“Graduation ceremonies are a highlight on The Da Vinci Institute’s calendar, and we are particularly proud of the sterling cohort of graduates who were awarded Doctorates in October this year. A Doctorate represents the pinnacle of academic learning, and receiving a Doctoral degree from the Institute not only testifies to academic prowess, but also to graduates’ capability and interest to bring about change and transformation in their respective socio-economic contexts.” With these words, Mr. Frik Landman, Chairperson of the Da Vinci board, expressed his confidence in the eight doctoral graduates to make meaningful contributions to society.
At The Da Vinci Institute, the focus is on learning and research that is relevant and seeks to provide solutions to business and community challenges. The Da Vinci Institute's CEO, Prof HB Klopper, explains that the Graduates' Doctoral theses were directly related to the contexts in which they took place, resulting in tangible outcomes.
Graduates came from different countries and worked in similar environments, which resulted in a variety of research topics related to important issues in their communities and workplaces. Each study, however, shared one goal, which was to make a positive impact on the lives and futures of communities around the globe.
Mayyada Abu Jaber
To counter the economic injustices women are facing as a result of a patriarchal system in Jordan, Mayyada Abu Jaber’s main interest was to create an eco-feminist economy for the benefit of women of Jordan and the Arab region at large. Impact as a result of her research includes education and vocational skill acquisition for women, the revival of cultural memory of the roles of women in building the community, the creation of the Feminist Integral Centre for Research and Innovation to drive policy reforms in future, and the protection of the historical and environmental wealth of women as sustainable economic providers.
Said Abu Jaber: “The pursuit of my Doctoral journey has yielded both a positive impact and a continuous improvement in feminist research as it unfolds the varied feminist and emancipatory dimensions of the Arab culture to provoke critical thinking and discourses in Ficr (thought) circles for the economic emancipation and participation of women and the creation of an eco-feminist economy.”
Lanre Kazeem-Abimbola gained first-hand knowledge of delving into a struggling business when she tried to support her mother’s efforts to sustain their family. However, as an employee in the Bank of Industry of Nigeria she came to realise that her case was not unique, but an experience shared by many other informal SMEs. This inspired her research journey aimed at supporting enterprises in the Ajegunie community in Lagos, Nigeria, through perspective-shifting, transformative value-based integral education, that balances western ideas of business management with indigenous cultural economic values, coined African Integral Communipreneurship Education (AICE).
As a result of the success achieved in her doctoral study, the AICE framework is currently applied to educate a new set of local entrepreneurs in Lagos. “Evidently, my research journey does not have an end in sight but has paved the way for unfolding realities in developing a truly African entrepreneurship enterprise education”, she said.
The main aim of Johan Nel’s study was to gain insight into how performance-based renumeration systems could add economic value to profit-based companies and at the same time ensured fair and equitable distribution of free cash flow between employees (especially executive management) and shareholders or investors. The integrated performance-based renumeration system framework which was developed during the study has already been incorporated and implemented in the total rewards strategy of several client organisations.
Nel said his experience with The Da Vinci Institute had been superb as he was allowed the freedom to be innovative and to manage his research to arrive at a value-add conclusion. “Completing my PhD has exposed me to research much broader than the topic itself. The Mode 2 methodology allowed me to do my research in a trans-disciplinary manner.” He added that he had also recommended The Da Vinci Institute's Bachelor of Commerce programme to various individuals because it was so strongly focused on workplace integration.
Rajas Pillay’s research on green economic empowerment, through the inclusion of waste claimers, would certainly have an impact on municipalities, both locally and internationally. The research highlighted the looming landfill crises as municipalities were not implementing effective and efficient waste management practices. However, this ecological disaster could be averted if recycling occurs. The study defined and demonstrated waste reclaimers as key enablers to waste minimisation, and argued that social cohesion of stakeholders, inclusive of informal reclaimers, allowed for the development of a green environment and the economic empowerment of relevant stakeholders.
Pillay said attaining her PhD was a tough and lonely academic journey. “However, despite the numerous challenges, I constantly reminded myself of my purpose in making a difference. This assisted me in realising this degree. The sense of fulfilment has been tremendous.”
The plight of women in general, but specifically women facing fertility challenges and who were marginalised and oppressed in the community of Jos, Nigeria, has been the motivation for Esther Shebi’s study. The main purpose of the study was to deconstruct the narrow concept of biological fertility and construct it towards a more encompassing concept referred to as ‘integral fertility’, which also included the social, spiritual, intellectual, and economical dimensions of human existence.
Shebi said her study underscored that a narrow definition informed by traditional beliefs could be detrimental to development in a contemporary society. “What this implied for me and other professional fields, both at a personal and professional level, was to work at redefining various concepts such as fertility integrally, and to adopt innovative approaches for transforming their narratives.”
In his research Smart Zongololo explores communiversity as an innovation ecosystem for economic development in Zimbabwe. To close the gaps that exist between the community, the academic world, and the corporate world, he attempted to focus on the advancement of the natural, cultural, technological, and economic aspects of society, as captured in a newly defined form of the African economy.
Zongololo said his Doctoral studies through The Da Vinci Institute has been a transformational journey for himself and others. It equipped him to grow from being a mere business executive to becoming a catalyst for change, and the organisations and communities he works with equally benefitted from his research.
Raghda Butros’s research was based on an integral journey she undertook over a period of four years across Halaqaat al-Wujoud (circle of being). The Halaqaat process was the action research methodology through which Qafilat al-Hikma wal Taharur (caravan of wisdom and liberation) emerged as the collective new offering to the field of decolonisation anchored by a newly coined feminism of the soil and soul.
Through his study Muvengwa Mutyanda committed himself to the regeneration of the Chivhu community in Zimbabwe from which he originates. To encourage social innovation, the study drew on technology, innovation, people, and systems, indigenously and exogenously, whereby the Wungano circles created amongst the people, drew on the positive features of their Unhu/Ubuntu laden Shona culture, as an overarching system, via socio-technical development, with a view to social innovation, mediated by Weph commercial agencies and Chivhu.
Mutyanda said his doctoral study had multiple outcomes. “On an individual level there was dynamic mental development, to society there was societal and economic emancipation, and The Da Vinci Institute gained from new knowledge creation and concepts that were innovative and created through the amalgamation of both modern and indigenous practices.”
Mr. Landman concludes that the impact and social upliftment, because of the Doctoral research conducted, resonates with former President Nelson Mandela’s belief that education is the most powerful weapon which you could use to change the world. “As the Board, we wish our Doctoral alum all the best with their future plans and journeys, as remarkable scholars, who are committed to co-create a prosperous future for their communities and society at large.”