The story of how otherwise unconnected South African citizens pooled together their money and resources, and thus helped seed over a dozen online businesses in South Africa – when no other realistic options of finance existed. The presentation will cover lessons learned, and tips for replicating the model in other regions.
Yesterday was a good day.
As an aspiring social entrepreneur and increasingly part time geek, I’ve had my theories on why technical / programmer / geek / web type people stick to certain kinds of focus areas when trying to make a living for themselves, and yesterday an intuition I’ve had for some time now was reinforced.
Things I realised:
- Most industries have been working just fine without the internet for much longer than I’d given them credit for, so start operating on different levels
- Competition is everywhere, learn how to deal with it and be better than it
- The only limits to what I thought was possible were in my own head
- Business is like an onion, you have to unravel it
So the take home is that after figuring out one or two things, I’m starting to move faster and not feel like I’m walking through molasses = progress.
Since my days of doing grass diversity research in the communal grazing lands adjacent to the Kruger National Park, I’ve always felt that the world needs top down impetus and proactiveness, but bottom up implementation. So in short, help from the wealthier people at the top, with the doing being done by people on the ground who understand the real issues the community they’re working in face.
Imagine a big truck pulling up and dropping your choice of aid (food, clothing, computers, seeds) to “help”, and the ensuing chaos and strife that would create. Now imagine the local people working with other local people, to grow and sell/barter food in local markets, make clothing, teach people how to use computers, show people who have lost their forefathers knowledge how to plant crops and manage water again… Which of those scenarios has a better longer term, sustainable, future?
So where am I going with this? Why the dramatic title?
Well, today I spent lunch today at the Commonwealth Club close to Embankment Station, with the team from the Ubuntu Education Fund, and a bunch of South Africans living in London, and I’ve come away more inspired and pleasantly surprised than I have ever before, after meeting NGO type people. I’m no NGO guru, so my experience is limited, but I’ve seen and heard enough to know that a lot of aid to the developing world is poorly conceived, misplaced and badly executed.
The people involved just seem to have the ingredients right, and after 10 years of doing this quietly in their own community of Port Elizabeth, they’ve got some impressive stats to show for it, as well as a community that has bought into what they’re doing, and is working with them to improve their lives. It’s awesome to see, and awesome to hear of how they’re being innovative and resourceful to solve problems that seem insurmountable.
They are a true startup success story, except they’re changing people’s lives fundamentally, which in many ways is truly, truly noble.
So in few words, they didn’t need to say much, what they are doing, on the ground, says enough. Hats off. I’ve been looking for an organisation that I could help out in some way, for a long long time, and I’ve always come up short of what I wanted on their side. Now I’ve found it. No need to re-invent the wheel, only to replicate and deploy in time.
As an aside, this is what I’ve been thinking the last hour:
- get to PE, watch, learn and understand what they do on the ground. Based on that:
- make a 1 or 2 week long secondment for everyone in my team, strongly encouraged, every year
- mentor a few school leavers to help them get ready for the big wide world
- employ the relevant youngsters coming out of university that have the right attitude
- grow those youngsters into leaders in their own rights, over a 5 year period, then send them off into the world to be successful for themselves
- put % of profit aside, to donate to the fund
All thoughts now, but I’m amped – gonna do this
It’s amazing what we as a species, are capable of doing through concerted, unified, synergised, actions… Imagine if the world could work in unison to make sure that the Earth was around for future generations? Well, this is something that can be done by all of us (imagine if we did it regularly), and it doesn’t need a government, or bureaucracy, or approval – just do it!
The hour the world unites in a stand against global warming
Bold, simple and accessible, Earth Hour 2009 has one major aim: to show governments, individuals and businesses that it is possible to take action on global warming. The world can no longer wait; and the first step is as easy as turning off a light. In 2008, 50 million people across 35 countries switched off their lights for one hour. This year, in what we hope will be the world’s largest mass participation event, Earth Hour will be the culmination of one billion people around the globe, in more than 1000 cities from business, government and the community turning off lights as a message to leaders of the world in the run up to the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in December 2009 that we need a commitment to actions that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the short and long term benefit of the planet.
At a time when economic pressures are high, and anxiety about the worlds’ economic and environmental futures are burdening governments and its people, there could be no better time to advocate solutions driven action that will make a positive difference.
Earth Hour 2009 will be a major call to action for every individual, government and business to take responsibility and play a part in ensuring a sustainable future. Iconic buildings and landmarks across Africa, Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and The Americas will go dark. People will join together to celebrate, discuss and think about the future. Cities that have already signed up include: Sydney (Australia), London (UK), Rome (Italy), Dubai (UAE), Los Angeles (USA) and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) among others.
- Companies will engage with staff and customers and reap the benefits of delivering genuine corporate social responsibility strategies
- Mayors and politicians on all sides of government will embrace the large scale recognition of such an importance public campaign and engage on the burning issues in their electorates
- School children across the globe will discuss Earth Hour in classrooms and at home with their families
- Parents will embrace the opportunity to defend their children’s future; and
- The internet generation will blog, email and text to rally friends to take part
WWF South Africa is planning an exciting national campaign to get 1 million dwellings and offices to switch off their lights and 3 million South Africans to sign up on www.earthhour.org.za.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has honoured us by agreeing to be the patron of Earth Hour 2009 and City of Cape Town Mayor Helen Zille has also pledged her support. To demonstrate South Africa’s commitment we will switch off the lights illuminating Table Mountain for an hour on 28 March.
Sign up now at www.earthhour.org.za and tell your friends and family to do the same.
Switch off on 28 March 2009, 8.30 to 9.30pm – at work as well as at home.
Already, through the extensive WWF International network, Earth Hour will be delivered in over 60 countries, the number growing each day. Our campaign needs your commitment – from participation, organisation or potential sponsorship. Earth Hour is a message of hope and action. Imagine what we can do if we act together.