Leadership

Grief during covid-19

Society is grieving: How can we make meaning of it?

USB News

Society is grieving: How can we make meaning of it?

Grief during covid-19

  • JUN 17
  • Tags Opinion, Society, Meaning, COVID-19, Values, Emotions, Pandemic

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This opinion piece was written by Prof Arnold Smit, Associate Professor of Business in Society at USB, and was used as an exclusive on Fin24.

In a gripping poem, Warsan Shire[i] narrates how, one night, she was sitting with an atlas on her lap with her fingers running across the world while she whispers the question, “where does it hurt”. In return, the atlas answered “everywhere, everywhere, everywhere”.

Since discovering Shire’s poem I used it as a lens on people’s experience of the current context we are in. Not a day goes by without an update on the statistics of the Coronavirus sweeping wildly through countries, communities and households. Nor can we avoid the scenes playing out in hospitals, the mourning of the bereaved and the preparation of graves for what is yet to come. Where does it hurt? Everywhere.

Exactly two weeks after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, I used it to open an online workshop on values. Not only did this group of men and women associate the poem with the rising tide of anger and grief across the world, for them it ripped open their own painful memories of what apartheid did to them, their families and communities.

Where does it hurt? Everywhere.

In a workshop with a group of executives from one of South Africa’s leading retail groups, I listened in on their narratives of coming to terms with the impact of COVID-19. The initial business projections for 2020 turned into a nightmare as budgets had to be revised while doing everything possible to soften the impact for employees, suppliers, tenants and customers.

Where does it hurt? Everywhere.

Dealing with students in a remote learning environment becomes a window into their domestic challenges during lockdown. For some, job loss is already a reality. Many have to cope with work, their studies and familial responsibilities at the same time. Some had to alter their wedding arrangements while others are dealing with bereavement in their families and social networks. For many it feels like a curtain has been drawn on their future plans.

Where does it hurt? Everywhere.

Life as we were used to, has been extensively disrupted, whether we look at it from an individual, relational, organisational or societal perspective.

COVID-19 was certainly not in our script for 2020. Suddenly it has become the code word for an all-encompassing experience of change and loss sweeping through everything that previously felt familiar, comforting and even predictable. Life as we were used to, has been extensively disrupted, whether we look at it from an individual, relational, organisational or societal perspective. It will not be an overstatement to say that we are a society in grief at the moment.

It hurts everywhere.

Tough as it is, it may do us well to make to make sense of what we experience at the moment. One way of looking at it, is from the perspective of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s model of what people experience around death and dying[ii].

Although her idea of a grief cycle as such has been criticised by many, there is sensibility in the five core emotions that she identified.

  • Denial is often the first response and expressed in the assumption that something is either not true, or as bad as reported.
  • Anger represents the desire for a scapegoat, the possibility that something or someone is to blame for the challenge that you are facing.
  • Bargaining is to look for a way, some sort of compromise, to avoid or soften the impact, to be able to continue with what you were always used to.
  • Depression represents a despairing realisation that the crisis will not dissipate, that circumstances will not change, that the change is permanent and that there will be no turning back to what was before.
  • Acceptance is about embracing either the loss or the inevitable change that is going to occur, making peace with what you cannot change, and focusing on that which you can influence or have some control over.

Making the COVID-19 connection with the Kübler-Ross framework is not difficult at all. Since the start of the pandemic, and especially since the announcement of lockdown, you may have experienced some or all of these emotions as well. You may have experienced some sort of sequence, going from the one to the other as if they represented stages in your experience. You might have experienced different ones at different times depending on what kind of COVID-19 related impact you have been dealing with. You may find yourself somewhat stuck with a particular one, due to a variety of challenges you have to deal with at the same time.

Applying the Kübler-Ross framework, we may say that we experience these emotions because of grief resulting from loss: loss of future certainty, loss of employees, loss of suppliers, loss of income, loss of normal connection and socialisation, loss of life, loss of freedom, loss of dreams.

Where does it hurt? Everywhere.

So how do we make meaning of the COVID-19 challenge?  David Kessler, a world-renowned expert on grief work, co-wrote with Elizabeth Kübler-Ross and added a sixth element to her framework, namely meaning. In this context meaning refers to coming to terms with and integrating the impact of the change or loss and finding new courage and direction for what may be yet to come. In discussion with a group of Harvard Business Review staff[iii], Kessler said that “acceptance is where the power lies”.

