Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Day Two at Palm Ridge CKC

Another packed day at the Palm Ridge CKC!

We started off the day with a relatively run of the mill drive to the office:

Listening to the radio in the car on the drive and there is a lot of media coverage of the student demonstrations which are being held at several of the universities due to frustrations with a planned 10% tuition hike. A 10% tuition hike further restricts accessibility to education with a disparate impact on the disadvantaged communities. It seems like a negative cycle where partially due to lack of job training and skills, unemployment is high. Yet the cost of education is increasing making it unattainable for many to obtain the skills needed to break the cycle. Once again, i am grateful for the fortunate circumstances which many of us in the Western world find ourselves in and it is hard not to realize how much we take for granted.

In the morning, I met with Adel, a training and development consultant, who supports Siyafunda in developing and managing the training process. Given the strict requirements imposed by the third party service providers who authorize the Centers to provide the training and the relevant government certification bodies, it is critical to Siyafunda and the Center to ensure that the training chain works in line with criteria. There are master trainers who are trained and certified which allows them to train the local staff in Centers so that the training can be provided on a daily basis to people who wish to take the certified courses. It is a rigorous process of training the trainers, having in place assessors and moderators and ensuring adherence to recordkeeping processes. After going through it several times, thankfully Adel offered to provide me with a diagram.

We then held a meeting with all of the CKC managers and senior trainers, some of whom I had not yet had the opportunity to meet. This was the first time that we were able to speak to the team about the vision of transforming the Siyafunda/CKC relationships into a social franchise. It became immediately clear to me how passionate all of the managers are about the communities they support and the impact they want to have. I was impressed with the level of transparency and frank discussion which ensued and the conversation certainly highlighted the challenges faced by the centers in maintaining an independent and sustainable structure. It is also clear that each center has to face different challenges because at the end of the day they are trying to help people in different geographies, of different demographics and with different principal needs. The clear common thread is that unemployment is an issue prevalent in all places. The centers also have differing pressures and different frameworks to navigate depending on whether there are local competitive pressures or even in ascertaining the level of relationship engagement needed with the heads of community such as tribal chiefs or levels of government.

From left to right: Tumelo, Smiley, Themba, James (Jimmy), Machelete, Bestos, Puleng, Babalwa, me, Moses, Adel

It hadn't occurred to me before speaking to the team how much competition plays a role in what they do. The South African government passed the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Policy to address economic disparities among the segments of the populace previously disadvantaged by apartheid policies. There is a scorecard for corporations to record the contributions they have made in support of this policy, including contributions made to offer IT skill development directly or indirectly to communities. A strong scorecard is also important to companies who wish to bid on RFP's. This also means that there are multiple private and social entrepreneurs offering the same services to communities and clearly larger private corporations have more ability to offer the services at lesser costs than some of the grassroots organization. This makes collaboration between Siyafunda, the CKC's and private funders a critical cornerstone to the CKC's success and Siyafunda has done an amazing job to build these relationships. However, there still remain multiple providers in the market and this is a challenge to Center sustainability in certain markets.

In fact, while I had an expectation that the challenges faced by Siyafunda and the Centers in pursuit of their mission would be vastly different than some of the challenges I am more used to dealing with on a daily basis, I was disabused of this notion. Not all of the challenges are the same, however there are many which do bear a striking resemblance to obstacles we constantly have to flexibly address and adapt for to drive success of the business. In addition to competition, some examples include the need to have implementation strategy and effective implementation for every good plan, the need to understand the extent of the value of keeping a product/service offering standardized and to what extent it needs to be tailored based on feedback from those who directly provide and directly receive the service, and the importance of marketing plans because people can't know if they need something if they don't even know it exists.

At some point in the day, i managed to stick my head in the classroom to observe Machelete teaching an IT user course.

Since Machelete is an experienced IT skill trainer, and for those of you who are familiar with my luddite nature (and therefore the irony of my placement with an organization dedicated to improving IT literacy), I capitalized on the opportunity to brush up on my excel and twitter skills. I don't think though that I will be getting my certification just yet.

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