Rhodes University Sol Plaatje Institute

Rhodes University Sol Plaatje Institute, GRAHAMSTOWN – Rhodes staff members of the Alumni and Development Unit of the Communications and Advancement Division have successfully completed a new and highly specialised professional course on writing offered by the Sol Plaatje Institute (SPI) for Media Leadership.

The course, held at the Rhodes School of Journalism and Media Studies (JMS) and entitled  “Quality Writing for Impact”, was aimed at providing the participants with high-level skills needed to conceptualise and write effective project and fund-raising proposals and live speeches.

It covered topics such as how to engage and communicate better with and cement mutually beneficial relationships with Rhodes’s diverse partners and donors in an era of diminishing state funding for higher education worldwide.

The Alumni and Development Unit staff members were the first to attend this course, launched by the SPI at the start of this year to cater to the niche of writing winning fund-raising proposals and how to align these to a funder’s focus work areas and interests.

It also covered how to write compelling and memorable speeches for a range of audiences, how to write for the media for impact, including leveraging on digital and social media, and crafting powerful concept documents from which to build must-read fund-raising or project proposals, among several other topics.

Qondakele Sompondo, the head of the Alumni and Development Unit, initiated the course for his staff to sharpen their conceptual thinking and practical writing skills to deliver more meaningful and authentic communication which audiences can use and trust.

“Development writing is about persuasion. We needed help to improve the quality of writing as it does have an impact on the success or failure of proposals and on keeping our stakeholders happy,” Sompondo said after the instence three-day ncourse, which can be customised to the needs of staff of any organization.

Indeed, the SPI did a training needs assessment of the writing skills of the Alumni and Development Unit before crafting the course. The course, to be accredited shortly by Rhodes University, is open to all frontline staff of any organization who are into marketing, communications, fund-raising, project management, etc. – and not just to staff from universities.

Mandilakhe Kila, a Stakeholder Engagement Officer within the Rhodes Alumni and Development Unit, praised the course for giving him cutting-edge knowledge, understandings and strategies of improving his work.

The course was jointly led by Professor Anthea Garman, the Deputy Head of the Rhodes’ JMS, and SPI Director Francis Mdlongwa, whose Institute also runs a basket of other accredited professional media management and media business courses (please see www.ru.ac.za/spi/).

The SPI also offers the only formal postgraduate qualification in media management in Africa  and the developing world. It has graduated more than 400 of these top-level postgraduates, many of whom today occupy senior positions in the media in Africa and internationally.

Bunnady Landman, a Donations and Data Administratorand and one of the participants of the just-ended writing course, emphasised the relevance of all the practical exercises that the course had covered and the importance of working as a group. “What impressed me most is how many (useful and innovative) ideas we have when we work as a team,”she said.

In facilitating the sessions, Garman noted that “there was a lot of cross-talking and intense engagement among each other, so getting out of the office provided the participants with the opportunity to draw on each other’s strengths and have an appreciation of the different skills that they all offer.”

Sompondo echoed these sentiments. “After this course, we as the team will be on the same page and we will cut down on the time that we used to spend on writing because there used to be a lot of back and forth.”

He added that the course will not only benefit his Unit but provide a significant and positive impact on Rhodes.