Nice words are frequently offered to people when they are dead – in obituaries. Very seldom are people acknowledged for their respective contributions when they are alive. This is unfortunate, as many people across the planet are making significant contributions in many fields and these contributions should be recognised.

So saying, I would like to hail the ongoing efforts of Alinda Nortje in her quest to ignite purpose, passion and potential for growth in thousands of people worldwide. 28 years ago, as a social worker in South Africa, she started developing practical and meaningful life skills material for illiterate farm labourers, using pictographically illustrated workbooks to touch the hearts and minds of her target audience. The response was enormous – a sense of self-worth was re-established, and communities started to blossom with their new-found confidence. Her company, Free To Grow, was born, focusing on empowerment, and personal and business transformation.

Alinda, recognising that real change in people doesn’t just happen because they understand a new concept or follow the logic of a decision, started targeting her interventions at connecting with the minds and hearts of people (for real change to be realised, people need to connect emotionally with concepts and perceive the personal value of implementing them). Free To Grow grew organically as Alinda responded to requests from business and other organisations to draw out the potential of staff occupying supervisory, middle, and senior management levels. Through her material, Alinda has managed to engender hope and a purpose for existence in many people all over the world as organisational cultures have been repaired, change processes have been executed well and healthy leadership practices have been embedded in the approach of businesses to employees.

One might ask why Alinda, (and her company, Free To Grow), has been so successful – the following factors come to mind:

  • A deep understanding of and compassion for the fragility of the human being
  • Relevance – recognising that which people, business, and communities are experiencing and gearing material and processes to meet the needs of the times
  • A profound grasp of adult learning methodology and its application
  • An ability to simplify complexity and make it practical
  • A reverence for the dignity of the human being, resulting in respectful interactions
  • Personal drive, emanating from a strong sense of purpose
  • Tenacity, perseverance, and resilience in tough times
  • Transparency and openness to feedback

The above character traits and abilities have profoundly impacted Free To Grow’s approach and impacted the company’s success (as the following insert illustrates):

Free To Grow

Alinda Nortje, together with many like-minded and purpose-driven colleagues in Free To Grow, has managed to impact positively the lives of over 108 000 people from 1 400 organisations globally. She is unstoppable. Her latest offering, LEADConnect, is a development journey for managers and supervisors, delivered in 90-minute bites over several months, equipping these leaders with skills and tools to bring their best virtually to their teams, many members of whom work in remote locations.

Alinda’s super-human efforts have resulted in changed lives and international acclaim. Today, Alinda is a leader in the field of Employee Engagement with more than 30 years of experience in the facilitation of learning. Her work has taken her across Africa to Asia and the Middle East, where she has been involved personally in designing large-scale organisation-wide Culture Change and Engagement projects. Alinda’s passion for people, empathy and authenticity enable her to easily connect and build rapport with people across cultures and job levels, making her an excellent facilitator, a role she still relishes. Gifted with an innovative mind, and an innate ability to connect with others, Alinda has designed all of Free To Grow’s programmes and regularly presents at national and international forums on the topic of engagement.

It is a privilege to recognise someone who is alive and still making a huge contribution to humanity. I salute you, Alinda Nortje, for igniting purpose, passion, and potential for growth in so many thousands of people across the globe. Your efforts have had remarkable results and the world is a better place as a result of your contribution.

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