#WIB- Q&A With Ruth Kolevsohn Co-Founder & Director of the Halo Project SA

Ruth Kolevsohn Co-Founder & Director of the Halo Project SA
  • Save
1. Can you please tell us more about your business?

A. For over three years the Halo Project has successfully developed, delivered, and accredited Halo Hope in the UK, a 6-week community education programme for GBV victims, which is delivered by multilingual tutors. The Halo Project South Africa has brought the programme to Meadowlands West in Johannesburg, South Africa in collaboration with an integrated team made up of the local police and the community policing forum, healthcare, education, social services, and community-based organisations already working in the community.

While Halo Hope has not been designed or marketed as a perpetrator programme it has demonstrated the ability to raise awareness of GBV. Importantly, it has been effective in changing mindsets. Positive outcomes have included increased feelings of safety, health and wellbeing, and an understanding by victims of abusive violent behaviours they have experienced and the impact of these crimes on themselves and their children. Our website address is haloproject.org.uk/southafrica. Readers can follow us on Twitter using @SouthHalo.

2. When, how and why did you start your business?

A. In September 2019, I was invited by the UK Department for International Trade to participate in a networking event with a Business Durham delegation, where my colleague Amina Mahomed and I met with representatives of the Halo Project UK and their accreditation partner One Awards. After discussing the challenges which South Africa is facing around GBV, language proficiency, poverty, and unemployment, we formed a partnership to bring the 6-week community education programme to South Africa.

The programme was launched in Meadowlands West (Zone 9) in partnership with the South African Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council (SADAAC) on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (25 November 2019) and we have since engaged with key stakeholders such as local police and the community policing forum, healthcare, education, social services, and community-based organisations already working in the community in order to form a task team which will ensure an integrated approach in line with the United Nations’ Inter-Agency Minimum Standards for Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies Programming.

3. What is your role in the business?

A. I am a Co-Founder and Director of the Halo Project South Africa (NPC), My role includes facilitating the 6-week community education programme, which has a train-the-trainer approach to ensure sustainability in the community and will allow us to take the Halo Hope programme to other communities.  

4. Where did you study and what did you study?

A. I studied marketing and sales at Nelson Mandela University and later pscyhology, sociology, and communication through UNISA. I am currently completing my Post Graduate Diploma in Coaching through the South African College of Applied Psychology and have enrolled for a Masters of Social Science (Community Mental Health Promotion), which will help me in the roll out of Halo Hope across South Africa.

5. How did you finance your business?

A. The Halo Project South Africa is a non-profit company so we are in the process of applying for funding from corporate South Africa.

6. Describe your average workday, if such a thing exists.

A. In between the training and coaching component of my role, there are some operational aspects such as continuous engagement with our stakeholders and the packaging of funding applications.

7. How do you balance your home life and your work life?

A. Interestingly, Jeff Bezos doesn’t like the idea of work-life balance. He said in an interview recently: “I think work-life harmony is a good framework. I prefer the word ‘harmony’ to the word ‘balance’ because balance tends to imply a strict tradeoff.” This resonates with me because harmony is one of my personal values and I don’t believe we can compartmentalise our business from our personal lives. The whole me turns up at work every day; I am a socialpreneur, a life-long learner, a wife, a mother, a friend. In my work it is a requirement to be empathetic, you cannot do this by checking your personal experiences and emotions at the door.

8. What drives you and inspires you?

A. As a socialpreneur, I am dedicated to helping individuals, teams, groups, organisations, and communities become more resilient, improve their communication and leadership skills, build stronger relationships, make better choices and decisions and become social thinkers.  I am inspired by the many people who I have come across in socially disadvantaged communities who have nothing but are still prepared to give their time for free to help other people in their community.

It truly debunks some sociologists’ belief that a poverty culture exists in South Africa. There is a young, qualified psychologist who we are working within Meadowlands who cannot find a job, but is volunteering in the centre to assist with the cases involving children. I would love to find a corporate that would fund her work and supervision training so that she can debrief the 50 auxiliary caregivers who work in the community under one social worker in a community of 138 000 people.

9. Where and when do you have your best ideas?

A. Going back to Jeff Bezos’ concept of work-life harmony, having worked in the corporate environment for nearly 30 years where I was measured on billable hours, there was very little time to let my mind wander into creative mode.  Now I build time into my working week to read research papers and journal articles which will help me in my work. I also tell everyone I meet about the work we are doing because I can learn from the experience of others. I am always looking for ideas and approaches which will help us as we rollout Halo Hope.

10. Where and how do you market/advertise your business for sales leads?

A. As a non-profit, we aren’t looking for sales leads, but we are dependent on funders, so in addition to funding applications, we need to build a profile for the Halo Project South Africa and Halo Hope. Since we don’t have a marketing budget, we spend a lot of our time writing content for social media. We also look for speaking opportunities and I am a judge for industry awards.

11. What is next for your business?

A. Once we have the funding, we plan to take the Halo Hope programme to Kheyelitsha and Umlazi in partnership with a community-based organisation which is already active in the township. We have even had a request to bring the programme to Schweizer-Reneke in the North West province.

12. What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs hoping to start their own business?

A. I would advise them to speak to as many people as possible, networking is key.  Even if someone cannot help you directly, they may be able to introduce you to someone who can. Listening is a vital skill in business. When speaking to your stakeholders, ask incisive questions and listen to the said and unsaid.  Finally, the International Director for the Halo Project UK gave us some good advice. Don’t wait until you have a Rolls Royce before you go to the market. Aim for a skateboard and take it from there. Our offering has evolved based on what we can achieve with our only guaranteed resource which we have – our time – you learn to be very creative working with what you have available.

Contact Info:

Ruth Kolevsohn


M +27 83 626 3766