Written By: Luvuyo Madasa, Executive Director at ReimagineSA
Government has set a compelling vision for South Africa in the National Development Plan, its roadmap for a more equal, sustainable and prosperous future for our country. Likewise, the United Nations has rallied people, organisations and governments behind its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.”
But to turn these grand visions and sweeping strategies into realities, we need to look at how we use these frameworks to guide the creation of solutions that solve everyday problems that local communities face. Think tanks have created volumes of research and the policymakers have drawn up action plans, but these need to be turned into living documents that have meaning to the people who will implement them and be affected by them.
This is one of the key reasons I was so excited to have taken part in this year’s Vision 2030 Summit. This gathering was an ideal opportunity to catalyse conversations that span beyond government, large NGOs and corporate stakeholders to include small businesses, social entrepreneurs, community-based organisations and the members of neglected and disadvantaged communities.
The reality we see on the ground when we interact with these stakeholders – who don’t always have the voice they deserve in setting government policy or visionary strategy documents – is that people in the communities understand their own problems better than anyone else. Often, they are already working on innovative, localised solutions that will work, provided they get the support they need.
With that in mind, we believe that the emphasis needs to shift from top-down intervention to a true model of collaboration. While government, large NPOs and NGOs, and big business have invaluable contributions to make, solving our challenges is about engaging the creativity of a conscious citizenry committed to the principles of Ubuntu.
To this end, we want to start courageous conversations about how government and other big funders can enable communities to scale their innovations and build solutions that are self-sustaining. Rather than stepping in and dictating to people and close-knit communities, how can funders and policymakers facilitate their problem-solving efforts by, for example, providing infrastructure or financing?
How can they help communities and people break through bottlenecks that impede growth and development? Are they focusing on the real problems that people face in their interventions? And how do they promote the right mix of local agility and global best practice? We need to share knowledge and ideas that can help solve national and global problems, but without losing the local touch.
When we look at the rich tapestry of South African society and its many cultures, we can see the thread of Ubuntu uniting our country when it’s at its best. For that reason, I believe that many of the solutions we are looking for will come from localised socio-economic and governance systems that feed into and support the larger society.
We must also focus on building a democracy that focuses attention on what matters most in the lives of those who have the least resources and power. The answer is not to impose answers onto communities but to co-create solutions. A healthy, self-sustaining nation starts by building healthy villages, towns, cooperatives where people feel connected to each other and engage in adding value for the common good.
The 2030 goals of the NDP are achievable, but only when every person and organisation is engaged in building a better country. The vision is there to guide our efforts, but the work starts with each person and each local community. Forward to a fair, sustainable and growing South African economy.