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A renewed focus on partnership and collaboration

With the haze of COVID-19 gradually lifting, early 2022 was an opportune time to pause and reflect on Nation Builder’s contribution and how best to position it to offer even greater support to the development sector in the season ahead.

A host of social stressors had been added to South Africa’s landscape over the past few years, due to the effects of COVID-19, riots, floods, loadshedding, rising unemployment and more. For South Africa’s social development sector and the country at large to cope with these massive challenges, it was clear to practitioners and grassroots leaders alike that greater collaboration was needed.

With this in mind, the Nation Builder community turned to the pressing question at hand: how could we adjust our approach and work together more effectively to see our impact go further?

The current landscape

Key people from the Nation Builder community were invited to gather regionally to discuss the current development landscape and envision a new season of impact for Nation Builder. A blend of social investors, NPOs and consultants, all of whom had walked a close road with Nation Builder over the years, reflected on the value of Nation Builder’s contribution to the social investment sector thus far, and then took time to consider what would most support the sector in 2023 and beyond.

Emily Wilkes, community manager at Nation Builder commented, ‘We knew that we needed to find ways to multiply impact. Trialogue had reported in its Business in Society Handbook 2022  that total CSI expenditure was R10.9 billion which represented a 6% nominal and an almost zero percent real change from the previous year’s spend. Going forward, ‘more would need to be achieved with less’ – greater collective impact would be required throughout the sector.’

In KwaZulu-Natal, as detailed in the Nation Builder blog post entitled Partnering in Crisis – The KwaZulu-Natal story, corporates, individuals and NPOs had pulled together to capitalise on shared resources, skills and experience, during the civil unrest in 2021. This is such a beautiful example of how collaboration and partnership can result in multiplied impact to address challenges too large to tackle alone.  

It is therefore clear that collaboration and partnership are essential in the season ahead, where our challenges may feel like Goliath at times.

Building a vision

With this context in mind, we asked: what needs to shift in our current season that will facilitate growth and greater community participation in the next? The overwhelming consensus was that we needed to focus on increased community ownership, mobilisation, and decentralised working groups

As a result, the work of Nation Builder will become more regionally focused in 2023, with each regional community taking ownership of driving context specific initiatives and bringing local organisations together in their area, whilst retaining the benefits of having a national footprint.

“Nation Builder has always prioritised stimulating constructive engagement between for-profit and non-profit entities, as opposed to the traditional siloed approach to problem solving, and we realised that formalising local ecosystems would allow us to bring all the role players around the table. Here, we could work towards ” said Wilkes.

Meyer Conradie, CEO of Mosaic and Wellbi, and a Nation Builder Task Team member, summed up this new vision when saying: ‘This decentralising move to a community-led and regionally-based community will enable higher levels of trust, as people interact and partner locally, and will lead to greater impact at a grassroots level, where challenges desperately need to be addressed.’

The way forward

The Nation Builder community has entered this new year with a real sense of excitement around what the next chapter holds, with local champions having volunteered to lead the work of nation building within each region, and so many people having raised their hands to volunteer their time and expertise to take Nation Builder forward.

There are currently collaborative working groups in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, and the Western Cape – with more regional groups being anticipated. Be sure to reach out to us should you want to join an existing group or start a working group in your region.

You don’t want to miss out as these are going to be highly impactful working groups in the year ahead.

Wilkes concluded, ‘We envisage these local ecosystems decreasing resource duplication in a time where every cent counts, and we look forward to them providing an emphasis on the development of community-led programmes, where the needs of the community are prioritised.’

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A Mergon initiative, Nation Builder has actively encouraged a culture of social investment and promoted best-practice in the social development sector for over a decade, motivated by the firm belief that every business can be a powerful vehicle for change.