Once we have accepted what is, we can start working on a balanced approach in terms of what we think and do.

Once we have accepted what is, we can start working on a balanced approach in terms of what we think and do. We can take precaution for not getting affected, we can appreciate the things we still have access to, we can reach out to those who are sick or suffering bereavement, we can use technology to stay connected, we can share and help others as well to express the emotions that we are feeling.

It hurts everywhere. There is no use in fighting or denying it. But we can make meaning through how we deal with it. In a webinar[iv] aimed at leaders and managers in business, I shared the following guidelines:

  • Make sure that you have those things that provide the foundation of your organisation under firm control. Inasmuch as it is under your control, plan carefully, stay creative, spend wisely. You and your people need this for stability.
  • Make sure that you stay in touch with every individual, even daily if you can, so that you may know where they are, how they are, what they experience, what they can or can’t cope with. This is not just about their continued performance, but about their personal and relational wellness. They need to know and feel that you really care.
  • Do not try to talk people out of how they feel, or prescribe to them how they should feel, or sell them cheap comfort. If you do this, you only create unnecessary distance and resistance. You may have felt the same and now it is your turn to take them seriously and show them that you understand what they are going through.
  • Be prepared and available to be cared for by your team members as well. There may be times some of them may be better equipped to deal with certain emotions and experiences than you are. There may be challenges that some of them have already worked through that you still need to deal with. Allow them to be helpful.
  • Maintain the necessary safety disciplines, keep the workplace clean, make sure everyone wash their hands, wear masks, and keep the right distance. Keep the virus out; once it is in it is already too late.

It hurts everywhere. Life will never be the same again.

It hurts everywhere. Life will never be the same again. We will have to rebuild our dreams for ourselves, our communities, society and the economy. Inasmuch as we are hurting together, even if in different ways, we’ll have to learn how to rebuild together. While the pandemic, and its related effects, will leave us with an indelible collective sense of grief, it can also become the rebirth of imagination for a better, more balanced and more compassionate world.

References

[i] https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/5431334.Warsan_Shire

[ii] Kübler-Ross, E. (1969). On Death and Dying. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-04015-9.

[ii] https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief

[iv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0QvxPvplHg&t=289s

About the author

Prof Arnold Smit is Associate Professor of Business in Society at the University of Stellenbosch Business School. His academic work is focused on the integration of ethics, responsibility and sustainability in management education and organisational practice. He also facilitates training programmes on values-driven leadership, sustainability management and director development. Prof Smit holds a Master’s degree in Philosophy and a Doctor’s Degree in Theology from Stellenbosch University. He is also a non-executive director of The Ethics Institute, a trustee of SEED Educational Trust and the immediate past President of the Business Ethics Network of Africa.

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Survival of NPOs – saving a weakened sector

USB News

Survival of NPOs – saving a weakened sector

  • JUNE 12
  • Tags Survival of NPOs – saving a weakened sector

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Head of Social Impact Dr Armand Bam says NPOs role in leadership should be recognised by government and business.

With the impact of COVID-19 rippling through the economy with disastrous effect, the livelihoods of non-profit organisations (NPOs) are under threat at the same time as demand for their support services is rapidly escalating.

Dr Armand Bam, Head of Social Impact at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) says a world without NPOs is “unimaginable and untenable, particularly when we need to address issues of social justice and socio-economic inclusion”.

“We live in the most unequal society in the world and the COVID-19 pandemic will do much to entrench this divide.”

“The principles of dignity, equality and freedom to participate in all aspects of our society, as enshrined in the South African Constitution, are under threat. We live in the most unequal society in the world and the COVID-19 pandemic will do much to entrench this divide.

“We are pro-active as a nation when it comes to developing policies for upliftment, but we struggle to implement, monitor and hold to account the efficacy of these policies. While businesses act as suppliers of resources and government as a protector, it is NPO’s that are the proverbial glue that binds us and ensures delivery of social justice goals,” he said.

Along with the ups and downs of global and local markets and ratings downgrades, COVID-19 will further contribute to a rapid contraction in employment opportunities.

