School Leadership Development Project

The School Leadership Development Programme is a key Employee Volunteerism Project (EVP) of the DBSA CSI programme.


The School Leadership Development Programme is a key Employee Volunteerism Project (EVP) of the DBSA CSI programme. The Bank is in its second year of a collaborative partnership with Symphonia South Africa through their flagship programme, Partners for Possibility (PfP). Central to this programme is the development of human capital infrastructure within the school community by focusing on leadership within schools. The programme runs for twelve months in which 70% is experiential learning, 20% coaching, mutual exchange and experiences facilitated by a coach and 10% consists of training in theoretical concepts.

Project Financing
E&S Risk category
Category 3
DBSA Involvement

The DBSA sponsors principal and business leader development partnerships. Through the programme, the DBSA has a footprint in all nine provinces, with most beneficiaries in Gauteng which is within reach of DBSA staff. The EVP is selected targeted at a project that provides for volunteerism of time to impart and diversify intellectual capital that exists in the Bank and which provides for exposure and growth of staff. Business leaders include the DBSA management and professionals who volunteer their skills, expertise and time to contribute to school leadership development.

The Bank’s CSI programme subscribes to the objectives of the PfP Programme, which include: 

  • To equip principals to effectively deal with the obstacles and challenges facing them in their unique and individual circumstances.
  • To empower principals and business partners to shift their leadership style to be more inclusive, participatory and collaborative. This style of leadership actively breaks down barriers, fosters connections with staff and external stakeholders, and inspires change.
  • To immerse business partners into new, often volatile and extremely under-resourced environments, thereby supporting them to develop new leadership skills, greater awareness and deeper understanding of the challenges within South Africa and how they can be addressed.

To date, a total of 131 DBSA sponsored PfP partnerships have been launched across all nine provinces in South Africa.  Several DBSA staff members participate in the programme as business leaders that partner with school principals. The DBSA’s commitment to the development of school leadership and the school’s community enhances Bank’s alignment to the NDP and SDG’s.

Sustainability impact

In the year under review the short-term objectives of the programme were ‘to strengthen the schools’ change readiness so that, as organisations, they can adapt to the demands of the current times’. It is evident that a school’s readiness for change depends on four levers, which need to be activated in the specific order below:

  1. Confidence of the school principal is the first lever on which other levers hinge
  2. Willingness of School Management Teams (SMT) to support the school’s vision is a pre-requisite to mobilising greater participation and enthusiasm of educators
  3. Support and buy-in of educators’ impacts  parent body and external community
  4. Engagement with parent body and community

Each school faces specific challenges that need to be overcome to activate each of these change levers, and therefore the time it takes to achieve change varies.  Of the schools that the DBSA’s employees were involved, the two that completed the programme, accomplished all four levels with great achievements shown in the performance of the school curricula, the improved relations between SMT, staff motivation and engagement with community. Other DBSA sponsored partnerships are still progressing through the change levers.

As illustrated below, the programme has built a high level of confidence in principals and achieved success in strengthening SMTs and improved educators’ motivation. Half of the schools remain neutral or unsatisfied with the level of engagement of their communities. 

principal's assessment

principal's assessment2

A competent principal, who is equipped to keep the staff and learners motivated as well as engage with the school community and other stakeholders, is one of the most important levers to improving education in South Africa. The programme enhances the leadership skills of both principals and business leaders, exposes business leaders to areas of communities they would not have been exposed to, thus broadening their perspective of economic development. 

While initially the PfP programme was focussed on development of principals, the DBSA sponsorship required of PfP to equally focus on evaluating the impact on Business Leaders. Comparative evidence across the past three years suggests that the outcomes of the PfP process in terms of business leader leadership skills have increased over the period. As the chart below illustrates, business leaders who started PfP in 2018-2019 are more likely to find that their work relationships improved as a result of PfP, than business leaders from two years earlier. 


The same observation can be made regarding the gain in competency on the CCL’s six key leadership competencies for Africa. 

average gain


As a result of these partnerships, further investment has been extended to partner schools such as the provision of ECD Infrastructure, donation of packed food and with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools have been assisted in compliance with COVID-19 regulations.


of the school principal is the first lever on which other levers hinge.


of School Management Teams (SMT) to support the school’s vision is a prerequisite to mobilising greater participation and enthusiasm of educators.


of educators and buy-in impacts of parent body and external community.


with parent body and community.