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Introducing enke’s new CEO

Letter to enke FamilyDear enke family,

There’s someone you need to meet. Her name is Farzeen Bhana and, as of today, she is officially enke’s CEO. Technically her first day in the office was January 5th, but in reality we’ve been transitioning since the board offered her the role in late November. Our first “official” meeting set the tone for the whole handover process: as Farzeen and I shared our ideas and plans for the next few months over breakfast at 44 Stanley, I was totally swept up in her contagious enthusiasm. I couldn’t help but feel incredibly lucky that this person was going to be stepping up to grow this organization I started over 5 years ago. We’ve been working behind the scenes since that day, working through a handover process we co-designed (with input from our wonderful Chair, Leigh Meinert), making sure that by the time Farzeen officially stepped into the title of CEO today she was totally comfortable.

Going back a few steps, Farzeen had a baptism by fire before she was even offered the role. The recruitment process was intense: we received over 100 applications and took our top candidates through a grueling process (well, grueling for them – the selection committee enjoyed themselves immensely). Then, just to make things interesting, Farzeen came along to the Bloemfontein forum in December and was part of the backstage team for a few days (which many of you will know is a unique challenge in and of itself!). That she wasn’t scared off after that was more proof that she’s a keeper.

So who is Farzeen? Well you can read about her background in her bio on the enke team page and you can hear from her directly at her “hello” blog. You can also email her at farzeen@enke.co.za. But the reason that we fell in love with her had less to do with her experience (which is extensive) and more to do with her energy and her vision for what she sees enke growing into. She’s already making her mark at enke (that was actually an unintentional pun… but, hey, it works). She’s already shaking up how we do things, recognizing areas that have been blind spots and bringing in new ideas. But more than that, she embodies our values and I know that she’s going to continue to drive the organization in line with the things we hold dear.

From here on in, I’m going to be moving into the background more and more, but I’ll stay on the board as a non-executive director. I thought when we got to this stage I’d have mixed emotions about leaving but I was wrong – actually I’m simply really happy to be handing over the reigns to someone who is going to take enke to the next level. I’m also curious and delightfully nervous about stepping into a whole new adventure for myself – whatever that may be.

I can’t wait to see what this new chapter for enke shapes up to be. I’m already seeing the impact of Farzeen’s leadership – new ideas for the future, fresh ways of doing things, and exciting opportunities opening up.

I want to take this opportunity to say a massive thank you. To the enke team for all of their hard work and their commitment and the joy that they bring with them to the office day after day (even when things are tough or uncertain or just a little bit bumpy). I also want to say thank you to you – all of you – for being part of my journey with enke, for supporting us over the distance we’ve covered so far. This organization was built on passion, love and a huge amount of hard work – by the enke team and all of our supporters. So thank you to you.

Watch this space – I think enke’s only just getting started…

– Pip

email: farzeen@enke.co.za

Work is love made visible

Today is a very humbling day for me. It isn’t actually my first day at enke but it is my first day as CEO, and the first day that I have truly grasped the enormity of what lies ahead. It reminds me of my first day at school; a heady mix of anxiety, euphoria, nervousness and gratitude.The realization that I needed to be right here, right now came towards the end of a grueling interview and recruitment process. Somewhere in the middle of all the assessments, interviews and meeting the team I began to see clearly how enke empowers young people to do magical things, but more importantly I became excited about the possibility of being a part of that story. I knew there was no better organization to join if I wanted to challenge myself to really make a difference. In as much as enke chose me to be their new CEO, I made a deliberate choice to be a part of enke.

New CEOWhy enke?
Since being offered the position late last year, it’s a question that I have been asked more times than I care to remember, everyone from my next door neighbor to almost every one of our partner organizations has been keen to find out why I want to be here.

I joined enke because I believe that Pip’s pioneering vision is just getting started.  I believe that enke’s mission to connect, equip and inspire youth to create a global movement of young people who are taking action on the world’s most urgent social issues is now more crucial to South Africa than ever before and has the potential to change not only the South African rhetoric, but that of Africa. I love the bigness and boldness of what enke does. I love the way enke partners with other organizations to come together to be the change. I love the breadth and the diversity of all of the young people we work with.

