Every year, companies in South Africa spend billions on corporate social investment, with R10.2 billion spent in 2020 alone. Although a lot of good is achieved with this money and it certainly uplifts the communities and individuals who benefit from the funding, the socio-economic picture of South Africa has hardly changed. In some areas, the situation is clearly deteriorating, despite our best efforts. Are we really achieving what we set out to achieve with all our billions? Is what we do helping to turn our country around at all?
In July, we saw massive riots and looting, described by many as an attempt to sabotage our economy, an ‘attempted coup’ and an ‘insurrection’. As we watched our country burn and businesses and livelihoods being destroyed, it was hard not to feel despair and hopelessness.
Yet somehow, in the face of it all, hope and determination to overcome stubbornly refuse to be extinguished. As the looting ebbed, we witnessed the extraordinary generosity and courage of ordinary citizens who came together to protect their communities and to help those who had lost everything. We saw, once again, that when we defy the odds and work together, beauty can come from ashes.
Our country is worth fighting for. And that is exactly why the National Mentorship Movement (NMM) was born in 2015. A group of high-profile businesspeople felt concern over our country’s poor economic situation, the high rates of unemployment and inequality, and the fraying social trust – and they wanted to do something about it. So they decided to start an NPO that offers mentorship to those in need, free of charge, which they now want to introduce at scale to support entrepreneurs and others. Through close mentorship, they believe they can help grow the economy, create jobs and foster social trust, all of which have the potential to prevent the reoccurrence of looting and rioting.
David Wilson, retired COO of Deloitte Consulting Africa, and now the co-founder and CEO of the NMM, has spent the last five years of his retirement establishing and growing the Movement. It has now reached the point where it has the biggest base of active and skilled mentors in the country.
‘We mobilise volunteer mentors who are willing and able to give back. We match them with entrepreneurs, NGOs, or others who could benefit from their skills and experience. At the moment we have 850 registered volunteer mentors on our system who provide support to over 700 mentees. This equates to over R14-million annual mentorship value.’
But why mentorship? Wilson says that mentorship can be the difference between success and failure. ‘We have coined the phrase “Mentorship – the Power of Two”, because research shows that mentorship can double the outcome. People who receive mentorships are twice as likely to aspire to go to university and to graduate, they are twice as likely to assume leadership roles in society, and they are twice as likely to grow their businesses, employ more people and to survive in business for more than five years.’
The NMM also works with corporates and assists NGOs with mentorship to ensure that their programmes succeed. ‘We have the experience and the insight to help those who often don’t have the necessary resources, networks, or even access to positive role models to help them succeed.
‘We are particularly proud that our group of volunteer mentors is very representative of South Africans across age, gender and race, and we have mentees from students to unemployed youths to entrepreneurs, so that we can connect almost anyone who wants to make a difference to someone in whose life that difference might be transformational.’
The NMM has attracted impressive high-profile businesspeople to their programme. Their chairperson is the Head of the Wits Business School and former Sasol Executive Vice President of Energy, Maurice Radebe. Others involved include IQbusiness CEO, Adam Craker, Maharishi Institute founder, Dr Taddy Blecher (who also chairs the government task team on Entrepreneurship, Education and Job Creation), former BLSA CEO, Bonang Mohale, and FCB CEO, Brett Morris.
Wilson has, for the last five years, volunteered his time at no compensation because he is convinced that mentorship can make an extraordinary difference in the lives of both mentees and mentors, and can change the country systemically and at scale.
‘We are now well poised to harness the power of volunteer mentorship at scale and to change the lives of over 100 000 people in the next five years,’ explains Wilson, ‘But we need financial partners to achieve this. Just imagine how far the R10.2 billion that was spent on CSI in 2020 could have gone if we had been able to double the outcomes with mentorship. If we take hands and work together, nothing will be impossible; outcomes will be better, and we will have more success.’