the other is our ‘responsibility’ and, in order to make the constitution a reality, we need two wings to fly. If you need the constitution through this lens you discover we all have a lot of work to do.


What are the challenges facing our ‘born free’ generation?

In the past 11 years human rights are declining worldwide, and understanding the why and the how a democracy functions is not formally or extensively taught to the next generation.

As a young democracy, the ‘born frees’ are inheriting our democracy and, like many part of the world, the youth are not taught the responsibility that goes with our rights. We need the next generation to safeguard our rights through the use of the political democratic system, otherwise we lose them again.


What are your plans for using the prize money and the one-year mentorship to grow your project?

We will be using the start-up grant to establish our branding and marketing strategy, partnership development, administration and to complete the pilot programmes.

The greater Laureate team has been really supportive and we connect with them on an ongoing basis, the mentorship they provide and experience of running a global education institution will certainly contribute towards helping us scale and becoming sustainable.


What are your long-term goals in terms of My Voice as well as your other plans and projects?

Ultimately we want to contribute towards safeguarding the quality of democracy through developing youth to be well-informed, active and responsible citizens in South Africa. We want to educate learners capable of being responsible and engaged leaders aware of their environment and their responsibility in and to society and offer knowledge and skills for youth to be able to have a voice and make a difference in society. We want to grow and offer a platform for youth to connect, debate and engage on a national level.


For people involved in disruption, what message do you have in terms of the challenges and opportunities of having a vision, planning it, building it and managing it?

I have a great team, that keeps on growing. I would encourage all entrepreneurs who generally are people who aren’t afraid of responsibility, to resist the temptation to do everything alone, my advice would be: find people who share your vision, who can challenge you, critically evaluate your work and who energize you.


  • Bronwyn Dugtig is the Head of Community Engagement at Monash South Africa and the National Director for YouthActionNet, where she runs the MSA LEAD (Leading Entrepreneurship for African Development) programme.