“The socio-economic inclusion of many citizens in our economy is already under threat…”

“The socio-economic inclusion of many citizens in our economy is already under threat and the coordinated effort between institutions and policies influencing productivity within our economy has been hit hard by the extended period of lockdown. Products and services from South Africa are less attractive than those in 59 other countries (The Global Competitiveness Report 2019) and as a result there will be less money available from the government through its tax collection efforts to support NPOs and promote socio-economic inclusion and justice for its citizens.”

He argues that since we live in a society, not in an economy, businesses and government should pay attention to what happens with the non-profit sector.

“Non-profits contribute to many African countries’ economies, yet we fail to recognise the multiple roles they play, especially that of intermediaries.”

“Non-profits contribute to many African countries’ economies, yet we fail to recognise the multiple roles they play, especially that of intermediaries. Together with government and business these organisations empower citizens and contribute much needed skills and infrastructure – the building blocks of any economy.”

Dr Bam said that “the new normal” had thrust NPOs into a crisis where expectations to deliver support to citizens and communities were escalating during lockdown, while many were left wondering where the support to ensure their survival would come from.

“As a result, something fundamental in the fabric of our society is being tested – the social contract that exists between NPO’s as project implementers, and business and government as suppliers of resources and grants. Traditionally this contract has been maintained through the moral agency of NPOs and their willingness to act at a cost well below what the market and government would deem viable for themselves. But this is now under threat as businesses across the country are suffering losses they had not anticipated, and invariably their support to NPOs will be curtailed.

“Self-preservation is an undeniable approach for businesses but must not be overtaken with self-interest.”

So, why should business and government care what happens to the sector?

“NPOs are important for upholding and ensuring democracy and social justice. Their recognition as a key partner alongside the public and private sectors must be acknowledged and supported. We need to ensure that the social contract that exists is maintained. Failure to safeguard this will inevitably destabilise our democracy.

“The resilience expected of the NPO sector and their ‘do good nature’ has been impacted in a similar manner to the private sector. Social distancing has played a role here. It is time for businesses and government to join hands with NPO’s and treat them not as beneficiaries but as part of transformational partnerships that move beyond the transactional.”

Dr Bam concludes by saying that business and government should include NPOs in a proactive and participatory way as we shape a post COVID-19 South Africa. “For this to occur we need to recognise the leadership roles NPOs can play in order to achieve goals which were not achievable before.”

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Mar 20
Virus and values

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Transparency on pay could close the gap for women

Transparency on pay could close the gap for women

USB News

Transparency on pay could close the gap for women

(Source: Designed by Freepik)

  • MAY 26
  • Tags Gender Economic Equality, Gender Pay Gap, Pay Equality, Women, Normalise Pay Equality, Mind the Gap, Economic Empowerment, COVID-19, research, Women at Work

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Journal Article

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for progressive economic policies to address deep socio-economic inequalities in South Africa, including transparent pay reporting towards closing the persistent gender pay gap. Currently the gender pay gap sees South African women still earning up to 35% less¹ than men for doing the same work.

If South Africa is to dislodge its stagnant gender pay gap, mandatory pay transparency – making gender differences in pay known to employees, government and the public – can be the means to compel employers to remunerate fairly and equally, according to a new study by the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB).

Despite South Africa’s significant strides in preventing workplace discrimination, the gender pay gap has remained stubbornly stagnant for over two decades…

“Despite South Africa’s significant strides in preventing workplace discrimination, the gender pay gap has remained stubbornly stagnant for over two decades², and is well above the global average pay gap of 20% reported by the ILO³,” said the study’s lead author, Prof Anita Bosch, the USB Research Chair for Women at Work.

In the study published in the South African Journal of Science in March 2020, Bosch and USB Research Fellow Shimon Barit analysed global trends on enforcement of mandatory transparent pay reporting in order to give direction to strengthening South Africa’s mechanisms for achieving gender economic equality.

Their recommendations for greater transparency on pay include more detailed, gender pay-related information captured in existing reporting required from companies on employment and remuneration, mandatory pay audits and requiring pay information to be made available to unions and employees, as well as penalties for non-compliance.

While collective bargaining and the introduction of the national minimum wage have seen the gap narrowing for women in lower-earning jobs, Bosch said that for women in middle and upper pay levels the gap has actually widened and continues to do so.

Enforcing SA legislation and governance codes on equal pay and transparent reporting could strengthen the existing collective bargaining framework to demonstrate that SA sees gender equality as an achievable reality, not an improbable ideology.

