Loyiso Ngqwemla, co-founded the TooMuch Foundation
“The TooMuch Foundation was founded to support township communities by inspiring and training young people to become accountable and Ubuntu-driven leaders,” says Ngqwemla. “As a township-native myself, having grown up in Langa just outside of Cape Town, I can speak from experience when I say leadership development is absolutely critical for driving transformational change and community impact.”
“The challenges we are facing in South Africa, and across the continent, require local leaders with an entrepreneurial mindset and a foundation in values-based leadership principles, self-reliance, and cross-cultural awareness. I am excited to launch the TooMuch Foundation together with these two incredible leaders,” says Thomson.
The three men started working together in 2021 when Ngqwemla took over the leadership of community engagement efforts at TooMuchWifi, an internet service provider committed to providing high-quality and affordable internet to underserved communities by activating local entrepreneurial energy and improving people’s lives through strong social and economic commitments to the communities it serves.
TooMuchWifi Founder and CEO, Ian Thomson
“Over the past five years, we have been developing community operated networks in township communities, which involve hiring inexperienced and unqualified young people into internships and junior roles at TooMuchWifi and upskilling them to take on increasingly senior leadership roles”, says Thomson. “Through the TooMuch Foundation, we will now be able to successfully apply these learnings and provide local leaders with resources and mentors to develop robust solutions to challenges. Connectivity was always a critical means to an end: Thanks to our partnership with TooMuchWifi, we can leverage the power of the internet to promote best practices and provide a network of mentors interested in the same social objectives.”
TooMuch Foundation focuses on leadership training and community investment. The registered public benefit organisation (application pending) identifies social fellows and provides them with a stipend to develop their business plans. If their ideas have traction, the foundation will fund their entrepreneurial ventures, provided they develop and maintain clear social Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) modelled after those developed at TooMuchWifi. The fellows are then trained alongside TooMuchWifi’s community-based managerial teams.
Applications for the next fellowship class are now open and can be submitted via this link: https://www.toomuchfoundation.co.za/leadership-application. Interviews will be taking place in the first week of December with classes starting in January of 2023. “We hope members of our communities will refer people they think will make good fellows for the next training session, and we hope to attract entrepreneurs working on social challenges in townships,” says Ngqwemla.
The foundation’s first values-based leadership training seminar was held in August of this year. Among the 25 seminar participants were TooMuchWifi managers and community-based volunteers working on social challenges that the TooMuch Foundation aligns with, including safety and security as well as mental and physical health. Fellows who attended the first training session included leaders from MSB Nitro Football Club, a Khayelitsha-based sports programme; Langa For Men, an initiative addressing gender based violence; and the Mankind Project, a men’s community for the 21st century.
United States Marine Corps leader, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Kershul
Kershul and Thomson served together as Marine Corps officers on several combat tours. Kershul stayed in the Marine Corps, piloting MV-22 Ospreys in numerous combat deployments and working as an instructor in the Marine Corps‘s version of ‘Top Gun’. Kershul was recognised as leading the Marine Corps’ most operationally excellent squadron.
Kershul, who will be flying to South Africa in January to help kick off the next class, says: “It’s been a pleasure developing these concepts together and sharing the Marine Corps’ very intentional approach to values-based leadership. Loyiso first exposed me to the concept of Ubuntu, and I’ve grown to appreciate the grounding that it places on our conversations and planning efforts.”
Ngqwemla says, “The beauty of a values-based approach to leadership is that the concepts are as relevant to a township entrepreneur as to a combat leader facing an entirely different set of challenges. The core leadership principles are the same, the objective is the same.”
While the initial focus for the TooMuch Foundation is South Africa and the communities TooMuchWifi serves, Thomson hopes to develop a blueprint for other communities. “We want to leverage this American and South African partnership for the benefit of other developing economies that rapidly need to develop leaders to solve their own similar but unique challenges. Operational excellence requires leadership, and that is in high demand throughout Africa,” Thomson adds as he wraps up a seven-country tour of northwest Africa.
The TooMuch Foundation is hiring a founding managing director / CEO to start in the first quarter of 2023. “We are hoping to find a woman for this role to bring the much-needed diversity and perspective that any good leadership team offers its constituency”, says Ngqwemla. Applications can be submitted at: https://www.toomuchfoundation.co.za/jobs/ceo.