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].

Faith in the Digital Age: Understanding Gen Z

‘Like Jesus with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, so the church must become the travelling companions of young people.’

Since a young age, these powerful words of Pope John Paul II have shaped Nqobile Ngcobo’s journey, discipling and inspiring a generation of young people to serve God, love others, and change the world around them. Before joining the Mergon Foundation team as the SA relationship manager, Nqobile served as the director of strategy & product for the sub-Saharan Africa region of Alpha International, a ministry partner of Mergon Foundation. In this capacity, she traversed Africa, engaging with diverse audiences and cultures, sharing on the importance and joy of investing in today’s youth.

These experiences provided Nqobile with profound insights into the unique characteristics of Gen Z – the generation born between the mid-1990s and the early 2010s. Through this candid conversation, she shares her perspectives on what sets this generation apart and how they are not only poised to express the gospel through their distinctive lens but also to take it further in Africa.

Nqobile, you mentioned that since the age of 22, when you started volunteering at your church for youth ministry, this idea of being a ‘travelling companion to young people’ has deeply resonated with you. Can you tell us more about this?

For me, it speaks to the importance of relational ministry – journeying alongside young people, committed to walk the long road, no matter how long and hard the road is. When they stray, we as leaders model consistency. When they doubt or disagree, we create a safe environment to wrestle through those differences. Relational ministry is understanding we can’t open people’s spiritual eyes, but we can walk alongside them, sharing truth and scripture like Jesus did on the Emmaus road, until they recognise Him for themselves.

With this in mind, are there unique realities we need to consider when relating to Gen Z?

‘I’ve heard it said that the difference between millennials and Gen Z can be likened to the contrast between Harry Potter and the Hunger Games. Millennials grew up being told that they were, like Harry Potter, the heroes of their own story. To a degree and for a certain amount of time, their world supported this narrative. Then 9/11 and a global recession happened, and their world began to crumble – leaving them with a sense of disillusionment.

Gen Z, on the other hand, was born into a digital and global world, with a constant window into the brokenness and injustice of this world. Their formative years included a global pandemic and lockdown, which exposed our economic fragility and human vulnerability. They see the world for what it is. And yet, they have a deep sense of responsibility to address these wrongs, believing that it’s up to them to bring about the change they want to see.

In this way, they can connect with the idea of Jesus as a disruptor. Throughout the scriptures, Jesus constantly challenged the status quo, going to the margins and breaking religious molds. The authentic, unpolished, and bold depiction of Jesus aligns with a generation hungry for truth and genuine experiences. It’s exciting to think what appeals most to this generation is not a refined or sugar-coated gospel, but rather the honest and unfiltered person of Christ – actively involved in the world, genuine, relevant, and meeting people right where they truly need it.

As we know, Gen Z is the first ‘digital native’ generation. How has this changed the way we relate to young people and build true community?

For young people today, there’s very little difference between online and in-person communities. The relationships they form in digital spaces, be it through WhatsApp groups or gaming apps, are just as significant as those forged face-to-face. In discipling them, we need to be open to various approaches, understanding that discipleship can take diverse forms, even including online.

Take, for example, a local church congregant who came to faith through Alpha online and later invited his ‘friend’ in Lebanon to join the course, solely through a gaming app. These connections are real, challenging our traditional views – not only of sharing the gospel but of building community.

We have the opportunity to reshape discipleship, not just through big broadcast messages on social media, but by creating smaller, tailored spaces where young people in our ministry can engage authentically. What’s better than having 2000 followers is 30 engaged followers, ministered to and actively discipled through content that directly addresses what they’re curious about or wrestling through.

In a world where young people are digitally linked but paradoxically distant, these platforms serve as powerful tools to meet their deep need for belonging. Not by relying solely on them but by leveraging them, we can guide young people towards the ultimate goal – drawing young people into faith communities where they can grow in Christ and with one another.

What excites you about this generation and particularly in Africa?

We must never underestimate the youth’s power to change the status quo and be used by God. Daniel was 17 when called, Joseph was 18, Mary 14. The list goes on. Imagine the impact we could have if we truly sowed into the lives of a few – especially when considering the strengths of this generation.

Gen Z brings a kind of pragmatism and realism to the table, due to their early exposure to information and life’s challenges. But this also translates into a hunger for something real and enduring which, when found, they will embrace wholeheartedly. They are smart and independent, able to navigate digital spaces confidently, that has produced a kind of ‘pioneering spirit’ that the gospel has always thrived on. And they are fun and creative, inviting new, diverse and innovative forms of gospel expression across the world.

