GLLI is a non-profit organization with an office in Port Alfred, Eastern Cape, registered in accordance with the Nonprofit Organisations Act 71 of 1997. It was incorporated in 2015, to improve the lives of people in historically disadvantaged communities. It planned to do so by providing skills, support and space for them to identify their talents and learn how to use technology to turn their talents to products and services for their prosperity and that of their communities. GLLI evolved from a school club called “Leading Light Club” in a rural school in Mthatha, Eastern Cape, South Africa. This club was founded by Dieudonne Allo, who was a teacher in this school at the time. Inspired by one of his students, he founded the Leading Light Club in 2013 to create opportunities for students, often classified by the school system as “intellectually challenged” or “slow learners” to identify and nurture their natural gifts, over and above what they were taught in school. He started working with students and parents at school and eventually expanded to the community.
From the initial stages of the organization, its founders (Dieudonne Allo and Teresa Graham Brett), knew that to achieve its mission, they had to first establish deep ties within communities to better understand the problem and co- create an effective and inclusive solution. They therefore spent three years doing that deep work within communities in South Africa and Botswana. This was done through community-based study cycles called Iziko, targeting parents, teachers and youths. They established the first Iziko group in Cato Manor, then in Mthatha and Gaborone in Botswana. Over 300 parents, teachers and youths participated in iziko programmes from 2015 to 2017. From 2017, GLLI began working more directly with teenagers and young adults. In October 2018, supported by the Goldin Institute in Chicago, GLLI held its Community Visioning Summit at Saint John’s College in Mthatha. The aim of this summit was to discuss the challenges which we had been listening to from 2015, identify the most urgent challenges among them and co-create a program which would become the core program of GLLI. It was from this summit that GLLI’s focus was further crystallised to create opportunities for young people to actively participate in the tech economy.
By engaging with fellow start-ups through capacity-building programs such as the StartingBloc Institute, Goldin Institute, Red Bull Amaphiko, serving on the selections panel for the UN Solutions Summit in 2019 and 2020, being semi-finalists of the Echoing Green Fellowship in 2018, 2019, 2020, receiving many rejections from donors and shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic, the current model emerged, which is showing tremendous success.
Since 2018, GLLI has accomplished the following:
GLLI has built partnerships with many reputable local and international organizations such Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda), two of South Africa’s biggest government development agencies, the United States Embassy in South Africa, Redbull Amaphiko, UN SDG Solutions Summit, Goldin Institute, Isroff Family Foundation, Rhodes University, Walter Sisulu University, Nelson Mandela University, Cisco Networking Academy, Digify Africa, StartingBloc, Agape Werks, Chicago Knights Robotics Team, among others. GLLI has leveraged on its relationships with these organizations to deliver high impact cost-effective services to communities in the Eastern Cape, while building its own capacity through their support.
Since inception the bulk of GLLI’s work has been done in historically disadvantaged communities in the Eastern Cape. In its early days, some of its work was done in Kwa-Zulu Natal and Botswana, due to demand. However, the board decided to narrow its focus to the Eastern Cape, build and strengthen its capacity before scaling to the rest of the country and continent.
Iziko parent educators in Mandela Park community, Mthatha
Global Leading Light Initiatives 2020
© GLLI 2020