In 2000 Arnold Smit Frederick Marais and David Newby collaborated with others to run a “facilitation course.” After its initial success, they formed the Church and Community Facilitation (CFN) within the Bureau for Continuing Education and Research in the Faculty of Theology at Stellenbosch University.

From 2001 to 2004 CFN ran Facilitation courses around the country mostly for clergy. These were open courses with participants paying a fee but subsidies were offered using funding made available by Anita Nonneman (an American philanthropist), Anglo American and FNB.

Realising that they should be developing “facilitative leaders” rather than simply facilitators, they adapted their approach in 2005 and added a small range of complimentary courses in mentoring, conflict resolution, situational leadership, visioning and discernment as well as a personality assessment. By December 2006, 654 people had gone through the Facilitative Leadership programme, and a further 211 had attended the other courses offered. 80% were from churches and the remaining 20% from community organisations.

In 2006 David Newby approached Melvyn Caroline at the Metropole East Education District (MEED) in the Western Cape to run a Leadership Programme for 4 schools in his district. The first School Leadership programme that rolled out at the Joie de Vivre conference centre in Paarl from 5 – 8 June was an adaptation of the facilitative leadership course to suit the needs of the school context. The course included coaching and an Insights’ led by Alison Newby, David’s wife, who was studying coaching at the time and had recently qualified as an Insights personality profile evaluator. 

In 2007, Anita Nonneman outlined her intention to increase support for specific projects in Cape Town including in the education field. In response, the SEED Educational Trust was formed with David Newby, Mike Kane and Arnold Smit as trustees. The trust was registered on 8 August 2007 and the SLP was relocated from Stellenbosch University to SEED. In addition to the SLP, SEED’s initial projects included Early childhood development (ECD), Supported Employment, ASSET (additional support for learners) and a joint project with Habitat for Humanity. 

Over the next two years the SLP programme began to build momentum as SEED bedded down its approach and process. SLP 2 involving a further four schools from MEED and SLP3 and 4 were for people who had completed the ACE programme, By 2008 SEED had run six SLPs. Meanwhile SEED operations continued with SLP5 and SLP7 for principals of schools in MEED, SLP 6 and 8 for the MEED district officials. In October 2009 Freda Brock, Bonita Bennett and Lesedi Makhurane were added as trustees. And further funding was received from Emseni Trust.

In 2008, the global financial crisis hit and Anita Nonneman, SEED’s main funder, made it known that over the course of the next 18 months, SEED would have to explore new funding opportunities. A time of great uncertainty commenced. In a bid to conserve costs SEED relocated to Wesley College in Salt River. Anita eventually resigned as a Founder of the Trust in October 2010, but retained the ECD and housing elements of the project in her personal capacity. SLP9 for principals and deputies of schools in MEED was completed around the same time.

When the Trustees met in January 2011, SEED was in a precarious financial situation with operations at serious risk. At that high stakes meeting some challenging questions were asked about strategic positioning and finances. What was SEED’s precise mission; and its core competence? Were these being embraced with integrity and confidence? Realising that SEED had inadvertently slipped into strategic and financial dependency, the meeting resolved to correct this. SEEDs core competence was clarified thus “…to develop skills, confidence and hope in leaders in the social sector so that they can lead effectively.” The SLP was identified as the flagship project for the Trust and a decision was made to drop all others. The trustees also resolved to pursue new funding opportunities for this sole programme. Meanwhile to further conserve costs SEED left the office at Wesley Centre and relocated to the Newby’s home office. The Trusts’ dedicated administrator, Letitia Sullivan, had to be reluctantly retrenched in May 2011. 

However, the fundraising effort soon started to yield results. Later in 2011, Nedbank funded SLP10 (Western Cape) and intakes in King Williams Town (SLP12) and Groblersdal (SLP11). In 2013 Old Mutual approached SEED to run leadership programmes in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape. This coincided with SEED entering into an agreement with the University of Stellenbosch Business School Executive Development (USB-ED) to register the School Leadership Programme as an accredited USB-ED offering at NQF level 7. From 2013 – 2016 mainly due to multiyear programme funding from Old Mutual, SEED experienced its strongest period of growth and delivered 36 programmes, 33 of them funded by Old Mutual. Old Mutual showed great faith in SEED and gave it space to try new things. This substantial investment by Old Mutual gave SEED and the SLP a national presence, but also brought with it additional pressures. 

