’Without a vision, the people perish,’ says Proverbs 29:18. A vision is what keeps a business evergreen, like the water that flows beneath a tall tree, nourishing it, keeping it fresh and alive.
The World Economic Forum reports that South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. The irony is that we have the biggest, most active CSI sector in Africa, certainly as big as many in developed countries. Why, then, are we having so little impact?
Our contention is that as a sector, CSI lacks a vision, a burning sense of where we’re going, and a mission, or set of goals, to get us there.
To illustrate the value of a clear vision:
A classic study of the 1960s* followed ten high school graduates over ten years. Six said that they had a vision and four did not. Of the six who did, only two wrote them down. After ten years, the four who had no vision at all were in low-paying jobs, fat, divorced or unhappy; the four that had a vision but failed to write it down were partially successful, and the two who had committed their vision to paper were leading corporations along the lines of Microsoft and IBM.
A vision is not something ephemeral or meaningless. It is a clear image of what you want and aim to achieve, and your mission tells the world (and yourself) how you intend to get there.
We believe that CSI as a sector needs both an overall vision of the future and a set of concrete objectives – updateable from time to time – for fulfilling that vision.
Creating a vision
Chinese and Japanese CEOs are known for having long-term visions for their companies. The founder of Matsushita, the parent company of Panasonic, was said to have had a 700-year plan for his company, which would unfold in the ‘seven ages’ Matsushita. While few companies would go to that extreme, they do tend to think longer term than we do.
In South Africa, we are taught to think in terms of five- to ten-year visions, if we have a vision at all. At the same time, most start-ups fail within two years, and few are around ten years later. Reasons for their failure are legion, but lack of a clear vision is the foundation of them all. Without a clear vision, an identify never forms; without an identity, the business lacks a sense of its place in the market, its unique proposition and its target market. Everything collapses, because everything is vague.
Vision is key. Vision needs to be dwelt upon, formulated over time, and woven into everything we do, whether we’re an individual, a business or a sector.
CSRNEWS has developed a vision for the next 30 years: To improve the practice of CSI in a changing South Africa. One of our objectives for fulfilling this vision is to see the South African CSI industry establishing its own development goals. Currently, CSI departments work in isolation from one another, and goals change from year to year. This weakens our impact. The task in front of us is huge, encompassing health, education, housing, entrepreneurship and more. We rarely get together to discover what others are doing, and how we might leverage off of one another for maximum impact. We aim to see that change.
To improve the practice of CSI in a changing South Africa, CSI needs
- commitment to a set of common development goals
- collaboration on projects
- relevant, up-to-date information on the CSI sector
A vision like this needs partners – partners who commit to milestones of at least ten year meetings. True vision, with the right tools in place, can achieve incredible programmes and impact lives across the board.
*We stand to be corrected about the date.