Considering Africa, being the youngest continent, there’s a lot to be excited about. Economists talk about the ‘economic dividend’ in Africa, anticipating the continent’s future youth bulge, and the potential challenges this bears on employment. What if we saw it as a ‘faith dividend’? Imagine investing in young people so deeply that, as this bulge happens, a groundswell of people emerges who know Jesus, have real faith, and are actively shaping society towards its flourishing. Imagine a generation so grounded in Jesus that they tip the scales from hopelessness to hopefulness.

Imagine that. A hope-full generation. I think it’s nothing short of what God has in store for Gen Z – in Africa and beyond.

Alpha is a series of interactive sessions designed to start an open and honest conversation around some of the big questions of life. The Alpha Youth series, a core part of this ministry, invites young people to explore together timeless questions about life, faith and God for their generation.

Pursuing solutions for sustainable change

‘Beneath a culture’s surface lies much that shapes it, often unspoken perspectives and mindsets that influence our behaviour. There is an art to understanding how these underlying dynamics give meaning and direction to our lives.’

Charmaine Smith (Mergon Foundation forum member and founding director of Infundo Consulting) spoke to this idea during last month’s gathering with a handful of global peer foundations. Sharing from their own career and ministry experiences, she and others explored the unique nuances of funding within the African context. Charmaine specifically spoke to the value of systems thinking, explaining:

‘I see myself as a generalist working between things, rather than an expert who works within things, which has prompted me to adopt a lifelong learning approach that often asks the question, ‘Why do people think and act the way they do?’’ When we omit to consider the factors that shape behaviour we will assume our strategies will work, only to discover later that nothing has changed or we have created resistance through ineffective management of our intervention.’

‘The understanding of intergenerational trauma transfer and the study of epigenetics sheds light on the difficulties of bringing change when the past shapes not just culture, and perspective, but even the DNA which connects past generations to how people experience life and behave. In the context of Africa with 1500 different languages and with an average age of 19 the considerations of working in Africa must take this all into account.’

In her journey, she discovered systems thinking as a comprehensive and robust way of understanding human behaviour. Systems thinking, she explained, offers a wider range of choices when working with people, because it takes the interdependency of our actions into account: ‘There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution when thinking systemically, because the choices we make will have an impact on the whole system, through its people. We can rather think of our decisions as a set of iterative decision-making points. As systems are impacted and shift through our presence and action, decisions need to be attuned to this shift and adjust accordingly.’

‘Dr Wayne Dyer said, ‘When you change the way you look at things; the things you look at, change.’’

‘What I have come to believe,’ Charmaine continued, ‘is that if we want to develop true partnerships with lasting social impact, we will need to think systemically, going beyond our cultural biases and assumptions to embrace a more holistic perspective on the problems we seek to solve and people we seek to understand.’

Embracing complexity

She referenced author Michael Goodman, emphasising that the discipline of systems thinking is more than just a set of diagnostic tools and methodologies – it is an underlying philosophy:

‘Systems thinking’, writes Goodman, ‘is a sensitivity to the circular nature of the world we live in; an awareness of the role of structure in creating the conditions we face; a recognition that there are powerful laws of systems operating that we are unaware of; a realisation that there are consequences to our actions that we are oblivious to.’

Charmaine explained that when we think in systems, we are comfortable to work at the pace of the system, embracing the complexity that goes hand in hand with growing healthy communities. ‘We think more broadly around our solutions,’ she said, ‘considering the long-term impact of our decisions and the inherent causalities of the events that have gone before us.’

‘When it comes to social impact, this holistic approach enables us to move away from top-down funding models that sustain donor dependence and overlook the intrinsic value and dignity of the communities they serve. Instead, we consider how to learn from one another, and thus reshape the traditional paradigm into a relationship of equal value and partnership,’ said Charmaine.

Working consciously with power dynamics

Charmaine noted that when a community’s system operates differently than ours, the (often unconscious) temptation is to perceive it as dysfunctional. ‘However,’ she shared, ‘I’ve always found that when you stop to consider the system, there is no dysfunction; all systems are in flow.’

‘Through my experience, I’ve learned that coming into a new community requires humility. It’s important not to presume we have all the answers or are starting something brand new. God has been working in that community long before our arrival. As community builders, our role is to figure out where He’s been working and to get behind it. This takes humility – a kind of ruthless curiosity to listen, learn – and un-learn old ways.’

‘When we enter the room, we need to ask ourselves, what comes with us? Do we come with a humble attitude, or do we feel burdened to have all the answers? Do we talk first, or do we speak last? What is most important to us – the relationships or the project deliverables?  How could some of our perspectives be at odds with the system we are working in? How does our entry into the system impact in ways which may not be overtly obvious to us; and what do we need to do, to give up, or shift in us, in order to find a new flow within this system?’

