Three steps to release local funding

FiftyFour: Three steps to release local funding | Mergon

As a ministry or non-profit leader, what comes to mind when you hear the word, fundraising? UK-based fundraiser and consultant, Redina Kolaneci, inspires us to think of it, not as a daunting or onerous task, but as something deeply fulfilling and dynamic along your organisation’s journey.

With over 20 years of experience, Redina has worked alongside ministries to grow their funding and foster healthy donor relationships around the globe. Recently, her focus has shifted to understanding the dynamics of local giving, including the challenges and opportunities presented in scripture, to engage the local community as active participants in our ministries’ impact.

Recently, FiftyFour, an online learning platform for growing healthy organisations developed in collaboration with Mergon, Maclellan and 3W Foundations, focussed on fundraising during their April live learning event. Here is an overview of Redina’s talk entitled ‘Three steps to releasing local funding’.

Why local giving matters

‘Who makes up the bulk of your funding streams?’ Redina asks. ‘For several organisations, their donors consist of only a few wealthy individuals, or a foundation or church – a handful of generous givers that financially back the mission.’ While their support is vital, Redina argues that relying so heavily on few external sources can pose a serious risk to the organisation’s longevity and impact. ‘Even the most generous ministries have to scale back from time to time,’ she says. ‘What happens if a major donor withdraws their giving? Very often, a ministry is set back for years when this happens – or is even unable to continue altogether.’

 The solution, she suggests, is in diversifying your income streams, and particularly growing a culture of local giving. Engaging the local community is not only critical for organisational stability, Redina argues, but is good for the community as well.

She states, ‘By inviting local believers to respond to local needs, we offer them an opportunity to love and care for their neighbours. Generosity builds and strengthens community, sharing in a common burden for the poor and needy. Giving locally helps us put our faith in action – going beyond mere words and expressing God’s love for our neighbours in deed.’

Having explained why local funding matters both financially and biblically, Redina now shares three steps to nurture and release it.

1. Focus on the people in front of you

Redina shares, ‘From my experience, most mission organisations tend to assume that money will come from outside, from people they don’t know. However, you cannot expect people on the other side of the world to take an interest in someone they’ve never met or somewhere they don’t know. If you want to grow local funding, I encourage you to open your eyes and see the people that God has already put around you.’ Referencing Acts 1:8, Redina urges us not to ‘look to the “ends of the earth” for ministry support but rather to start with our own backyard. More specifically, she says, ‘start with the local church’.

‘It’s through the church that we can find our greatest support: Individuals who buy into the vision. Volunteers who embrace the work and become ambassadors in the community. Businesspeople who serve as strategic partners. People who pray and befriend you on the journey.’

Redina reminds us, however, that partnership goes both ways; while the local church can support the ministry, reciprocally, the ministry has an opportunity to support the church. She urges leaders to ‘get out there’, visiting and praying with church leaders, and learning how your mission or ministry can get behind their activities. ‘As you contribute and bless them, they will bless you in return; they’ll contribute to your mission work.’

2. Tell compelling stories, ask, thank and report back

‘Over the years’, Redina says, ‘I’ve discovered that people are not moved by programmes; they want to witness lives being transformed. They want to see how a child who was once living in poverty and hopelessness is now thriving, attending school, and learning about Jesus. They want to hear how a woman who had cataracts in her eyes can now see and rebuild her life – or how someone, previously unfamiliar with their own language, can now read. They’re not really interested in all the steps you take to get there or the acronyms associated with these steps; they want to be moved by stories.’

According to Redina, there are four core elements of every good fundraising story. ‘Firstly, the story must speak to the need in a powerful, emotive way. It then demonstrates how your involvement is a solution to the problem. A good story invites others to be a part of the journey, whether through financial giving, prayers, or physical participation. And lastly, it emphasises the urgency of the matter – clearly communicating why it’s so important to give now and not “next time”.’

