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- 14 July 2017

This year at GMSAF we started Barriers to learning Program. We are conducting a workshop for teachers and parents. I am doing school visits to those schools that we are working with. The purpose of classroom visits is to observe the teachers doing their lessons with their learners in small group teaching.

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The CSA Approach

Corporate Social Investment (CSI) really started in South Africa immediately after the townships erupted way back in 1976. For nearly 30 years, the South African approach to CSI has essentially stayed the same - a company evaluates requests for financial support and then provides grant funding. After all these years, is it not time to reassess CSI? Could there possibly be a more developmental route than signing cheques? Has the GM South Africa Foundation produced a better approach?

In 1994, the Delta Motor Corporation decided to search for a way to increase the company's impact on development and established the Delta Foundation, which has recently changed its name to the GM South Africa Foundation. The Foundation has been experimenting with a totally new and highly innovative approach to CSI over the past ten years, one which it calls CSA - Corporate Social Action.

How does CSA differ from CSI? The first phase in the CSA process is to operate as a project management agency rather than a grant maker. The projects which the Foundation undertakes focus on poverty alleviation through education and housing, and each is structured as a pilot project to test out a totally new 'out of the box' way of addressing a crucial social problem. Project partners are actively sought to form up project management teams, and public sector involvement is a non negotiable.

The Foundation's projects have won many national and international awards, but the CSA approach sets the goal posts far higher than good projects.

Once a project has progressed from being a highly risky idea to being successful on the ground, the next phase is to document all the lessons learnt and the approaches followed. The Foundation calls this pack of documentation a model, although a more accurate description would be a set of implementation guidelines. This information is then distributed free of charge to any other development agency expressing an interest in copying the model or any of its components. As other similar projects start up in other parts of the country, the impact of the CSA approach is obviously geared up from the local level to the national level.

But CSA sets an even higher goal than replication by other agencies. As the State is the largest development agency, the Foundation feeds all its learning experiences into the country's various policy making mechanisms. There are of course many frustrations, particularly when persuading people to let go of outdated approaches even if they don't actually work.

An example of on going but outdated behavior is in the field of housing. The matchbox scheme houses built by the old apartheid government were called NE 51/9's - NE stood for Non European and the 51 was because they were designed in 1951. Although they're now called RDP houses, South Africa is essentially still building NE 51/9's across the country. With very few exceptions, the overall delivery process is exactly the same as that used by the then newly installed apartheid government more than 50 years ago. The current national review of all housing policies and procedures will hopefully bring in a new era in housing delivery.

The Foundation's various very different low income housing models are being fed into the national housing process and are receiving a positive response. The Foundation's Sakhasonke Village low income housing project in particular is clearly having a massive impact on paradigm thinking.

In the field of education, the Foundation's Ready for Success model serves as a good example to illustrate the impact of CSA. Ready for Success started life some 17 years ago as a skills development project for disadvantaged learners.

After Ready for Success (previously known as Ready for Business) won the Amcham Star of Africa and Star of Stars awards in 2003, the Foundation was invited to serve on a national team appointed by the Minister of Education to develop the country's new Further Education and Training Business Studies school curriculum. The team felt that the Foundation's model provided an ideal framework for the new curriculum, which therefore now mirrors the Ready for Success model. The Foundation wrote a series  of business studies textbooks as well as teachers' guides which were published by Nasou Via Africa to support the implementation of the curriculum.

This example, which is one of many, illustrates the potential enormity of the impact of the CSA approach - namely from pilot project to model documentation to replication to national policy - when compared to conventional cheque based CSI. The impact of CSA is not restricted to a limited number of direct project beneficiaries, firstly because of the gearing factor of replication and secondly because of the proven ability to impact in a constructive way on new national policies and processes.

There can be no doubt about the innovative nature of the Foundation's CSA model. It is also clearly a sustainable approach, as companies do not need large budgets or staffing levels. The Foundation's total annual budget is R10 million and the total staff compliment is only two people - the General Manager and a Secretary. Specialist expertise is commissioned by the Foundation on a contractual basis.

The Foundation has played a key role in the establishment of both the Siyawela Company and The Home Market. These NPC's undertake local replication of the Foundation's initiatives. During 2013 Siyawela's turnover was R5.7 million while the Home Market's was R70 million.

For more detail, please contact:

Roger Matlock - General Manager
Tel:      041 403 2528

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