By 2015 Old Mutual started to ask tough questions about whether education is shifting. They challenged SEED on the efficacy rates of coaching and mentoring. This compelled SEED to innovate. To ensure stronger sustainability, Communities of Practice were added to the SLP offering, while mentoring was added to strengthen the focus on school outcomes. Communities of Practice (COPs) rolled out in KWT (COP 1 and 2), Duncan Village in (COPs 3 and 4) and Jane Furse (COPs 5 and 6). Mentoring was first introduced into Duncan Village though David Wylde, a former school principal. SEED Trustees also resolved to sit down and rethink the Trust’s strategy. A second pivotal strategy session was held in September 2015 that agreed to shift SEEDs business model to a distinguishable next phase by strengthening the facilitative leadership offering, being more realistic, by giving away more work to reduce the risk to SEED’s highly concentrated working mode. The Trust’s strong stakeholder relationship model, conservative values and financial prudence would be retained. The need for a strategic transition period 2015 – 17 was identified with the following areas requiring attention: the SEED structure, Coaching and Mentoring Programme, measuring and evaluating programme outcomes, research and advocacy and fundraising. Due to the strong financial performance from 2013 – 16 SEED could fund this transition independently. Considering Old Mutual’s feedback and with the intention to expand the mentoring programme, SEED also decided to develop a customized programme for its team of coaches and mentors. A pilot course known as the Community Coaching and Mentoring Programme (CCM) was registered with USB-ED and commenced in January 2016. Meanwhile SLPs 25,27 and 29 as well as COPS 7 – 10 continued in Duncan Village and Jane Furse, whilst SLP 26 and 28 were run in the Cookhouse area as part of an initiative funded by the Cookhouse Windfarm Community Trust.  In 2016 Dr Al Witten was appointed as a trustee

By the end of 2016, SEED had delivered 45 programmes. 30 SLP’s at School and District level as well as 10 COP’s, three mentoring programmes and a certificate in coaching and mentoring. Old Mutual agreed to continue funding programmes in 2017 but reduced their contribution by 48% due to the financial climate in the country.  SEED had entered a new period of reflection and adjustment.

Between 2013 and 2017, SEED ran 17 SLPs for 44 schools in Jane Furse, King Williams Town and Duncan Village including SLPs for District officials in the 3 Districts serving these schools at the time. In addition 13 post SLP programmes were run in the 3 centers and were referred to as COPs as they were meant to lay the foundations for Communities of Practice to be formed. In 2017 these were replaced by Leadership Forums that were run for District officials and school principals respectively in the BCM District. In Jane Furse a different approach was taken that involved a combination of School Leadership Forums and facilitation sessions with SMTs. Mentoring of school principals had emerged as a powerful new initiative and Henry Harman was appointed to work in the Jane Furse Schools and Roy Gordon in the KWT schools. Together with David Wylde they brought much needed hands-on expertise to the principals and schools in their respective areas and the ensuing results were impressive.

In the course of 2018, through our involvement with the Old Mutual Education Flagship Project, we entered into discussions with the senior leadership of the Eastern Cape Education Department as to what the pressing needs of the Department are and how OM and SEED could contribute towards meeting these needs. It emerged that supporting and equipping Circuit Managers (CMs) to perform their roles of managing and mentoring school principals was a key priority. The Department had attempted to use former principals as mentors in schools but this had ben problematic as many of them had not been trained as mentors and were met with resistance by many of the principals and indeed the Trade Unions. It was the Unions that pointed out to the Department that it was the responsibility of CMs to mentor principals and this led to the idea of developing the coaching and mentoring skills of CMs. 

SEED had already developed the Coaching and Mentoring Programme and we therefore modified the programme to meet the needs of CMs. SEED believed that this programme could be adapted to equip circuit managers to be reflective practitioners and effective managers and mentors through the rigour of a 10-12 month learning journey and through the assessments that were set. In addition the Train the Trainer component included in the programme, could build the capacity of the Provincial Training Institutes to develop the mentoring capacities of their own officials as well as to train up retired educators as mentors with minimal support from external agencies.

The programme was launched on 30 November 2018 and the first intake started the first study school on 12 February 2019. 103 CMs from all 12 Districts were enrolled in the programme. The Districts were divided into 4 intakes of between 18 and 31 people.

The success of the SCM programme astounded everyone. There was 100% attendance and 100% completion of assignments and a 100% pass rate. 40% of participants achieved distinctions. Through the process CMs began to understand that they were not being trained to be mentors or coaches but rather to be managers who lead in a coaching and mentoring way.

Like most organisations, the Covid19 pandemic impacted SEED significantly and although we adapted our programmes for online learning, it was difficult to implement with confidence due to the connectivity challenges in the rural areas where we often work and a significant decrease in funding during this time. We were therefore grateful when Old Mutual agreed to fund a further intake of 30 Circuit Managers in 2021. Once again the 100% attendance and completion rates continued and the distinction rates grew even further. It was clear that we had begun to impact the system and were beginning to signs of resilience emerging. 

Towards the middle of 2022, we were contracted by Old Mutual to provide leadership development programmes to 50 schools and 2 Districts in the Eastern Cape and 50 schools and 2 Districts in Limpopo. This was part of a wider 5-year initiative to improve literacy and numeracy outcomes within these schools.