Once a person has given, Redina reminds us to be prompt, personal and creative in thanking them. ‘Don’t wait weeks after their donation to contact them – do it ideally within 24 or 48 hours of making a gift.’ she says. ‘Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “giving to God” is sufficient and doesn’t warrant expressed gratitude. Everyone enjoys being thanked and recognised for their contribution, feeling that their support has made a difference.’

Lastly, Redina emphasises the importance of regularly updating donors on the impact of their contributions, whether through newsletters, e-updates, videos, or other preferred communication channels. ‘Reporting can happen straight away, but it also can happen maybe six months from now. There’s nothing more rewarding than being able to show donors the school, the hospital, the community centre – tangible outputs that their generosity has made possible.’

3. Be accountable and transparent

Accountability and trust are especially key factors within the local context. Redina explains that unlike a foundation from abroad that is satisfied to receive a few photos, local churches and believers can directly witness the impact and assess whether words and actions are aligned.

To foster trust and credibility, Redina recommends that leaders maintain an ‘open door’ policy concerning financial reporting, ensuring transparency within their financial management and accountability structures. She also suggests being proactive in communicating how and where your funds are being used. Hosting open days, for example, invites accountability and welcomes the local community to come and see the work firsthand.

Redina concludes the discussion by encouraging leaders to share their stories with others because ‘fundraising, when done well, can be the catalyst for connecting God’s people with His purposes’. She adds, ‘Applying these steps consistently will help grow your local support, inspiring others to join in the joy of giving.’

FiftyFour is an online learning and capacity-building platform designed to guide leaders towards growing healthy organisations. It offers a variety of tools, courses, and peer learning events, designed to strengthen leaders and organisations in nine essential areas. This Live Learning session is just one aspect of the support available, specifically focussing on ‘funding’. To watch the full event and explore all that FiftyFour has to offer, free of charge, visit www.fiftyfourcollective.com and register today.

Four (un)common ways of exiting

Four (un)common ways of exiting | The Magnificent Exit by Neil Hart

‘Have you ever thought about preparing for your future leadership handoff?’ writes head of Mergon Foundation’s Neil Hart in his book, ‘The Magnificent Exit: Mastering the Art of Leadership Transitions’.

Over 11 succinct chapters, he examines the art of leadership handovers: the transition from one senior leader to an upcoming leader or team. A critical juncture in the organisation’s journey, which ideally should be invigorating and propulsive, he argues, is all too often marked by inertia, stagnation, or lack of vision on the part of senior leadership. ‘How can we do this better?’, he asks of us.

Drawing from the scriptures, Neil proposes a biblical pattern for raising leaders, rooted in the example that Christ left for us to follow. Working alongside global leaders across several continents, Neil also gleans insights from their journeys, recognising the individual path each leader takes. ‘There is no one-size-fits-all approach and no instruction manual to leadership transitions,’ he writes, emphasising that leadership is ’more an art than a science.’

With these insights and his own experiences at hand, Neil identifies four core attributes of leaders who have learnt how to foster vision in others and ensure organisational continuity beyond their tenure. Below is a condensed overview of what Neil considers to be:

Four (un)common ways of exiting

1. A vision for the greater good

‘The first uncommon approach I observed in leaders who transition well comes from having a clear vision beyond themselves for leading the organization,’ Neil writes. ‘It’s a vision above the norm of leaders who are generally gifted to see into the growth path of the organization. Critically, these leaders see the organization thriving without themselves in the picture.’

‘Healthy leaders know their role in an organization as part of its ongoing lifespan, with a clear beginning and ending to their involvement. It’s almost as if they’re able to detach their personal value and involvement from the organization’s value and lifespan, seeing themselves as an actor playing an important scene on stage and knowing when to exit so the other actors can carry on without them.’

‘Perhaps your role is to pioneer so that another can come in to settle. Maybe you carry the baton for a season, but you hold it lightly enough to easily pass it to the next leader. Maybe your leadership role is to come in to calm the storms inside and to direct the mission. Once your job is done, do you have another assignment ready? Either way, healthy leaders have a vision beyond themselves for the sake of the organization, its people, and the community.’