The problem is greater in the private sector where pay is market-driven, since public sector pay are largely standardised, she added.

“Enforcing South African legislation and governance codes on equal pay and transparent reporting could strengthen the existing collective bargaining framework and provide the impetus to demonstrate that South Africa sees gender equality as an achievable reality, not an improbable ideology,” Prof Bosch said.

…female-headed households are approximately 40% poorer than those headed by men.

She said the importance of equal pay for equal work was highlighted by the fact that more than a third of South African households are headed by women⁴ and female-headed households are approximately 40% poorer than those headed by men⁵. Almost half of female-headed households support extended family, compared to just over 20% of male-headed households⁶.

“Since women support greater numbers of children and extended family members and are more likely to be employed in lower-paying occupations, their lack of pay equality has arguably a greater negative impact on the socio-economic wellbeing of families and communities.”

“This is all the more reason to amend and enforce policies on transparent pay reporting, with the end goal of closing the gender pay gap,” Prof Bosch said.

The research, analysed the impact of practices in 16 countries where employers are legally obliged to provide transparent reporting on pay and gender, as well as South Africa’s existing equality legislation and the King IV Code on corporate governance.

The study makes recommendations to guide legislators, activists, board members, trade unions and organisational leaders in improving transparent pay reporting.

“The first is to strengthen the pay reports already required from employers by the Employment Equity Act (EEA) by including data on the total remuneration, including performance incentives, paid to men and to women at each level. This would highlight gender pay gaps, enabling accurate comparison at national level and identification of patterns, so that policies can be formulated and targets set to close gaps in specific areas and levels of work,” Prof Bosch said.

She advised that the JSE should “expand its interpretation” of the King IV Code requirement that listed companies remunerate fairly, responsibly and transparently, by including mandatory gender pay reporting in annual reports as part of its listing requirements.

South African legislation doesn’t require employers to share pay reports with employees and trade unions or employee representatives, and Prof Bosch said this should be considered.

The introduction of a right to query another employee’s pay could be difficult to achieve given South Africa’s constitutional right to privacy and privacy laws, but Prof Bosch said this should be pursued, as it would be critical for employees in proving a claim under the equal pay for equal work clause of the EEA.

Pay audits and equal gender pay should form part of collective bargaining…

Mandatory pay audits at the designated employer level (more than 50 employees) would enable analysis of pay differentials, identifying problem areas and developing measures to rectify gaps, she said.

Pay audits and equal gender pay should form part of collective bargaining, Prof Bosch said, recommending that “a soft law stipulating that these topics be discussed during collective bargaining be introduced into the King codes as a matter of good remuneration governance”.

“Diligent monitoring for non-compliance, along with enforcement of penalties, is essential for transparency mechanisms to be effective. It is recommended that a financial penalty be levied for unjustifiable and stagnant gender pay gaps among the employees of the same employer, one that is sufficient to act as a deterrent to non-compliance.

“Penalties should thus promote compliance with gender pay legislation and transparency mechanisms, and ultimately disincentivise discriminatory pay practices,” Prof Bosch said.

ABOUT THE RESEARCH

The full article can be downloaded from the SAJS website: Gender pay transparency mechanisms: Future directions for South Africa

Tables showing comparisons between 16 countries can be downloaded from here 

In addition to the study, USB has partnered with by WDB Investment Holdings (WDBIH) – the women-owned and -operated group focused on advancing the meaningful participation of women in the economy – to produce the The gender pay gap guide for the already converted as a means to aid responsible managers to implement fair pay practices.

About WDB Investment Holding (WDBIH)

WDB Investment Holdings (WDBIH) is women founded, women–led Investment Company and has been operating successfully since 1996. The main purpose of the company is to be a game changer in women advancement and empowerment in South Africa, impacting the African Continent. One of their key objectives is being a catalyst by influencing public opinions and legislation to create an environment that supports opportunities for women advancement.


References

¹Mosomi J. Distributional changes in the gender wage gap in the post-apartheid South African labour market [Internet]. Helsinki: UNU-WIDER; 2019. WIDER Working Paper 2019/17.

