I wonder how many of us know the identity of the richest man who ever lived? Bill Gates? Elon Musk? Genghis Kahn? Jeff Bezos? Estimates are that had he been alive today, he would have been worth more money than the world’s richest top 10 combined. It is said, he would have been worth 3 trillion dollars of today’s money. Think about that for a second. Keeping that thought, let’s move on … I’ll come back to this in a minute!
I spent the December holidays consuming books, as I always do. This time, Raymond Ackerman was my author of choice. We associate his name with Pick n Pay, but in fact he was not its founder. He bought the small store from Jack Goldin in 1967, and built it into the retail powerhouse it is today. Raymond Ackerman (whose father started Ackermans) once worked for Checkers and was fired for being ‘a progressive’. ‘The trouble is,’ he told his bosses at the time, ‘you don’t think like food people. You’re department store people.’ Department stores, of course, soon went the way of the dodo, while ‘food people’ have come to dominate our lives.
What I gained from reading Raymond Ackerman’s three books was an absolute admiration for people who take small things and turn them into big things – people who have vision, guts, a relentless enthusiasm to make waves. The passion it took to build Pick n Pay! I saw that same passion in my grandmother, who founded a small NGO caring for Aids sufferers. She built her small, dedicated organisation into an NGO powerhouse that now employs over 50 people and operates on a budget she might never have imagined.
After losing my grandmother, who was a mother to me, in 2019, at her funeral, people were sharing stories of how great a woman and leader she was. I did not know this about my own grandmother. Well I guess I knew it, I just did not celebrate it.
This is why the South African CSI Legacy Awards, scheduled for 24 February at Summit Place, Pretoria, are such an imperative for me – and for us all. These Awards are not just about some organisation trying to host some event. They are about celebrating the passion, dedication, imagination, creativity, hard work and conquering spirit of one another – and learning from each other.
We need to sit back for a time, find the likes of Raymond Ackerman and others who have such a wealth of knowledge, and learn, appreciate and draw inspiration.
Imagine how much knowledge we as CRSNEWS have acquired from reading the 94 nominations we received for our three categories. These nominations were whittled down to 34 semi-finalists, and now 11 finalists.
We have learned how these organisations sprang into action when Covid-19 hit, how they brought health services to communities, kept schoolchildren up to date with studies, funded workshops with warring factions in KZN after the looting, got Africa’s children engaged in science and maths, developed innovative technological solutions to a range of problems and, of course donated million in emergency relief. Not to mention the hours donated to improving the CSI industry directly, through offering their services as adjudicators and judges in the Awards.
So this February, through the Awards, we celebrate – unashamedly and with enthusiasm – our many amazing corporates and NGOs that have changed the face of the narrative in South Africa.
Our 11 finalists are as follows:
- Reach for A Dream Foundation
- Afrika Tikkun
- Play Africa
- Doctors without Borders
- South African Guide Dogs Association
Best Rising NGO
- Next Generation
- Dream Factory Foundation
- Faded Black Innovation
- Hlalefang Alexandra Chess Club
These are just the 11 who made it to the finals, but on 24 February 2022 we will be celebrating more than these 11 – we will be celebrating each other. We will be looking at the different forms that CSI takes in our amazing country, and we’ll get to say, ‘Wow. Well done.’
What legacy are we leaving?
Our theme for this year’s Awards is ‘A reflection of history’. When we were putting the show together, we asked myself, ‘If we were a CSI Manager in 2060 looking back at CSI in 2022, what would we find?’ This is how we want to approach our work in CSI. What legacy are we leaving – what change are we making, change that will be remembered?
And this is where our richest man who ever lived comes in. Solomon, the great man of wisdom in the Bible, was the richest man who ever lived, known for his wealth as much as for his wisdom. Why is he relevant? Because he was the son of a great man, David. Like him, we are sons and daughters of giants, giants we may never know. We stand on the shoulders of a fledgling CSI industry that really only sprang up in the last 20 years. It is still growing, still maturing. When the CSI manager of 38 years from now looks back, they should see a Solomon, standing on the shoulders of David. They should say, ‘Look at what those CSI Managers accomplished. They changed the course of this country!’
While CSI has a root that goes way back, it can really be our generation that builds an industry of it. And that is what CSI is – a fully fledged industry. It is populated with professional people who are only now beginning to realise the importance of recognising one another, documenting and sharing experiences and in so doing elevating the standards of the industry.
This is how we should see awards like the inaugural South African CSI Legacy Awards. It is our opportunity to come together as an industry, to share, shape, learn and elevate our standards, so that one day, we will look back and say, ‘I truly made a difference.’ We are building an industry, one that deserves a central place in society and is worthy of all the accolades we will be heaping upon it on 24 February at Summit Place, Pretoria – where I hope to see you J.