Above all, I love the spirit of this place, the passion, and the perseverance, which has evidently been the cornerstone of enke’s culture from the very beginning. I hope that this will be the very same inspiration that continues to drive me for the next 5 years.  It is an incredible honor for me to be able lead and serve enke.

I’ve been fortunate to work closely with Pip as I transition in as CEO and I’m looking forward to the continuity and support she will provide by remaining on the Board.

While enke has seen success, we are hungry to do more. I have never had much respect for tradition — innovation earns my respect and this is a direction in which I hope to move enke. As we start a new phase of our journey together, I wanted to share some background on myself and what inspires and motivates me.

Who am I?
The obvious thing to do is to read my bio, but that says little about who I am. Many who know me say I am defined by my curiosity and thirst for learning. I buy more books than I can finish. I sign up for more online courses than I can complete. I fundamentally believe that if you are not learning, you stop doing great and useful things. So curiosity and hunger for knowledge define me.

Why am I here?
I am here for one fundamental reason – to change the world by empowering young people to do amazing things which will change their world. I know it can sound hyperbolic,  and yet it’s true. We have done it, we’re doing it today, and we are the team that will do it again.

What do we do next?
I feel incredibly lucky that I’m walking into this role, in this organization, at this time in its growth.  The foundations have been set, and there is amazing momentum to make things grow.  However, I’m excited that even in a few short weeks, I’m already seeing ways we can do things better, ways we can make this bigger.

This starts with clarity of purpose that enke has always had in its rock solid mission.  Now we need to let that mission lead us to imagine the impossible and deliver it.  enke has never been afraid to try new things – this is something I want to continue.  We need to stay ahead of the curve – things are changing fast for young people in South Africa, and we want to make sure that we keep finding the best ways to empower young people and organizations to “create their own path” – which is one of enke’s values. We sometimes underestimate what we each can do to make things happen and sometimes overestimate what others need to do to move us forward. We must change this mindset.  As young South Africans, we can do it ourselves.

Finally, I truly believe that each of us must find meaning in our work. The best work happens when you know that it’s not just work, but something that will improve other people’s lives. This is the opportunity that drives each of us at enke. It was Kahlil Gibran who so eloquently wrote, “Work is love made visible”. It is a phrase that I have often used, but has not meant more to me than it does today – and it will be the truest measure of my success as CEO.

Many organizations aspire to change the world. But very few have all the elements required: talent, resources, and perseverance, enke has all three in abundance. And as the new CEO, I can’t ask for a better foundation.

Email: farzeen@enke.co.za

Sharing some sad news – remembering Nnete Malebo

Remembering Nnete MaleboLast week brought news of the tragic passing of one our enke family, Nnete Malebo. On Thursday 23 October,Nnete was found in her residence room at the University of Cape Town and an autopsy determined that she died of natural causes. She was just one month away from graduating and was preparing to embark on a Master’s programme. She was 21 years old.
Nnete is survived by her parents and two older brothers. She was laid to rest on Saturday 1 November in her hometown of Bloemfontein and our deepest condolences and sympathy go to her family.

Since we heard about the death of this incredible young woman, we have been dumbstruck with disbelief and grief.

She was an Igniter in our very first Forum in Cape Town in 2012. Nnete touched our lives with her dedication, her spunk,  her smile, her laughter, and her ability to listen and make you feel better. She had an indelible impact on the Trailblazers she worked with during that first Forum in Cape Town and the support and encouragement she gave to them afterwards. We are so thankful that this young woman chose to be part of our lives and our enke family.

Nnete made her mark in many lives and organizations. She was an Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Scholar and Fellow. She was active in the UCT community as a subwarden in Clarinus Residence, Vice-President in UCT’s Investment Society and was involved in other campus organizations and activities.

To us, Nnete will always be a role model. In her short life, she showed us the power of commitment, dedication and passion.

We would like to thank the enke family members who took time to get in touch and share the news with us, and who represented the people Nnete had touched by attending her memorial service and funeral. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, whose care and support enabled her to become the young woman and inspiration she has been to us.

For those who knew Nnete, we would like to ask you to join us in celebrating her life by sharing your memories of her, or the impact that she had on you on our Facebook wall – enke: Make Your Mark.

