Innovative ways to beat poverty

Huge resources have been ploughed into anti-poverty projects for many years but it’s often difficult to see what difference it makes. A big part of the problem is that we go on trying to do more of the same, hoping that the results will be different the next time.

Real investment in the future should be about breaking that cycle. It should change the way we do things so that efforts to overcome poverty make a real and lasting difference.

The Drivers of Change Awards recognise outstanding new ways of working to overcome poverty in Southern Africa.

By identifying fresh approaches that work to decrease poverty, the awards promote changes in attitudes, policies and practices among the different social sectors so that efforts to overcome poverty are more effective. The awards recognise individuals and organisations from business, governments and civil society across Southern Africa. The awards especially recognise outstanding examples of different sectors working together, because more of the same approach of working in isolation from each other does not work.

Neville Gabriel, executive director of the Southern Africa Trust, which presents the awards in partnership with the Mail & Guardian, says companies should rethink corporate social responsibility and investment to be part of their core business rather than an add-on.

“It should be in the very DNA of their core business, about how they do business,” he says.

In the business category, the awards encourage working with others to “do responsible business”. The current global economic climate, says Gabriel, “makes this not only a moral but a business imperative”.

The Drivers of Change Awards are about more than recognising innovative approaches that work. It’s also about raising up those examples to drive changes in the way others work. A trustee of the trust, Vusi Gumede, says the trust is thinking of using the examples of innovation identified through the awards to develop a Southern African regional “corporate social responsibility barometer” to comprehensively assess what companies do, instead of just calculating what they spend on “good causes”. Through such innovations, changes can be created at many other levels.

For example, the trust is interested in promoting social budgeting, “a framework that takes into account what all contributors, private and public, spend on things that improve the lives of people in general, not just what governments are doing,” says Gumede.

“Companies are doing a lot on social infrastructure, but that is not explicitly taken into account during the course of national budgeting,” Gumede says.

Since the prestigious awards were launched in 2006, a total of 118 nominations have been received from 12 Southern African countries. Nominations for this year’s awards are invited in the following categories:

  • Government

  • National or regional government and inter-governmental agencies that promote new models and practices for broad participation of non-state actors in policy development should be nominated.

  • Business

  • This category includes big corporates, small to medium enterprises, informal traders or corporate foundations. The panel of judges will be looking for entries that go beyond conventional corporate social responsibility programmes to demonstrate how companies are “doing responsible business”.

  • Civil society

  • The judges will single out organisations that demonstrate innovation and credibility in representing the interests of the poor in public policy development. They will be looking for nominations that represent partnerships between different organisations and nominations that have a Southern African regional perspective. Entries can come from faith-based organisations, the media, popular movements, trade union organisations, community-based organisations, research institutes, independent foundations and trusts, grant-makers and NGOs.

  • Individuals

  • Nominations are especially welcomed of individuals from any sector who play a remarkable role in inspiring new, innovative and inclusive approaches to anti-poverty work that results in the improvement of the lives of people living in poverty.

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    These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

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