2. A prophetic word and timing

‘Wise leaders take time regularly to listen to God,’ Neil continues. ‘They display humility, knowing that the Lord can see from the beginning to the end and is better able to pinpoint the right transitional moment. Many successful transitions are kicked into gear by a prophetic word or a “sense of God’s timing” from a leader who listens to God. Nothing is more effective than a leader hearing from the Lord. God knows how to direct us, and his timing is absolutely perfect.’

He refers to ‘three lights’ that line up when making a big decision. ‘These lights can be likened to a plane coming in to land and needing clear visuals to set down on the runway,’ he explains. They are:

      1. The word of the Lord (prophetic, vision, Scripture, etc.)
      2. The timing of the Lord
      3. The peace of the Lord

‘I’ve found that these three factors may come days or months apart; but to move with just one light missing can mean landing on the edge, or even off the runway, sometimes with disastrous consequences,’ says Neil. ‘I believe that God gives us all three lights when he is ready. I’ve also found that our sense of timing and his are often very different, so we often get this one wrong.

‘Lastly,’ he adds, ‘I’ve learned to rely on the peace of God to rest on a decision before moving, even when the other two lights are already there. Though they come in no particular order, all three are important before action can take place.’

3. A greenhouse for growing people

‘For some rare leaders, growing people is not a means to an end; it is a core focus. These kinds of leaders arrive at a transition mainly because there are so many well-mentored younger leaders around them that it’s impossible to not hand over. And it’s a joy for leaders to do so because of what they’ve invested into the character and competence of others. In an environment where younger leaders are being raised up, the ground for smooth and timely handover is prepared, both in the leader’s heart and mind as well as the team. This is the climate for healthy transitions.’

‘Leaders who grow people speak of the importance of observing possible up-and-coming leaders. They make time for them and open up personal space to be near enough to observe their character rather than just their skill — to watch them in those more subtle moments when they display their humility, or the lack thereof,’ writes Neil.

4. An inbuilt multiplication DNA

‘Those who take this approach are individuals who see leadership as an opportunity to multiply impact,’ he writes. ‘Their position allows for greater facilitation of expansive growth. They take up leadership roles because by doing so they can better foster a philosophy of giving away rather than holding onto power. They create organizations that release power as quickly as most others try to consolidate it. This characteristic of releasing power is highly counterintuitive. In short, multiplication is built into their leadership DNA.’

‘Multiplication DNA leaders think often about when they have to leave, not if they have to leave. They trust that God will send the right people to them who will rise up and exceed their own talents. When they find these people, they put them to work. Intentional about one-on-one leadership training, they pour practical experience into these emerging leaders and cast a vision for a movement rather than an organization.

They seldom go anywhere without taking young leaders with them. They teach by example and make up-and-comings do the work. Often, they’re not leaders you find front and center, but the ones who model, encourage, mentor, equip, and hold others accountable to make the vision practical. Multiplication DNA leaders easily celebrate small victories. They recognize and reward behavior because they know that if they do this, it will be repeated. These leaders are secure in their identities: they know who they are and what they are called to achieve.’

‘You may find yourself in one of these four approaches to transition or a combination of them,’ says Neil. ‘Your outlook is what matters. How you view the transition before you get there will ensure a successful transition.’ He suggests asking yourself some questions:

    1. Can I see the future of this organization without me? Does it look healthy? If not, what do I need to do now to ensure that future health?
    2. Has the Lord spoken to me anything about handing over that I haven’t fully paid attention to? Am I paying careful and regular attention to what the Lord is saying to me about transition?
    3. Am I growing younger leaders around me? Can I envisage them taking over and even doing a better job? What do I need to do to get them to that point?
    4. Am I cultivating an inbuilt DNA of multiplication? Can I see one leader and one organization becoming ten leaders and ten organizations? What will it take to move from addition to multiplication of impact?