“You can shed tears that she is gone,
or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come back,
or you can open your eyes and see all she’s left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her,
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her only that she is gone,
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back.
Or you can do what she’d want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”
– David Harkins”

Big news from enke CEO, Pip Wheaton

Celebration Event Header

Dear enke family,

It is with many mixed emotions that I write this letter. I want to let you know that I have put in my resignation as CEO of enke: Make Your Mark.  My last day will be July 31st 2015. I wanted to let you know why I’ve made this decision and what an incredible opportunity it represents for you and for enke.

enke’s come a long way since those first days.  We started in a garage in Durban  – no internet, the occasional snake coming to visit the “office”, just volunteers with a big dream – and, in those first years, had more than one instance of wondering if we were crazy for even trying to make this happen.  But we did it.  And now we’re on track to have our biggest year this year: there are more young people entering the programs than ever before; expanding to Bloemfontein; a bigger, stronger team; more, impactful, youth-led projects are launching and we’re receiving real recognition for the work that we are doing.  We also have big plans for the next phase of our growth.

This is EXACTLY why it’s time for me to leave.  I started enke five and a half years ago (with my two amazing co-founders, Tom and Kat) and I always hoped that there would come a day when enke would be able to survive on its own. In January this year I mapped out our next 3 years and realised that there is a window next year when the organisation has both consolidated its model and is on the cusp of further expansion, which allows for a full handover.  I watched the team and the organisation for 6 months and I realised that they were stronger than they’ve ever been – and that actually, I’m not needed anymore, not in this capacity anyway.  It was an incredibly humbling, difficult, exciting thing to realise.  It’s simultaneously a blow to my pride (perhaps we all secretly want to believe that we’re indispensable), a source of massive joy (the team is so strong they can do this on their own!) and an unleashing of possibility (both for me to go and explore what’s next and for the organisation to have someone with fresh perspective enter this leadership role).

In short, I’m leaving because enke is stronger than it’s ever been and I am so grateful and excited for that.

So, what’s next for enke? We’re going to be looking for a new CEO to lead the organisation. The position description will be posted in September / October and we’ll be asking you to spread the word! We’ll search for as long as it takes to find the right person.  From there, I’ll hand over all of the information, relationships and responsibility to a new person and phase myself out over the remaining period.

The new CEO might be someone you’ve met before (an existing team member, a former volunteer or board member, one of our speakers or panelists), or it might be someone totally new – that decision will be up to our board of directors (with a whole lot of input from the team).  I’ll introduce you to them as soon as I can and if you know of anyone who you would love to suggest, please forward them the application when the time comes.

As I’ve gone through this process, I’ve had a quote from Ruth Reichl that I keep coming back to: “It’s the things that scare you the most that you have to do”.  I’ve been really scared to leave enke – not because I thought the organisation wouldn’t survive without me, but because I didn’t want to let go. And now, over the past 6 months, it’s with true excitement that I have made this decision.

What’s next for me?  Honestly, I have no idea.  Depending on who I’ve been talking to I’ve said maybe I’ll do my MBA somewhere fun, maybe I’ll become a yoga teacher, maybe I’ll move to Melbourne / Madrid / Montreal / Montague.  Or maybe I’ll just stay in Jozi, the city I’ve come to love so much.  Maybe I’ll do all of the above.  I really don’t know and that’s just the point: the closing of this chapter so that a new one can start. What I do know is that enke will always be a part of me and that I hope to be involved in other capacities (in whatever form is needed). For now, the next 12 months is dedicated to finding, installing and supporting the next CEO.

Thank you for your ongoing support to myself, the team, the alumni and enke as an organisation.I’m looking forward to seeing what the next chapter looks like – for enke, for me, for each of you.

Please feel free to get in touch with any questions, I am here for another whole year after all!

– Pip

 

2013 enke: Make Your Mark

Contact Details:

7th Floor Heerengracht Building
87 De Korte Street
Braamfontein 2017, Johannesburg

 

Phone: +27 (0)11 403 1241/3

Fax: +27 (0)86 563 2544

Email: more@enke.co.za

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