Nicole joined AECI Limited, a public company listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE Limited), as the Group CSI manager in 2015. The company comprises of various entities in chemicals, water, food and security, property and more. In her CSI-role, Nicole manages 3 social impact funds and oversees the corporate’s social responsibility across 22 countries.
One of the initiatives incorporated in her portfolio is Oliver’s Village. At the time she began her journey at AECI, the village relied on charitable donations. However, having a strong belief in the value and potential seated in each individual, she began to see a greater vision to empower the village to become self-sustainable and self-empowering. Nicole explored the various expertise and resources available to her throughout the network of the company. She began the process of raising the village from dependency to a well-established circular economy through strategic partnerships.
After identifying touchpoints with enabling business entities and employees, Nicole mined the pool of available resources and established a living, social circuit connecting relevant business partners with people on the ground. Reaching and touching at the source of the need. This ignited the spark that shone on instilling social purpose, furthering the connection between the corporate environment and other fellow humans. These relationships would see the village become completely self-sustained and achieve its now off-the-grid status.
Under Nicole’s leadership, the impact began unfolding, firstly with the enhancement of the playground area for the 200-child strong ECD centre. It developed further with the implementation of a waste-to-energy management system that resulted in powering the existing soup kitchen and compost generation for vegetable gardens. In collaboration with agriculture and water entities, a poultry farm and food gardens were established with underground water harvesting systems and rainwater catchment technologies. Currently the entire 12-hectare village is sustained in this way. Its success stretches beyond their gates to the surrounding communities.
Solar panels were installed to power the educational centre as well as the provided 400+ computers available to students in the community who desire to improve their skills. The negative impact of loadshedding is not felt by these learners who can now continue their studies without any electricity supply disruptions. Despite power outages, the soup kitchen, bakery and education centres with its own power generating capability can now continue to function without interruption.
In the space of 8 years, the village has grown to support 400-500 beneficiaries on a daily basis. Walking this journey with the beneficiaries has been crucial to ensure vision readiness and ownership. It demanded a delicate balance between passion and patience.
The credibility and success of this programme has set a high standard to which businesses in the industries have responded to by coming on board and continuing their contributions to the vision. The strength of this vision will see many synergies and partnerships being formed, supporting Nicole’s philosophy of being stronger together.