How do we work together to strengthen our social fabric?

“In an age where community involvement and partnerships with civil society are increasingly being recognised as indispensable, there is clearly a growing potential for cooperative development and renewal worldwide.” Kofi Annan, seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations

It has never been more crucial to strengthen the social fabric of South Africa, but how exactly do we do it? What is needed is a fresh look at how government, civil society, corporates and NPOs can come together to find new and innovative ways of coming alongside our most marginalised communities.

As Social Development Month, celebrated every October, draws to a close, social impact initiative Nation Builder is launching a call for greater collaboration between government, corporates, civil society and NPOs to help the nation recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and move forward.

Keri-Leigh Paschal, executive trustee of Nation Builder, said the real effects of the NPO sector’s struggles were being borne by South Africa’s most vulnerable, with the pandemic seeing a huge increase in the number of unemployed and homeless people.

“The pandemic has highlighted many gaps in the country’s social fabric,” said Paschal

“Unfortunately,  our NPOs, who are actively trying to close many of these gaps, are feeling squeezed as they try to provide support and services to an ever-expanding number of people at the same time that their revenues have decreased.”

However, the pandemic has produced a silver lining – an increased collaboration in the NPO space, said Paschal.

“We have seen more partnerships and joint ventures than ever before as NPOs and the social impact community look to find ways to maximise their impact with limited resources. There have been unprecedented levels of collaboration between the private sector and NPOs this year to understand their shared challenges, and between different NPOs to expand their operations into areas that aren’t traditionally their core strengths.”

A Nation Builder survey conducted in 2020 with more than 870 NPOs painted a picture of increased need, decreased funding and NPOs who had not been able to access any of the various government relief efforts. At the same time, it highlighted the fact that increased social investment, awareness of social issues and changes to funding practices were critical to the long-term future of the sector.

As relief work starts shifting back to a longer-term development focus, with new challenges, needs and funding dynamics, Paschal says collaborative and innovative partnerships will become a part of both NPO and social investors’ future strategies.

“What the pandemic has done is accelerated the move towards some solutions and outcomes that we have needed in the sector for a long time. We’ve seen a lot of innovation coming through in areas like financing and grant-making, and a clear realisation that we can’t carry on doing things the way we have always done them if we’re going to achieve the quantum of  meaningful impact needed,” said Paschal.