I was listening to Ryan Till yesterday talking at a conference in Johannesburg. He is head of Lead SA which is endeavouring to turn South Africans into an active citizenry. It was truly an inspirational presentation as he went through some of the projects that Lead SA has already accomplished in conjunction with corporate sponsors.
They range from providing trained people to direct traffic at the intersections where the robots have gone on the blink to a pothole brigade to naming and shaming drunk drivers in Cape Town to uncovering specific cases of corruption to formulating a bill of responsibilities as opposed to a bill of rights. The list will continue to grow given Ryan’s enthusiasm for the initiative and the progress made so far.
One of the examples of individuals getting off their backsides to help others came up during question time. Apparently, at one school parents are making one extra sandwich per day in order to feed those pupils whose parents cannot afford to provide regular meals for their children. This struck me as exactly the kind of project where a small amount of incremental effort can have far-reaching consequences.
During this week, I also met with Garth Japhet, founder of the website www.forgood.co.za. It automatically connects people with a need to people and information who can help with that need. It assists the users in taking actions that benefit their communities but, as importantly, themselves. Forgood incentivises people’s participation with rewards that matter through its “give get” programme, thereby turbocharging the good. The more a user participates, the more he or she can be responsible for real rewards such as a cash voucher being given to approved causes and get token rewards for themselves.
Two years and costing R10m in development, Forgood launched a prototype in July 2011. It already has 650 groups and 2 200 members despite the fact that the website is still in the process of reaching its full potential and design is not yet complete. Garth, who established Soul City in 1992 and Heartlines in 2002, hopes that Forgood can be the equivalent of Facebook with a conscience.
My conclusion from hearing Ryan and meeting Garth is that South Africa is having its own Spring. It is not anything like the destructive Arab Spring where civilians have been killed and a massive amount of infrastructure has been destroyed. It is however about the empowerment of ordinary citizens who want to take control of their own lives but also want to make a contribution to others who are less fortunate than themselves. They are no longer followers.
The reason I am writing this article is to point out to all those who make such negative comments about South Africa on the News24 website that there is another way. Rather than pouring scorn on your perceived enemies, why not walk together and turn this country into a better place? All that energy wasted on recrimination when the undoubted talent and intelligence of those who provide the comments could produce that extra “sandwich” per day.
About the author
Clem Sunter is a world-renowned professional speaker, scenario planner and the author of many books, including "The Mind of a Fox: Scenario Planning in Action". He is a thought-leader in South Africa and a man who truly believes in the potential of our country.