‘Wise leaders envisage a future organization without them leading it. They do this near the earliest stages of their leadership and implement whatever is necessary to make it a reality.’

If you would like to read more about raising up leaders and mastering the art of leadership transitions, order your copy here.

Mertech Marine: an underwater environmental solution

Mertech Marine: an underwater environmental solution

An investee company of Mergon, Mertech Marine has been pioneering and innovating turnkey solutions to the submarine telecommunication industry since 2004. Today they are considered the world leader in this particular field. This article highlights how the company is contributing to the circular economy with creative solutions for environmental sustainability, emphasising a core belief for Mergon: that business can serve as a powerful force for good.

Mertech Marine: an underwater environmental solution

When we think of the internet, our thoughts tend to ascend upward, to images of cyberspace and satellites. But the reality is, the cloud is under the sea. Across our oceans’ seabed lie a planetary system of undersea cables – an interconnected web of over 1 million kilometres worth of fibre optic pipelines facilitating our global connectivity. Each cable, as thick as a garden hose, carries hundreds of terabits of information per second. These cables comprise a state-of-the-art technological design that sits kilometres deep, relatively undeterred by weather and connecting our continents at the speed of light.

But the system has its vulnerabilities to disruption. Cables break, whether it be from external aggression caused by human activity such as fishing or general abrasion over time. Not only do cables suffer wear and tear, they need to be laid at a breakneck pace to meet the global appetite of our 21st-century digital world.

‘To meet the demand for high-speed connectivity, every year thousands of kilometers of brand-new cables are being laid, often crossing existing cables and cable routes. This congestion of cables in some areas increases the risk of a break due to abrasion of one cable on top of another,’ says Alwyn du Plessis, CEO of Mertech Marine. Although these cables occupy a minute amount of space on the vast ocean floor and have been shown to be benign in terms of environmental impact, you can imagine that if you extrapolate that over the next 50-100 years, there will be a lot of cable down there. Taking a holistic view and considering a wide range of factors in each instance such as environmental, sustainability, economical and cable security, clearing up as much of these cables as possible makes a lot of sense.’

Since 2004, Mertech Marine has been at the forefront of innovating the recovery and recycling of out-of-service telecommunications cables. Using their own marine fleet, the company has recovered and recycled in excess of 100,000 km of out-of-service cable at their land-based processing facility in South Africa, which comprises 30,000 sqm, the only one of its kind in the world.

Today Mertech Marine is recognised to be a pioneer and world leader in turnkey solutions in submarine cable recovery and recycling, particularly in shore-end projects where cables crisscross and converge as they approach landfall. Mertech Marine is uniquely positioned to safely remove these redundant cables with greater efficiency and affordability by combining these often expensive shallow water projects with deep-sea recovery operations.

Mertech Marine is also playing its part in the circular economy.

There’s an incredible opportunity to make a meaningful, large-scale contribution to the green economy here,’ says Alwyn. ‘Although these cables are no longer operable, they should never be seen as waste. They’re packed with raw materials that can be repurposed and circulated back into the economy.’

He explains: ‘Consider the carbon footprint companies leave by conventional mining of virgin plastics, copper and steel, and then manufacturing these materials into marketable commodities. Now consider how much lighter the carbon load could be if these materials could be ‘recovered from the sea’ and regenerated as new, value-add products on the market.’

Through significant investment of its shareholders and years of research and development, Mertech Marine’s unique process of recovery and dismantling these out-of-services cables has proven to avoid greenhouse gas emissions when compared to mining virgin material from ore. Their Port Elizabeth facility is ISO14001:2015 accredited and a fundamental part of their mission is to find environmentally friendly and sustainable solutions toward recycling these cables. ‘We not only supply quality components to the copper, polyethylene, steel and aluminium industries all over Africa – we do it in an environmentally sustainable way,’ says Alwyn.

