The problems that beset communities in South Africa – poverty, inequality, and rising unemployment are endemic, to which we can add that climate change poses a very real and alarming threat. These issues are reaching crisis proportions, affecting mental wellness on a large scale and infusing a sense of hopeless and desperation into communities. Many lack the social cohesion that safeguarded communities of the past.
Corporates and NGOs are, in many cases, far more involved in attempting to solve the social and economic challenges we face than are local municipalities. There is still a great deal to be done in coordinating and focusing the work of the private sector, but concern and a sense of moral obligation is high among our corporates – far higher than in any other African country. The problem is that many initiatives are still ad hoc and short lived. Few corporates have a clear sense of vision and direction, and a commitment to projects that lasts five, ten or even twenty years. This is the level of commitment required to effect real change, along with a depth of engagement that we rarely see. Some corporates have got it right. Generally, these are companies that do the groundwork over a year or two, collaborate and consult widely, and work hand in glove with government departments and many other stakeholders.
CSRNEWS works behind the scenes to help corporates manage their CSI contribution – from formulating the vision, to devising the strategy, connecting with the most appropriate implementing partner/s, and monitoring and evaluating the work. We can assist at a variety of levels, with our expertise relied upon as a guide or an overall manager of the project, depending on preference and circumstances.
Why are we the best people to do this? Because we have years of experience in CSI as an industry. Our team knows South African CSI deeply; we have both the bird’s eye view and the in-depth knowledge of social and geographical priorities, community structures and histories. We know what has worked where, and why – and most importantly, we know what is likely to fizzle out and fail.
Building better communities means understanding how communities work, from the micro level – the family unit, in whatever form it may take – to the street or immediate neighbourhood, to a cluster of neighbourhoods, to the town or city. Each larger unit has micro communities within it – schools, social entities such as stokvels, local non-profits, gangs, churches and neighbourhood watches. Digital communities exist at all of these levels and beyond.
Effecting real change means knowing the entities that make up a community and working hand in hand with all stakeholders, after due process. In building better communities, we have to know the structures that exist and find ways to work with them. They may function at various levels of efficacy, and have a variety of strengths and weaknesses, yet all must be acknowledged and included.
CSRNEWS works in the background to build better communities by strengthening the arms that do the work. The corporates and NGOs are the active partners, but we guide and inform them, shaping how campaigns are run, bringing partners together and giving creative impetus to fledgling ideas.
Over the years we have engaged in a number of projects:
- Bringing corporates and NGOs together for maximum impact
- Assisting corporates to devise, run and report on CSI projects
- Running digital campaigns to raise awareness on a variety of topics
- Publishing thought leadership pieces on South African CSI
- Running the annual South African CSI Legacy Awards
Through our foundation, The Given Group Foundation, we also
- manage companies’ CSI budgets
- manage companies CSI projects
- engage directly in giving projects of our own
The vision of building better communities can and is being realised by some incredible NGOs, each with its own strengths and challenges. Our experience shows that when expertise, an in-depth knowledge of community structures and a united approach by many stakeholders is coupled with creativity and fresh, up-to-date ideas, inroads can be made in bringing about vibrant, cohesive and hopeful communities.