²Mosomi J. Distributional changes in the gender wage gap in the post-apartheid South African labour market [Internet]. Helsinki: UNU-WIDER; 2019. WIDER Working Paper 2019/17. Available from: https://www.wider.unu.edu/publication/distributional-changes-gender-wage-gap-post-apartheid-south-african-labour-market

³International Labour Organization. Global Wage Report 2018/19: What lies behind gender pay gaps [Internet]. Geneva: International Labour Organization; 2018 [cited 2019 Jul 6]. Available from: https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/—publ/documents/publication/wcms_650553.pdf

⁴Statistics South Africa. General Household Survey 2018 [Internet]. Pretoria: Statistics South Africa; 2019. Statistical Release P0318 [cited 2019 Jul 16]. Available from: http://www.statssa.gov.za/publications/P0318/P03182018.pdf

⁵Statistics South Africa. Living conditions of households in South Africa: An analysis of household expenditure and income data using the LCS 2014/2015 [Internet]. Pretoria: Statistics South Africa; 2017. Statistical Release P0310 [cited 2019 Jul 16]. Available from: http://www.statssa.gov.za/publications/P0310/P03102014.pdf

⁶South African Institute of Race Relations. South Africa’s family fabric. Free Facts. 2018;5:1-5. Available at: https://irr.org.za/reports/freefacts/files/free-ff-2014-september-2018.pdf

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Philanthropy lacks imagination.

USB News

Philanthropy lacks imagination. It’s time for radical change!

(Source: pexels.com)

  • APR 23
  • Tags Coronavirus, Philanthropy, Social Impact, Business in Society, Redistribution of wealth, Inequality, WHO

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Dr Armand Bam, Head of Social Impact at USB, encourages philanthropists to shift focus from traditional philanthropic models in order to genuinely effect positive change.

For the upper and middle class, the inconvenience of working from home and limited social engagements can seem challenging for an entire month. While these are legitimate concerns and speak to issues of health and well-being, we must bear in mind that certain social determinants of health will place others at greater risk during and beyond this period. Where you were born, the fact that you work, the community you grew up in and other environmental factors will play a role in your experience (“WHO | The determinants of health,” 2015). In South Africa it is evident that inequities persist and are held up by social, economic and political influences ensuring that money, power and resources insulate some citizens while exposing others to a more dire consequence. South Africa faces major challenges if we consider that one in three South Africans lived on less than R797.00 per month (StatsSA, 2017). On top of this government spend on social development has recently increased from 259 Billion in 2018 to 278 billion in 2019 – 15% of the total national budget.

Consider this – even if all of South Africa’s billionaire philanthropists decided to donate one billion rand a year to a solidarity fund it would take them more than a century to share their collective wealth. It would appear to be easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle. What has led to such a dehumanising experience and existence? How have we come to tolerate living in a society where abject poverty is contrasted by such extreme wealth? A simple answer would be that even with a new political dispensation a culture of silence has been maintained. We have failed to rise and unshackle ourselves from our oppression.

Even if all of South Africa’s billionaire philanthropists decided to donate one billion rand a year to a solidarity fund it would take them more than a century to share their collective wealth.

Recently the media has drawn our attention to the “good” being done by a few elites at a time of collective need. What is concerning is it that we are made to feel that the social impact being delivered by these elites is greater than the collective effort of ordinary citizens some of whom will not be returning to employment after lockdown. How is it we are expected to applaud the same people who have a hand in creating such inequities? We need to rid ourselves of this imagery! Surely, the sacrifices made by those who could ill afford to be under lockdown should receive our adulation. Should the strength of their conviction, the immediacy of their actions and mere fact that so many citizens have made this sacrifice not be lauded instead? This is where true social impact lies.

But let us for a moment accept as Braverman (2014) claims that inequity is avoidable and a “collective moral obligation” exists to reconstruct the structures and practices that place socially disadvantaged citizens at greater risk. In order for us to claim as Rawls (1971) suggests to be living in a just society, a society, “that renders the most vulnerable less vulnerable” action and collaboration is required across all spheres of society. It is clear an imbalance needs to be addressed and needs to transcend our traditional efforts. Henry Mintzberg’s suggestion that we require nothing less than reformation, on a global scale, to rebalance our heads, our societies, and our world comes to mind. He cautions that despite all the effort to deal with our problems—climate change, social injustices, the demise of democracy, and more—we will make no headway until these efforts consolidate around common cause, namely the restoration of balance. Until we all understand that combating inequality is that common cause, we will continue to fail. It is at this juncture that one should take exception to calls for a new type or modelling of philanthropy. Instead, philanthropy needs to do some soul searching.