Mertech Marine has found their anchor in world class innovation and sustainable design. It’s a model that Alwyn sees as ‘part of our responsibility as businesses in today’s changing world’.

‘We have to move from linear to circular thinking in our businesses, finding innovative ways to generate value from the resources we already have. The sooner we can make the shift to a circular economy in our businesses, the greater advantage we’ll have in the long run.’

Mertech Marine is an investee company of Mergon. To read more about Mertech Marine visit https://mertechmarine.co.za.

For every tribe and tongue: the vital role of Bible translation

For every tribe and tongue: the vital role of Bible translation

About 5.9 billion people now have access to the full Bible in their own language. This is something we can easily take for granted, especially when we realise that there are still more than 1.5 billion people who do not have the full Bible in their heart languages.

Of the 7,000+ languages spoken around the world, more than 3,500 have little to no scripture. In fact, 1,200 people groups (roughly 220 million people) do not have a single verse of the Bible in their heart language, while 51% of the world’s languages still have no scripture at all. These aren’t just numbers; they represent millions of individuals without the word of God.

Challenges and triumphs: navigating the translation journey

The process of Bible translation involves more than just words – it requires patience, time and cultural sensitivity. Each people group and culture is unique and people engage with the Bible in different ways. Many of the people groups that don’t yet have the Bible in their heart language live in oral cultures where history, stories and other information have always been passed down verbally. This means that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to Bible translation.

To navigate this journey successfully, Bible translation organisations must demonstrate agility and creativity in their approach. While the specific processes may vary between organisations, they typically involve assembling and empowering locally led translation teams. These teams are provided with clearly defined time frames, objectives, milestones, and budgets for their work.

Initially, translators analyse a passage for its meaning and then draft it in their language. Subsequently, they collaborate to scrutinise each verse for accuracy and clarity. The translated scripture is then shared with the community for feedback, aiming to enhance both clarity and accuracy. Additionally, the draft undergoes translation ‘back’ into the language of wider communication, enabling non-native consultants to assess its accuracy. The final step would be for translators to carefully proofread and typeset, or record, a final version of the completed scripture.

Stories of transformation

Though the process of Bible translation is cerebral and systematical, the practical outworking is lives and communities being transformed.

There are countless stories of hope and transformation because the word of God is being shared in people’s heart languages. Seed Company shares the story of a woman in Asia named Rehka who for the first time heard about Sarah and Abraham and how they waited on God for a child. As a result of hearing the story in her heart language, she was not only released from shame because she had no children after seven years of marriage, but she realised that her hope was in God, not in whether or not she would ever have children. She began to understand the possibility of a spiritual family and the way in which all who believe in Jesus become descendants of Abraham. Even in the face of mocking neighbours, she clung to the hope that anything is possible for God. She found joy, and she persisted in asking God for a child.

Pray for Zero shares about a man named Berki in Ethiopia’s Omo Valley who took a stand years ago to follow Christ, even as his family threatened his life. Passionate about sharing what he had learnt from God’s word, he would ride his bicycle from village to village, sharing Bible stories one-on-one. Because they knew he was one of them, his fellow Hamer people felt comfortable around him. ‘I know that God called me for his purposes,’ says Berki, who is now helping to translate oral Bible stories and then sharing them in his Hamar language.

Another inspiring story by Seed Company is about a reverend and translation reviewer in Ethiopia who recalled his wife’s reaction when she listened to scripture in her heart language for the first time. She was weeping, asking ‘Why have you never told me how Jesus Christ died?’ Despite hearing the story dozens of times in Amharic and Ge’ez, his wife had never fully comprehended the crucifixion story. ‘Amharic is for the educated,’ he explained. ‘My wife, like most women in our community, is illiterate. Only a few girls go to school, and priority is given to boys. Ge’ez, on the other hand, is for ministers. We have many ancient religious writings, including the scriptures in Ge’ez. Trained ministers are expected to recite these writings, whether we know their meanings or not.’

