The Rainbow Nation
Most of us who are resident in South Africa are proud of the fact that we live in the Rainbow Nation. To the world we are a ‚miracle nation‛ because we went through simultaneous social, political and economic change, and surprisingly came out the better for it on the other side! But how many South Africans have actually embraced the idea of the Rainbow Nation, and to what extent do they believe in the concept? I believe that the Rainbow Nation is a surface concept for most South Africans who, when faced with a challenge, revert to the old paradigms that formed the basis of the pre-Mandela South Africa. The challenge our nation is facing is for each person to reflect a deep understanding and love for all people. How can the leaders of our nation instil this change?
Triple Bottom Line reporting has been introduced with Corporate Governance for all public companies in South Africa. The business world now needs to report on its financial health as well as the contribution it is making towards social change in an effort to uplift the disadvantaged and protect the environment. The JSE has also introduced the CSI index as a measure of how we are performing in this regard. But how are individuals faring when it comes to social change?
Effecting Real Change
There are several amazing heroes and heroines who are running wonderful projects focused on uplifting others in our country. But are their efforts adequate, or just a drop in a desert place? I believe that we need to find a way for every South African to be involved in and affected by the upliftment process so that true paradigm shifts can occur. In this way we will hopefully be able to cause deep, internal change in the very fibre of our nation. I believe that each person needs to be involved in a project of some form to experience the transformation of our society firsthand. By this I mean physically involved, for example, building, teaching or coaching. When you witness the positive effects that your involvement has on others, changing your paradigm is easier and a lot more likely than if you just give someone money or product.
Schools have resources that can be shared and skills that can be transferred. Young professionals can train and coach others. Teams can help physically build and change our environment. Young adults can spend a gap period working in an under-resourced area of the country. Corporates, churches and organisations need to rethink the methods they have used in the past to assist with social change. New ideas, possibly involving the latest technological developments, need to be implemented to encourage permanent change in our society.
Another challenge that must be faced is the old-style mentality of a cheque handover as a means to bring about change. Providing finances alone does not affect the root of the problem; it’s like pruning a tree instead of cutting it down. South Africans who fought through the struggle are now in a position of power. These individuals face two choices; either they can use their leadership positions to assist and drive change, or they can enjoy their newfound power and indulge in a materialistic lifestyle without addressing social and environmental issues. Until the gap between the rich and the poor is narrowed, we will never be able to truly call ourselves the Rainbow Nation.
I recently attended a course on social entrepreneurship at the Gordon Institute of Business Science. Social entrepreneurship is a new area of interest for many business schools. The purpose of the course, and others like it, is to address the lack of dialogue between leaders of all sectors of society and to encourage discussion in an attempt to bring about long-lasting change in society through cooperation. It is disappointing to see that even within the NGO sector competition between organisations exists. To alleviate competition between NGOs a sense of cooperation needs to be encouraged but most importantly, the issues that have caused these organisations to fight for their place in the transformation chain must be addressed so that they can stand united in their purpose.
Sharing the Story
In closing, a feeling of hope, pride and accountability needs to be instilled in all citizens so that our nation can be one that gives rather than receives help. We have lessons that we have learnt that we can share in the global village. True leaders choose serving over power as the major driver of change. Can we be a light to the rest of the world? Can every citizen claim to be serving their society, their brothers and their sisters? When we can answer yes to both of these questions then I believe we can rightly claim the title ‚Rainbow Nation‛.
Lynda Smith
Lynda is the Head of Resources for, and a critical part of their consulting team. Having spent many years as a National Marketing Director in Manufacturing and Retail environments, she has both the creativity and focus to assist people and companies strategise for the future.

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