It is at this juncture that one should take exception to calls for a new type or modelling of philanthropy. Instead, philanthropy needs to do some soul searching.

While the Coronavirus has moved with speed to cover the globe it has exposed the soft under belly of philanthropy, the slowness with which it delivers. Let’s be real – modern day philanthropy has become a means of shielding wealth. It is and will be no different to its anachronistic self. The elite build house next to house and join field next to field exclusively for their benefit. The emergence of family trusts and foundations of the elite with a social aim amongst the already 220 000 NPOs in South Africa merely serves to create a circular economy to maintain control over their “own money”. No attempts at achieving social cohesion is truly possible because philanthropy will not be able to rid itself from believing it knows best and wanting to maintain control over the purse strings. Philanthropy lacks humility to do so, it fails to apologize, listen to and include those in hurt in order to repair our society.

Any suggestion that we require new ways of philanthropy represents a type of psychogenic blindness and lacks imagination, radicalism and wisdom. It is an affront to those most at risk of contracting this virus and suffering a real economic hardship. In South Africa, the richest 5%, control 56.5% of our wealth totaling $435 billion. The top 1%, approximately 360 000 people, control 34,6% or $266.4 billion of our wealth. Those who seek to predict a future any different from what we are experiencing today without addressing the true source of our inequities runs the risk of fueling an egoistic pursuit of having. In this regard questioning where philanthropic wealth originates, why it only enters the public capitals ‘willingly’ when a life-threatening virus emerges, who manages, allocates and spends it must be answered. If money is value neutral, our attention must be directed to the values of those in possession of excessive wealth.

So where does a solution lie? What philanthropy should more earnestly concern itself with is the vaccine for a virus far more detrimental to our society. Edgar Villanueva describes the “colonizer virus” as a greater threat to our society and one that urges us to divide, control and exploit. It represents the true embodiment of how we deal with wealth and subsequently inequities in our society. It perpetuates the trauma we have experienced over generations. The vaccine, greater tax responsibilities for the wealthy, is available yet a radicalism is required to inoculate the elite. Philanthropy with its savior mentality needs to face up to this as it does nothing more than fuel the divisions within our society. In its shadow lies the promotion of an inalienable right to owning more shielding the violence committed on those Freire explains are cast as the “rejects of life”.

The vaccine, greater tax responsibilities for the wealthy, is available yet a radicalism is required to inoculate the elite.

If philanthropy was to be helpful, radicalism is required not a self-indulgent remodeling. If we want to rebalance our society, the answers must come from the most marginalized, the 50% of our population living below the upper-bound poverty line, the communities suffering daily under gang violence, the women and children brutally assaulted by men, people with disabilities willfully excluded from employment opportunities. Philanthropy must surrender itself to this. To achieve balance, we need to redistribute resources and ensure the most vulnerable no longer live at risk. No form or fashionable philanthropic modeling or gimmicking will achieve this.

Dr Armand Bam is the Head: Social Impact and Senior Lecturer in Business in Society at the University of Stellenbosch Business School.

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“Third Sector” impact of Covid-19

USB News

Mitigating the impact of COVID-19 within the “Third Sector”

(Source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/analysis-blackboard-board-bubble-355952/)

  • APR 16
  • Tags COVID-19, coronavirus, pandemic, NPOs, non-profit organisations, social impact, budget, collaboration, work from home, donor, opportunities

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Dr Armand Bam, Head of Social Impact at USB, looks at the impact of COVID-19 on non-profit organisations (NPOs).

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on all spheres of society, some of which will become more apparent after the extended period of lockdown. Much of what has been written in the media has been focused on the decision from government within the public sector to enforce a lockdown and the impact on businesses within the private sector. While these sectors are often viewed as the main contributors to the economy it is the impact of and on nonprofit organizations (NPOs) within the “third sector” that easily goes unnoticed. There are over 220 000 NPOs registered with the Department of Social Development in South Africa. During this pandemic it will become more evident how these mission driven organisations play an important role in our society.

What is worth considering is that NPOs act in communities where government and businesses are not able to reach. They are accessible and agile to attend to the current crises and need our support.