Like this woman, many Xamtanga speakers have trouble understanding the Bible in Amharic and Ge’ez. They’re desperate for scripture in their own language. Thankfully, in 2019, the first-ever Xamtanga Bible — a full New Testament — was made available.

Engaging in the mission

In the pursuit of ensuring that the word of God reaches every corner of the earth, we have the opportunity to keep going so that ‘every tribe and tongue’ can eventually have access to scripture in their own language. It is something that requires our collective action and commitment. As Brother Andrew of Open Doors said, ‘The word of God needs to saturate our minds if we want to know and follow God’s will.’ But for those who are unable to read or comprehend it because of a language barrier, the path to spiritual growth according to God’s truth remains obstructed.

The establishment of initiatives like LuminAfrica in 2020 represents a significant step forward in this endeavour. Through collaborative efforts between South African Bible translation organisations and local resource partners, LuminAfrica is dedicated to closing the gap between those who have access to the Bible, and those who don’t. By supporting translation projects and facilitating partnerships with organisations such as the Bible Society of South Africa, Biblica, The Word for the World, and Hands with Words, among others, LuminAfrica is driving meaningful change in the landscape of Bible translation.

On a broader scale, as we unite in prayer through initiatives like Pray for Zero, we support Bible translators who often face religious, governmental and spiritual opposition.

As we read and listen to the word of God, let’s remember that Bible translation will always be a goal worth pursuing as there is still a vast number of believers who haven’t yet experienced the joy of having it in their heart languages.

Called to Work: stories of African entrepreneurs

Ziwani Called to Work: stories of African entrepreneurs

There’s nothing like the power of storytelling. Stories inspire, and help us envision our lives not just as they are, but as they could be. When someone tells their story, and God is at the centre of it, more often we discover something of our own story too. Africa has always embraced storytelling as a means of tying one generation to the next, a thread connecting culture and wisdom over centuries. Across its rich cultural tapestry are countless stories that give expression to the unique innovation, creativity and dynamic spirit of its people, particularly in the marketplace.

Ziwani’s passion has always been to capture these narratives and bring them to life. That’s why we are thrilled about our latest series ‘Called to Work: Stories of African Entrepreneurs – an 8-part video series documenting the lives of entrepreneurs across the African continent who have walked incredible faith journeys in the African marketplace. Alongside their personal stories, we unpack the biblical principles shaping their journey, providing viewers with theological perspectives to apply in their daily lives and marketplace realities. Says Ziwani’s Sibs Sibanda, ‘This video series follows in the African tradition, as entrepreneurs tell their stories and testify to what God can do through ordinary men and women in business.’

The inspiration behind the ‘Called to Work’ series

When launched in 2021, Ziwani primarily served as a knowledge hub, with dedicated content focussed on the integration of faith and work. Gradually as a strategic community of peers and advisors formed, the team was able to ask more targeted questions around how best to support business leaders in the ‘trenches’ of African entrepreneurship? What do African business leaders need to live out their callings, with excellence, joy and feeling well equipped?

From this question, different focus areas were identified – one of which being the need to present relatable and authentic stories of Africans, for Africans. ‘There was an evident gap in representation and relevance when it came to Christian business content,’ says Ziwani head Keri-Leigh Paschal. ‘Africa is unique in its marketplace contexts, and we wanted to capture some of the stories that give expression to this uniqueness; stories that mirror the lived reality of our dynamic and distinctive continent.’

With this end in mind, Ziwani collaborated with ecosystem partner, Faith Driven Entrepreneur – adapting their existing foundation series to suit the an African context. After three years of travel and filming across the continent, Called to Work came to life. A project that champions the power of partnership, the Called to Work series aims to resonate with leaders across sub-Saharan Africa, passionate about faith and business, and eager to learn from peers who understand the realities and roads they navigate.

