Top tip: If you wish to avoid getting your hands dirty doing a little nation-building, my suggestion is that you give Karen McKenzie a wide berth. She is a uniquely gifted builder of builders.
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (10 August 2022) – Karen McKenzie is neither a Karen nor a Scot. She is, however, a mensch of the highest order. In local parlance, a biscuit and a brick. Well, a brick of a different sort.
In her words, Karen has a “hippie heart and a boardroom head”. She combines these qualities to build communities, and her bricks are connections, conversations, small rooms of other builders or, quite often, builders who don’t yet know they are builders. Top tip: If you wish to avoid getting your hands dirty doing a little nation-building, my suggestion is that you give Karen McKenzie a wide berth. She is a uniquely gifted builder of builders.
Karen has taken what she has in her hands – years of study, experience in corporate and the aviation industry, her gifts as a leadership coach – mixed them all up with some nifty advanced 4 x 4 skills and some significant pumpkin growing prowess – and translated it into one of her many current roles as the lead architect of the Partners for Possibility program in the Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands.
One of her great passions is closing the gap that exists between our world-class independent schools and our oft-struggling public schools. This gap is no starker anywhere in the country than it is along the old Durban Road, the R103 that runs between Mooi River, past her homestead, through Nottingham Road to Balgowan and down to Hilton and Pietermaritzburg. This stretch of road connects some of the top independent schools and some of the most under-resourced rural and township schools in South Africa.
This gap troubled Karen greatly, and so she offered her skills to the Partners for Possibility school leadership and principal support program. She has given the past three years of her life to helping to close this gap; one connection, one room of other concerned community members at a time.
Karen is using what she has to tackle a problem that she sees every time she leaves her home. And the research plays straight into Karen’s gift of leadership development; schools that have passionate, well-capacitated and supported school principals thrive. So, she is bringing together local community members – business folk, retired people, artists, farmers – and pairing them with local school principals on the one-year PfP leadership program – and those schools are thriving. Her ask? “Bring your curiosity and take a peak into a world very different to yours. Bring what you have, your talents, experience, creativity, a listening ear and a caring heart. We will work together to ensure that your gifts are just what is needed!”
When you are next in the Midlands, I invite you to look Karen up and ask her to take you to one of the more than 25 schools she has worked in over the past years.
You will witness first-hand how much better South Africa is because of her.
If you would like to contact Karen for a chat and some home-grown pumpkin pie, drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.