‘As funders and stewards of capital, it’s important to recognise the position of perceived power we inevitably carry – and we need to intentionally posture ourselves for relationship to re-balance these power dynamics.’ She added, ‘In my experience, I’ve found that vulnerability goes far – being honest about my own setbacks and disappointments has often invited others to be real about theirs, which then allows us to address the realities and challenges on the ground with honest and more effective solutions.’

Going deep before going wide

Building authentic relationships takes time, a commodity often scarce in the fast-paced world of funding and project implementation. Charmaine noted, however, that relational integrity is the most critical aspect of any systems thinking worldview: ‘The complexity of people working together on a project, across different sectors and organisations, can be as complex as working with the community itself,’ she said. ‘It’s critical, therefore, to have the right people in the right positions, including those who work ‘between’ the elements of the project and act as ‘catalytic nodes’ that influence and collaborate with other stakeholders.’

‘When you take a systems thinking approach to community development, you let the community lead and move at the speed of trust. When the project emphasises depth, characterised by strong relationships and community ownership, it establishes a unique ‘heartbeat’ that can potentially yield significant impact. Only when there is a new flow at depth, can you consider scaling certain projects over time.’

She concluded: ‘Being a systems thinker demands curiosity, compassion and humility. In the world of social impact, where cross-sector collaboration is essential, it asks all of us to adopt a learning posture—listening, asking questions, and discovering solutions we might have otherwise overlooked, only made possible by viewing things through the lens of another culture or community. Africa is beautiful in all its diversity and complexity. May we continue to serve its people with solutions that are as beautiful, diverse, and complex as Africa itself.’

Through Infundo Consulting, Charmaine works extensively with communities and their leaders, corporate partners, government departments and other relevant bodies, focussing on systems thinking for sustainable change. Infundo has been able to position the confluence of social and business impact within their model of change; where through the interconnectedness of seemingly opposing agendas – that of business and social needs – they have created a new status quo of shared value within a system which can sustain both. 

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.’

For more information, visit https://proudnationbuilder.co.za/

To find out more about our Collabs, click here.

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.

Impact investing requires a long-term view

Impact investing can unlock true value and create long-lasting social and economic opportunities for others. The key, says Andy Agaba, is in taking a long term view on your business. Read here on Andy’s journey in founding Hiinga, a faith-driven Impact Investing organisation that funds values-driven entrepreneurs in East Africa.  

‘I told God that I really wanted to be at this intersection of job creation, of supporting entrepreneurs, and providing access to capital. And to my surprise, it’s now almost 20 years later and this dream has not left me. That’s the journey I went on before starting Hiinga,’ says Andy.

Hiinga is a Christ-Centered Impact Investing Fund that invests in the ‘missing middle’ entrepreneurs. Besides capital, Hiinga provides business training and mentoring, Christian discipleship and leadership development. The hope is that these entrepreneurs will then go on to create jobs, mentor others and essentially create long-term value for their communities, families and churches.

How does Hiinga take a long-term view?

They invest in businesses over years, with lending rates below market value. ‘We aren’t profit-driven,’ explains Andy. ‘We designed Hiinga in such a way that we are not extractive. So essentially, we charge just enough to help us to remain in business. This means we don’t take all the profit, but leave some of it for the benefit of the businesses we invest in. It is based on the biblical concept of gleaning. The Jews (when harvesting fields) would not clear the whole field – they would leave some of the grain in the field so the poor could come in after them and collect enough to eat.’

This approach means that Hiinga cannot serve as many entrepreneurs as they would like – but they are seeing the fruits of their long-term investments, especially in the health sector.

Andy believes that short-term investing does not serve people well.

‘It does not really grow people, it does not grow companies, and it cannot grow communities and societies. I’m so glad that God made me African. I know when I’m investing here, I’m not just investing in me, I’m investing in our future, in the future of our children, the future of our grandchildren, the future of my friends and church and family.’

Andy points out that poverty in Africa is generational, so any strategies to combat poverty also have to be multi-generational. ‘When you think about the potential entrepreneurs to invest in, it’s not just about the young man or the young woman standing in front of you – you have to think about how this will impact their children and their children’s children.’

He goes on to explain, ‘Scripture talks about visiting sins upon the third and fourth generations. So if a problem is that deeply rooted, the solution needs to be equally long-term focused. And I definitely think things are better than they were 20 years or 40 years ago. So it takes time, as injustices are corrected and we put in the hard work to change how things are done.’

Andy’s greatest motivation comes from knowing that we’re all part of God’s beautiful redemptive story.

