Dr Solange Rosa has been appointed as the new director of The Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship – a specialised centre at the UCT Graduate School of Business and the first academic centre on the continent dedicated to advancing innovation and social justice across business, government and civil society.
Dr Rosa – an activist, academic, policy and strategy advisor and former public servant – joins the Centre on the eve of its tenth anniversary and at an extraordinary time in human history, when the world is transitioning to a ‘new normal’.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and sweeping Black Lives Matter protests across the world are demanding a new response from us,” says Dr Rosa. “And an institution such as the Bertha Centre – that is firmly rooted in research and actively challenging the status quo, connecting different sectors and communities, and promoting innovative responses to achieve social impact – is needed now more than ever to help us to reimagine how the world could work.”
Dr Rosa’s transdisciplinary background, which combines academic rigour with a passionate commitment to social justice and human rights, positions her well to lead such a reimagination.
Inclusion, equity and participation are her guiding principles that inform the how as well as the what of her work. Her areas of expertise and interest include: public policy, strategy development, public law, public sector innovation and leadership, socio-economic development, youth development, poverty reduction, social justice, human rights, social innovation and social impact. She has worked as an independent consultant for government, non-government organisations, philanthropy and international aid agencies, served as Director and Chief Director of Policy and Strategy at the Premier’s Department, Western Cape Government for a decade, and as the Senior Legal Researcher at the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town. Most recently Dr Rosa was a Senior Policy and Strategy Adviser at the Bertha Centre, where she has also held the role of interim director for eight months. She has extensive teaching experience and is well published.
“My passion is to resolve socio-economic challenges by bringing various role-players together to scrutinize problems through an evidence lens, challenge existing belief systems and harness experience to innovate, create novel solutions to realise human rights,” she says.
A key dimension of the new normal, which Dr Rosa feels strongly about, is the reimagined state. “The journey from a welfare state to an empowered state characterised by civic participation, policy innovation and an inclusive economy and social safety net is the next important journey that this country needs to take.”
In welcoming Dr Rosa as the new director of the Bertha Centre, Interim Director of the UCT GSB, Professor Hugh Corder, said that since its inception in 2011, the Centre has played a critical and disruptive role at the UCT GSB and within the wider university, setting up a constructive tension between the traditional world of academia as knowledge creators and the application of that knowledge for social impact.
“From this tension, new paradigms and partnerships have emerged. We are particularly proud of the way the Bertha Centre has woven innovation, entrepreneurship, and the social impact of business into the very fibre of the UCT GSB over the last nine years. This has undoubtedly helped raise the school’s global profile. The UCT GSB was among the first in the world globally to integrate social innovation into the core curriculum, and in 2015 the Bertha Centre was recognised as one of the top five academic centres globally in terms of social impact.”
Dr Rosa is looking forward to building on these considerable achievements in forging a fresh vision for the centre over next decade.
“We’re thinking community across boundaries, a fairer world, communal inspired action, access to opportunities, radical collaboration, kindness, social justice, and aligned interests. We believe these are some of the concepts that will pave the path to the new normal— a path that is up to us to help lay down.”