‘Over time it’s become clear that these videos were created, not just to ‘fill a gap’ in our content,’ said Ziwani’s producer of the series, Lise-Marie Keyser. ‘These rich stories allow other African entrepreneurs to see their own story inside them – the shared challenges, fears, faith and aspirations. Being part of the production team, spending time in homes and around tables filming these inspiring stories, was an incredible privilege. The fact that each person gave us access, not only to their expertise and insights but to their very lives, speaks to their heart of generosity and true partnership.’

What the Called to Work series entails

Each session consists of two videos – one teaching session and one testimony video. The teaching sessions, hosted by Sibs Sibanda and Roedolf Botha, delve into the theology and fundamental principles underpinning entrepreneurship. At the same time, the testimony videos breathe life into these very principles through the authentic experiences of entrepreneurs in various African contexts, from South, East and West Africa.

Accompanying the video series is a thoughtfully designed resource guide to navigate through the sessions. This guide, packed with reflective questions, invites participants to reflect on the core principles discussed and envision how these insights can be integrated into their business practices and industry landscapes.

‘The series caters to various audiences, including the church community,’ adds Keri-Leigh. ‘Our hope is that it can serve as a valuable resource for small group discussions. The accessibility of the series also makes it an ideal platform for fellow congregants and peers to go through the material together, exploring what it means to be called to the marketplace. We believe these videos, along with the accompanying biblical teaching, will equip every Christian to take steps towards living out what you feel God has called you specifically to do from Monday to Saturday.’

The stories inside the series

The series spans diverse landscapes, encompassing not only different geographical regions but also a broad spectrum of industries. Topics are clear and applicable, filled with faith lessons that have been forged in the furnace of life experience.

Nelson Ashitiva, for example, speaks to the concept of loving your neighbour through business. Rising from a one-man band in a notorious Nairobi slum, to an award-winning advocate and founder of a Top Ten law firm in Kenya, he shares on the importance of creating entrepreneurial opportunities for others.

Co-founder of the African Council for Accreditation & Accountability, Valentine Gitoho, and James Gitoho, award-winning architect, speak to the art of doing excellent work, without becoming slaves to it. ‘Don’t worship work’, their message entails, emphasising the significance of knowing your identity in Christ as you lead in the marketplace.

‘Called to Create’- the story of three trailblazers, Sandy Barlow and Pete Howie, co-founders of Seattle Coffee Co., and contemporary artist Philip Barlow, recalls their 20-year journeys of highs and lows in business. It highlights the incredible testimony of finding beauty in the mundane, rooted in the enduring ‘call to create’ in the marketplace.

Each of the eight videos are short, inspirational documentaries, aimed to inspire business leaders how they, by faith, can make a meaningful impact in the African marketplace.

Watch the trailer here:

Click here to view the sessions and learn more about the series.

Going further together, Nation Builder’s new era of impact

Going further together, Nation’s Builder’s new era of impact | Mergon

When people come together to serve a vision that is bigger than their own, extraordinary things can happen. At Nation Builder, we’ve seen this to be true.

A social development initiative aimed to strengthen South Africa’s social impact, Nation Builder has worked to bridge the gap between the business and non profit sectors for over 16 years. Our philosophy centres on the idea that partnerships have the power to unlock disproportionate impact, echoing the wisdom of the saying, ‘if you want to go further, [you need to] go together’.

More recently, we have put this idea to action, embarking on a new era of impact with NPO and social impact fund manager, Valcare. As of February 1, Valcare has taken on the strategic and operational mandate of Nation Builder and is now operating under its name. This leadership transition marks a new chapter for Nation Builder, one in which the new team (supported by some members of the original Nation Builder board) can leverage their collective strengths to take their reach and impact further.

Why do we believe this leadership transition will further benefit the social impact sector, connecting and strengthening even more organisations nationwide? We spoke to Mergon’s (and former Nation Builder head) Keri-Leigh Paschal to find out more. Drawing insights from a Stanford University review on the essentials of social innovation, Keri highlights five aspects that she sees in this collaboration and believes are critical for fostering collective impact.