What is worth considering is that NPOs act in communities where government and businesses are not able to reach. They are accessible and agile to attend to the current crises and need our support. While government can rely on our taxes to stay operational and well-resourced businesses tap into financial reserves, NPOs primarily rely on donations and personal fundraising to ensure service delivery. Many of these organisations are now facing the threat of downsizing and retrenching staff while the need for their services increases. Although many leaders within the sector are used to working in under resourced scenarios, the impact of social distancing will affect service delivery to beneficiaries and the ability to relate in person with donors. Along with beneficiaries and donors, employees will be operating with some level of uncertainty as job security is affected.

So, what is it that NPOs can be doing to avoid panic and mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Communicate with clarity

With a range of stakeholders, it is important to maintain communication, stay informed of what is happening and share relevant information.

  • Remind board members, volunteers, employees and donors of your vision, mission, goals and activities. Take the opportunity to revitalise the commitment to your cause. You are also vying for their attention as their news feeds are flooded with COVID-19 stories.
  • Web-based communication is cost-effective and can reach large audiences. Websites are effective public relations platforms to reach donors as well as the media provided specific contact and fundraising details are visible.
  • Develop your digital presence through mobile optimisation. There is a global shift to transacting this way and fundraising can now occur in the palm of a smart phone user.
  • Be discerning with the information you share. The information you choose should be from reputable sources and useful to the general public as well as specific to your sector.
  • Take the time to cultivate new donors and donor-relations. Fine tune your message and be clear about your impact.
  • It’s not all about fundraising so be in contact, say thank you, reaffirm trust and lay the ground for new funding sources. Your donors are stewards of your organisation, inspired by your mission and they also care for the people driving it.

Re-evaluate your operations and budget

With the prospect of a reduction in donations immediate attention should be given to prioritising how your finances are managed. The continuity of your services needs to be maintained and this means revisiting your business plan. In fact, you are reminded to have a plan B and C. Scaling down and assessing operations on a weekly and monthly basis will become part of what we all do.

  • Cash flow is critical. Making use of a simple excel spreadsheet can assist with decision-making.
  • Fixed costs require a plan and the management is essential to ensure you can continue to deliver services and that programmes are implemented. Where possible discuss the possibility of delaying or restructuring payments to suppliers.
  • Reach out to your existing funders and detail unavoidable costs and where you require definite support. The re-direction of existing funds may be considered under these circumstances.
  • Compliance remains important and although requests to redirect funding may occur, financial accountability must be at the top of mind.
  • If you have not considered this before, our current situation requires that NPOs seriously consider a recovery plan as part of their future proofing.

Actively search for donor/ funding opportunities

This remains the lifeblood of any NPO and should form part of the core operations while under lockdown. The 2019 Charities Aid Foundation report indicates that cash donations remains the most common form of giving.

  • NPOs whether directly or indirectly involved in fighting COVID-19 should explore the opportunities that are available locally and globally to alleviate expected funding constraints.
  • There will be an increase in funding directed by corporates and government alike to partner in addressing the impact of the pandemic. While these opportunities do become available avoid moving beyond the scope of your mission.
  • Online concerts have become a means for entertainers to deliver to their fans. Live streaming of performances and online auctions might not have the same returns but do come with reduced expenditure.
  • Don’t forget the messaging for Gen Z and Millennials should be specific and relevant as their spending power has increased.
  • South Africa has a range of crowdfunding platforms available for use. With the increased reliance on digital technology post COVID-19, it would be beneficial to visit one of the following: BackaBuddy; Brownie points; Click ‘n Donate; org; Doit4Charity; forgood; GivenGain; Jumpstarter; MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet; Pledge-a-Portion; WeBenefit

Collaborate for impact

As the impact of this Corona virus is global, the opportunity to partner and collaborate with local and international nonprofits to find solutions and discuss the impact on NPOs worldwide presents itself.

  • Sharing within the local sector can serve two purposes. Sharing common challenges (coming to terms that you are not alone) and adopting approaches that might be transferable between organisations. There is plenty we can learn from each other.
  • With the decisive approach to enforce a lockdown, our South Africa experiences may offer unique insights to the impact on NPOs in the global South while learning from others in other parts of the world.
  • Being at the coal face of the COVID-19 experience, opportunities to collaborate with research institutions can provide greater exposure and awareness of your organisation and its impact.

Working from home

This might be the trickiest aspect of ensuring you are able to maintain your services and the start of the new normal for many NPOs.

