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Big business and NPOs forge ties for social development

07 September 2011 Metropolitan Health

When big business and civil society engage in a meaningful way, solutions to many of the problems facing ordinary people in our country can be found. This was the message to delegates at the inauguration of the Engage CSI Forum, which was held recently at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa.

The Engage CSI forum was brought to life through the vision inspired by Blum Khan, CEO of Metropolitan Health. He believes that this will act as a forum in which government, civil society and business can share experiences and knowledge in order to streamline corporate social investment in an efficient and effective manner.

“Corporate business is sceptical of the ability of non-profit organisations to deliver effective and efficient social services,” said Ric Amansure, director of the South African Growth Institute, the co-hosts of the event. “It is through collaboration that we can impact significantly on social upliftment, community building and sustainable development.”

Highlighting the disconnect between the operating systems of the NPO sector and corporate business, Amansure pointed out that often NPOs are not registered or compliant with the host of regulations that corporations are bound by when it comes to social investment spending. This highlights the need for business to work in partnership with the NPO sector, especially in terms of capacity building and transfer of business and management skills, as well as through direct funding.

Mapena Bok, Director of Non-Profit Organisations in the Department of Social Development, welcomed the support of the corporate sector to develop an integrated and sustainable strategy that takes advantage of the existing enabling environment and policy framework.

He acknowledged that there were capacity challenges within the sector, particularly in informal community-based organisations. A particular challenge is in the area of financial reporting and Bok welcomed the Forum’s commitment to transfer skills, especially for record keeping and to entrench organisational procedures and practices.

Gary Bennett, Vice President of AEGIS BPO Holdings South Africa, added to the feeling of urgency when he said, “there is a perfect storm of need and enablement (through policy regulation) in South Africa,” which should encourage collaborative social development.

Executive Director SANGONeT, David Barnard discussed the “difficult, if not highly problematic pulse” of the state of non-governmental organisations in South Africa.

He pointed out that NPOs act as both service providers and advocacy agents, a dual role which can create tension between the sector and government. For Barnard, however, this tension is vital for a vibrant democracy.

“NPOs need to diversify their income streams and become bolder and more professional when seeking funds,” said Kevin Chaplin, Managing Director, South Africa Ubuntu Foundation and Amy Biehl Foundation.

He went on to outline the benefits of NPOs adopting business principles and making their organisations more efficient and attractive to investors.

The Forum is open to corporate business and the NPO sector. To learn more about the forum and to become a part of the collaborative community, please contact Ric Amansure on info@sagrowthinstitute.co.za

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