‘The world looks at success in many ways but in God’s kingdom, we all have an equally important role to play’ says Andy. ‘We just have to show up really, and God does the work.’

This blog is a summary of the article first published on the Ziwani website entitled ‘Take a long term view’. To read the original article, click here

5 Principles for Achieving a Multi-generational Impact

In this summary interview, author and CEO of Bizconnect Africa, Nissi Ekpott, speaks with Ziwani’s Sibs Sibanda about the role that businesses can play in transforming societies. Believing that sharing knowledge and skills is one of the best ways to achieve multi-generational impact, he shares 5 principles that provide practical encouragement and timely reminders of the call to bring social justice in and through business.

 Politics and governments have their roles to play in transforming society, but business can impact people and communities every day, for generations to come. Bringing ‘social justice’ through business is not about everyone obtaining a PhD degree, or everyone becoming a billionaire – it is about using the tools of the marketplace to enable people to become self-sufficient. Social justice, in this sense, is about empowering people to become who God intended them to be.

Building a more just society should be an integral part of our everyday existence – it shouldn’t be separate from our day-to-day business operations. We are always transacting with others through our business and daily life, and in this we should follow Jesus’ example. He did not wait for a specific time to execute justice – it was woven into multiple opportunities in His day. It is therefore important to ensure that wealth is not being built on one side alone, but also on the side of those who work for you, clean for you, or take you to the airport. As Proverbs 27:23 says, “know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds”.

Your business can shift the trajectory of your industry from historic exploitation to real transformation – because business has the financial muscle, capability, and liberty to choose its own objectives and deliverables. Which means that you can choose to invest in just one person. Imagine if you invested in the ‘apostle Paul’ of your industry, what transformation that one person will have, generations from now.

But this shift can only come when we are intentional and passionate about bringing justice through business. At Bizconnect Africa we do business to create wealth – we are not a non-profit organisation. But we work hard to ensure that as we create wealth, those who transact with us benefit as well. For example, since we are in property development and work in semi-rural communities, our policies stipulate that a certain percentage of people we work with must be from those communities, and that a certain percentage of these people must be trained from scratch.

But having policies do not make it easy in practice. Once, we spent months training 70 young people, and on the day they qualified, they formed a union and demanded an unrealistic wage increase. We lost all of them from our employment in one day. It felt like all our hard work had been flushed down the drain, and was disheartening to say the least.

So this business model has its challenges, but we also reap the rewards. Some of the people we trained are now the best builders in their respective regions, which has enabled our business to be more profitable. Justice and business can go hand-in-hand – they do not have to be held separately. It benefits the local community with skills, training, and employment, all the while making good business sense.

When you decide to become a justice-bringer in and through business, you will face many challenges. These principles have guided and helped us to keep going over the long term:

  1. Do it with the right heart

Don’t try sharing your knowledge or strengthening others to score points or tick a compliance box. Do it because you truly believe that this will transform society.

  1. Do what you are passionate about

Find what you are passionate about and do that, rather than pretending to do what is trending or popular at the time.

  1. Rely on God, and keep trying

Be empowered by His strength because there will come a time when you are misunderstood, discouraged, and deflated. Rather, remember that “it is not by strength that one prevails” (1 Samuel 2:9). If you have been burned – find healing, and try again.

  1. Remember you are a nation builder, for the future

Keep sowing the seed and invest in people deliberately without getting discouraged, even when those that you train take their knowledge elsewhere. Look three generations ahead and act today.

  1. Understand that you cannot score 100%

Everyone has a history. You will not be able to overcome all the historic challenges faced by the communities you work with. Rather take the retail perspective of aiming to translate just 5% of passing foot traffic into sales. Let 5% or 10% be a win for you, and remember that these small gains increase over time, to have greater impact down the line.

To illustrate the above, I’d like to tell a powerful story. When my father was a young man, someone chose to sponsor the education of just three people from his village. Out of thousands in the community, only my father and two others were empowered to study. All three men went on to excel in their own lives, and years later, my father returned to his village to start a school. It was the community’s first school. In the beginning, he may have only achieved a 5% attendance, but those 5% grew up and they sent their own children to school too. Forty years later, there are now three schools in the village and the literacy rate is 100%. You will not find an illiterate person in the community because of the catalytic actions of one person reaching three, and those three going on to reach many more.

Never underestimate what reaching just one person can do!

It is not easy to stretch your thinking to look and dream beyond your own projects or knowledge-sharing trials. It takes time and maturity to start thinking multi-generationally. But this call to carry business and justice together, and to share your knowledge and skills for the benefit of others – is an opportunity to rise to the occasion and leverage your business influence to build a better world for all.