1. A common agenda

‘To make collective impact work, everyone needs to share a vision for change,’ Keri shares. ‘This means agreeing on the problem and working together on a common approach through decided actions.’ She explained that both Nation Builder and Valcare over the years have served as ‘bridge builders’ between the business and non-profit sectors – sharing knowledge, fostering understanding, and encouraging collaboration that leads to measurable social impact. ‘Although we bring different strengths to the table, we have the same purpose in mind to strengthen South Africa’s social impact sector. Of all the things to have in common, this is by far the most important.’

2. Shared measurement systems

Referring to the abovementioned Stanford review, Keri notes: ‘Research has found that establishing a shared measurement system is crucial for collective impact. It’s not enough to just agree on common goals; we need to be on the same page about how we measure and report success. Consistently collecting and measuring results across all participating organisations, using a few key indicators at the community level, not only keeps everyone on track but also fosters accountability. This way, we can learn from both successes and failures and continuously improve our collective efforts.’

‘Going forward, what excites us in this new season of Nation Builder is the intended focus on professionalisation and standardisation in the sector. Clearer goal setting and reporting systems will not only foster trust and accountability between the private sector and NPO beneficiaries; it will cultivate investor confidence and a deeper understanding of the on-the-ground realities in South Africa. This excites us and makes us hugely optimistic about the future,’ says Keri.

3. Mutually Reinforcing Activities

‘In successful partnerships, the focus isn’t on everyone doing the same thing,’ says Keri. ‘It’s rather about creating space for each participant to operate in their unique skills and abilities. This diversity brings a richness to the collaboration, where the diversity of strengths is complementary and enriches the outcomes.’

‘In the case of Nation Builder and Valcare,’ she continues, ‘both organisations have had complementary offerings that, when combined, can multiply impact and benefit the sector. Nation Builder provides a diverse, cross-sector community with a nationwide footprint. Valcare has excelled in capacity building, offering a range of resources that effectively equip and connect social investors and NPOs to drive social impact. By combining these strengths, Nation Builder is now able to extend its reach and enrich impact, providing more organisations with the tools and training to strengthen the sector.’

4. Continuous Communication

‘Over these past 15 years at Nation Builder, we’ve recognised the power of dialogue – simply getting all the stakeholders in the room and creating a space where every voice is heard, seen, and valued,’ Keri says. ‘Working in the development sector can often be a lonely and a weight responsibility – so it was important for us to create environments where people could openly share their challenges, be real with one another and engage in collective and constructive learning. As we were never the experts in the room, rather the people that brought the experts around the table, open and ongoing communication was, and still is, at the heart of Nation Builder.’

She continues, ‘This dedication to fostering dialogue continues under new leadership. Going forward, one of the primary focuses is ‘building capacity through collaborations’ – combining knowledge and resources to achieve more within the sector. Trust-based, on-the-ground engagements will be central to realising this goal.’

5. Backbone Support Organisations

‘One thing we’ve seen over the years is that good collaboration takes time – and time is a precious commodity in the development world,’ Keri says. ‘Being able to come alongside sector stakeholders and support them with a backbone infrastructure, one with dedicated staff and resources, has proven incredibly valuable. With a bird’s eye view on the sector, we have been able to serve as a knowledge transfer, bridging the gap between the business and NPO worlds, and leveraging perspectives that incorporate every stakeholder’s view and respective needs. From there, Nation Builder has been able to leverage these insights and create sector resources that directly address these needs and add value to the process.’

Keri concludes, ‘Serving Nation Builder for the past 15 years through Mergon has been one of life’s greatest privileges. It’s been inspiring working alongside such passionate and dedicated individuals, deeply committed and devoted to seeing South Africa’s social fabric strengthened. We are confident that this next season of Nation Builder will bring with it, even greater impact, collaboration, and positive change for South Africa’s social development sector.

This article was written as tribute to the rich 15-year history of Nation Builder under Mergon’s leadership. Stay updated with the latest developments in this new season by visiting the new website or reaching out to the team at [email protected].