Inspiring Learning and Discovery: SAP Social Sabbatical Partners to Shape Cape Town’s Future

This is part three in a series highlighting the SAP Social Sabbatical for global engagement in Cape Town, South Africa, which focused on bridging the digital divide in the city’s most underserved communities.

Walking into the Cape Town Science Centre (CTSC) on a busy weekday morning can result in a bit of sensory overload as children of all ages run, skip, and hop around the massive warehouse located in the Observatory neighborhood of Cape Town.

A bottle rocket zooms on a zip line overhead, leaving a group of students giggling at their aeronautic success in its wake. A defiant announcement of “check” comes from the teenager dragging his Bishop with two hands across the giant life-sized chess board on the floor. In the midst of all the noise, two boys get a lesson in sound waves as they share a secret with one another through whisper dishes on either end of the room.

Play is the highest form of research

Albert Einstein

Peppered across the space are exhibit facilitators in long red lab coats offering explanations to the endless stream of “Why…?” questions inspired by the children’s play. From computer science to outer space, robotics and aeronautics, the CTSC offers inquiry-based exhibits that transform scientific learning.

At first blush, the CTSC seems like an odd choice for an SAP Social Sabbatical team on a global pro bono assignment — frankly, it all seems like too much fun. But begin to explore the interactive exhibits and it quickly becomes clear the powerful educational experience this place has to offer.

“Our general mission is to get people excited about science using the most effective methods of teaching, which is hands-on, people-centered activities,” says Julie Cleverdon, Director of CTSC, “Research has shown us that people learn science more outside the classroom than inside the classroom. Once students make the connection to science in everyday life… they become more receptive in the classroom.”

The Cape Town Science Centre was established in 2000 and is currently the only interactive, ‘hands-on’ science center in Cape Town dedicated to educating and inspiring people of all ages in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). CTSC aims to not only support the focused learning taking place at schools in the region, but also encourage a love for life-long learning. After many years of successful operations, CTSC made the decision to relocate to an area of Cape Town more accessible to underserved communities. This switch was integral to the organization’s long-term vision of inspiring a scientifically knowledgeable society capable of addressing the complex challenges that have science central to their solution such as food scarcity, energy shortages, climate change, and others.

“About five years ago we moved to this new building and we’ve pretty much been in survival mode ever since,” says Julie, “With a lot more work coming on and a lot of exciting new projects, we needed help with our strategic development.”

SAP sent a team of three high performing employees from across the globe to work with CTSC for a one-month Social Sabbatical assignment. The employees were tasked with applying their skills and expertise to develop an organizational strategy that would move CTSC beyond survival mode.

“We’ve brought a certain set of ideas, techniques, and design thinking approaches to the project, which CTSC doesn’t currently have access to,” says Rainer Faulstich. “We’ve spent the last month using these tools to identify organizational challenges, dissect these issues, and ultimately derive relevant solutions.”

Rainer, along with his colleagues Sirisha from the United States and Juan from Argentina, ultimately left CTSC with strategic resources and guidelines for fundraising, partnerships, communications, financial security, human resources, and more.

“The strategy that we have been left with is very clear. SAP has given us a map for the future. When you are a very small team and completely under resourced… to have someone come along, put their brains together with your brains and produce a strategy that is easy to understand and follow, it’s like a godsend,” said Julie. “They’ve really touched the hearts of our business and pulled out what is important. It’s not always comfortable, but it’s the only way we can move forward from survival mode to growth mode.”