Keri-Leigh Paschal is the Executive Trustee of Nation Builder.
South Africa is facing a journey of restoring, repairing and rebuilding society and the economy for some years ahead. Brave solutions between the government, business and civil society are required if the country is to rebuild an inclusive, equitable, prosperous society and economy. This generation must embrace the opportunity granted by the COVID-19 pandemic to renew, change and shape the nation into something robust, beautiful and equitable. Therefore the theme of the 2020 In Good Company Conference was the call for South Africans to ‘Be the Regeneration’.
Robin Chalmers was quoted as saying “Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, yet beautiful at the end.” If one looks back over the past six months one could certainly relate to the beginning and middle of that quote. Overnight norms changed worldwide. No one expected the coronavirus to have such a severe impact but, six months on, the hard realisation has struck of a world changed medically, economically and within the social fabric of the country. However COVID-19 has spotlighted many longstanding realities in the nation’s flawed social landscape. Nation Builder’s burgeoning community of business leaders and Not-for-Profits have been meeting frequently to brainstorm and learn impactful and collaborative ways to solve the country’s most pressing social issues.
“These gatherings have intensified over the COVID-19 period as you can imagine, with many more funders or Not-for-Profits joining these gatherings to hopefully fail-fast, learn quickly, become more agile and identify what works and what doesn’t work, especially in the current climate,” reported Keri-Leigh. Social needs ballooned exponentially since the start of COVID-19 while financial resources decreased due to countrywide economic constraints. This was a catalyst to some incredible cross sector collaborations which are having way more impact than could have been achieved alone.
Over the two days of the conference there were discussions on how to rebuild the economy, reconstruct a just and thriving society and ways suggested to ‘build back better’. Views were challenged and insights gained into how to engage with social development. Recognition was given to remarkable people whose innovative social change practices are an example to all. Medical and psychological issues were addressed, for the nation relies on the physical and emotional well-being of the people.
On the first day Dr Caroline Leaf explained about the effects of prolonged emotional trauma which most South African’s have experienced in their lives. She also explained how to build the resilience required in overcoming the challenges faced in these times. Experienced doctors explained the science of regeneration and why personal health impacts on the well-being of communities. The power of partnership and sustainable impact was the next topic, followed by advice on successful impact management reporting. Lastly the problem of the trust deficit within the fabric of this country rounded off the morning.
The second day of the conference dealt with economic issues as insights on the formal economy were gained from GG Alcock. Patrick Kuwana explained how the economic foundation could be reconstructed in a just and equitable manner, then a panel of entrepreneurs inspired everyone with innovative ideas and employment opportunities. Another panel of experts discussed the link between the green economy and social impact. This was followed by Daniel Silke, a leading political economist, speaking about the choices and challenges South Africa faces.
Dr Michael Mol and Minah Koela were the hosts who most ably steered the conference throughout. Keri-Leigh thanked the generous sponsors Zutari, Momentum Metropolitan, V&A Waterfont in Cape Town, Fairtree and Mergon as their support allowed for the proceeds of the Conference to be donated to the GAP Fund. This is a crisis fund established by Mergon which aims to assist those Not-for-Profits whose resources are reduced while calls from the most vulnerable for assistance have increased. Since March over R7,000,000 has been raised and more than 90 grants awarded. This is another way in which South African businesses and social impact organisations were and are working together to ‘Be the Regeneration’.
“In closing,” concluded Keri-Leigh, “2020 has been a year that will definitely go down in the history books… The upheaval that COVID-19 has caused in South Africa and the world over has actually afforded us an opportunity to truly shape our country in a post-COVID- world. Let us grab it with both hands and be the generation… that ‘Builds Back Better’.”
This welcome speech was presented at Nation Builder’s 6th annual In Good Company conference (September 2020) which looked at “building back better”.