Taking CSI into a bright new era
When Investing in the Future was launched by the Mail & Guardian in 1989 corporate social investment (CSI) was a fledgling industry in South Africa.
The supplement was conceived by then business editor Reg Rumney as an editorial programme to reflect trends in the field, with an awards component to honour companies that took their role in a transitional society seriously. The philosophy behind Investing in the Future has stayed the same over the years, but its partnerships and emphasis have changed in step with the evolution of CSI.
In 1999 the awards grew from one to two categories to incorporate independent grant-makers and foundations. Until then, the awards were only given to corporations and NGOs.
At that stage Investing had a partnership with the Southern African Grantmakers’ Association (Saga) and the awards were judged using general principles of good grant-making developed by Saga. These guidelines were aimed at furthering ethical and professional practices in funding.
Members of the judging panel then included luminaries such as Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Dr Nthato Motlana, the Reverend Njongonkulu Ndungane, Mokhethi Moshoeshoe and Tim Thahane. At the turn of the century Investing in the Future expanded further, with the addition of a new partner, the Community Growth Fund.
A new award focused on companies that demonstrated responsibility towards their workers and society as a whole. In 2006 a partnership with the Southern Africa Trust saw Investing in the Future expand yet again to include the trust’s Drivers of Change awards. These continue to honour organisations, governments and individuals in Southern Africa that use new approaches to make a direct impact on poverty and to change policies so as to make a real difference to the material conditions of people living in poverty.
“Through the Millennium Development Goals, we have set a target to halve by 2015 the more than 100‑million people in Southern Africa who live in unacceptable poverty,” says Neville Gabriel, executive director of the Southern Africa Trust.
“To reduce the number of people living on less than a dollar a day, strategic partnerships by all roleplayers in the region are as urgently needed as practical innovations that change our current practices—especially those that go beyond borders in our region. This is entirely possible if we are all focused on the same goal.”
In the pursuance of this goal the Mail & Guardian and the Southern Africa Trust decided this year to merge two of the Investing in the Future and Drivers of Change awards, not only to broaden the reach of the awards but to cut down on duplication in categories that have proliferated over the years.
The 2011 categories now include the new Investing in the Future and Drivers of Change Civil Society Award and Business Award. These will be given not only in recognition of what the winners have done to improve the lives of the most vulnerable and marginalised in Southern Africa but also to hold up living models of how things can be done differently, and more effectively, than before.
The joint awards will recognise initiatives that are particularly innovative, carried out through partnerships with others, and that push the boundaries of what is possible. In particular, they will recognise efforts that offer systemic and lasting change rather than merely temporary and immediate benefits to the people they are intended to reach.
In keeping with the Investing in the Future legacy the two supplements published by the M&G cover the latest trends and debates in social investment. Here we include the new thinking on grants, research into which sector the South African public believes is having the most impact on poverty, and the nascent field of impact investing. Reporters have tracked down past winners of awards to find out what has happened with their projects and how winning an award affected them.
Trialogue, an organisation specialising in CSI consulting, provides a preview of the fourth annual Making CSI Matter conference taking place at the end of May. This event includes an impressive line-up of speakers and a range of hot topics and workshops. And, as always, the judging panel brings together eminent thought-leaders and decision-makers in the industry.
This year Judi Nwokedi chairs the panel and Ivan May’s wise insights will be sorely missed. He died in December.
Winners and finalists will be celebrated at the annual banquet on October 27. For further details and entry forms, see www.mg.co.za/Investing or www.southernafricatrust.org, or contact [email protected] or [email protected]