Saul Kornik


Co-Founder and CEO


"Wood for the trees: The most important lessons in building a purpose-driven organization."


Many people have ideas about what the world needs. Few take the steps to turn those ideas into pragmatic solutions that can be implemented. However, full-scale implementation of any idea ultimately requires galvanizing and mobilizing a group of people around that idea in the form of an organization or company. This talk will cover my personal experience in taking part in building the organization that is AHP – including the mistakes I made and what I wished I had known before I started. I'll talk about what it pragmatically takes to convert a purpose into daily operations, as well as about how culture is central to leadership and organizational design.


“I am co-founder and CEO of the Africa Health Placements (AHP) group of companies. AHP is a "social-profit" organisation that helps plan for, place and retain crucial health resources where they are most needed. I believe that our success – placing and supporting over 3 500 medical personnel in mostly rurally based positions within the SADC region since inception, providing retention support in 10 districts and performing extensive workforce planning across the region, reaching over 10 million people per year – lies in our approach to building our organisation internally. I am a strong advocate for leadership through a measurable culture. More recently, AHP has started working with health and other institutions to help them codify their own cultures and embed these cultures in integrated talent management systems. My ability to lead AHP from inception through various stages of growth has been built through my studies, through the mentorship I have received, often by trial-and-error, always by hard work, and influenced by a number of fellowships in which I have been fortunate enough to participate. Most powerfully for me, my time as a Yale University World Fellow (2013) and Archbishop Tutu Leadership Fellow (2008) were incredibly influential.”


Why do you want to be part of UCT Upstarts? “UCT Upstarts is an unique opportunity for students to imagine and then convert ideas into pragmatic plans through to real implementation. And this all in a safe space with support for each other and from people who have been through some of what they will go through themselves.”

HOW DO YOU ‘IMAGINE A NEW AFRICA’? “A new Africa is a misnomer. Africa is too diverse and too disparate to be lumped into a single region to be subjected to a single vision. If various parts of Africa are to realize the particular potential that is suitable to them, then those localized areas need to start being able to imagine and tell new stories about what can be created there. This is in opposition to current regional narratives that aspire to “catch up with” what is happening in other parts of the world. The future starts with imagination and the stories we tell ourselves.”