  • Above all care for your staff.
  • Along with financial planning the opportunity to review organisational policies with respect to remote work presents itself. This isn’t a possibility for all organisations and in some NPOs only certain staff will be able to work from home.
  • Remember not all staff have the same access to resources so make sure you can support their needs. Assess everyone’s job requirements and responsibilities on its own merits.
  • Communicate your expectations clearly. Ensure that staff understand they should continue to follow their daily work routines and be contactable as normal.
  • Keep your staff connected. Having group gatherings will go a long way to serving the culture of your organisation.
  • Explore the online resources offering free access to their products Microsoft Teams; Google Hangouts Premium and Dropbox Premium are some of the more popular.

 

*Dr Armand Bam is Head of Social Impact at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB).

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USB report unpacks how to improve women’s representation on corporate boards

USB News

USB report unpacks how to improve women’s representation on corporate boards

  • MAR 03
  • Tags Women on Boards, Gender Diversity, Female Representation, Anita Bosch, Corporate Governance, JSE, Business Women’s Association of South Africa

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Diversity in the boardroom makes for more effective and informed decision-making, corporate strategy and governance – but while half of the South African population and 45% of the employed workforce are female, only 20% of directors of JSE-listed companies are women.

Corporate boards are failing to take advantage of the value of female business leaders’ diverse perspectives and networks, despite a “vast, untapped pool of qualified and capable women”, says the newly-released report Women on South African boards: facts, fiction and forward thinking by the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB).

“According to the [Business Women’s Association of South Africa] BWASA Women in Leadership Census, from 2012 to 2017, only 26 JSE-listed companies consistently had a 25%+ female board, while approximately 45 of the 277 companies had no female directors at all, the report’s lead author Prof Anita Bosch, the USB Research Chair for Women at Work, said.

Corporate boards are failing to take advantage of the value of female business leaders’ diverse perspectives and networks, despite a ‘vast, untapped pool of qualified and capable women’.

“The pool of talented women suitable for board directorships is steadily increasing and gains have been made, but they are too erratic and too small to correct the gender imbalance,” she said.

The report recommends a voluntary target of 30% female board members as “reasonable and feasible”, with 40% as a stretch target.

South Africa has no legislation specifically requiring companies to include women on their boards of directors, and indirect measures – such as the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) listing requirements – are limited in scope, relevance, impact and enforceability, the report found.

“For instance, there have been no consequences for JSE-listed companies that have not complied with listing requirements related to the advancement of gender diversity at board level,” she said.

There have been no consequences for JSE-listed companies that have not complied with listing requirements related to the advancement of gender diversity at board level.

Contrary to popular belief, Prof Bosch said, there are more than enough talented women to serve on boards – “directors just need to look outside their normal, comfortable networks to find them”.

The report’s publication, sponsored by WDB Investment Holdings (WDBIH) – the women-owned and -operated group focused on advancing the meaningful participation of women in the economy – explores what is needed to strengthen women’s representation on boards and “what it takes for women directors to gain the power, influence and critical mass to be able to effect change”.

Contrary to popular belief, Prof Bosch said, there are more than enough talented women to serve on boards.

Voluntary targets, improved monitoring and reporting, enforcement and consequences for non-compliance, establishing shadow boards to grow the next generation of female directors, and lobbying, are among the recommendations of the report.

“In SA we can only do voluntary targets since quotas are regarded as unconstitutional. Voluntary targets, however, can be just as effective as quota systems. The trick lies in the enforcement of voluntary targets and penalties, even if only through social pressure, which could be associated with non-compliance to own targets.”

The lack of women in senior management is evident from BWASA statistics:  from the almost 600 female board members of JSE-listed companies in 2017, over 80% were non-executive directors.

Addressing the gender imbalance in the top tier of business leadership in South Africa will take strategic and concerted efforts by companies, directors, shareholder activists and institutional investors, she said.

The lack of women in senior management is evident from BWASA statistics: from the almost 600 female board members of JSE-listed companies in 2017, over 80% were non-executive directors.

“Indirect measures to encourage gender diversity on boards” include the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) Act and codes of good practice, the Employment Equity Act, the King IV Report on Corporate Governance (application of these codes is voluntary except for JSE listed companies), and stock exchange listing requirements.

Co-author, Prof Kathleen van der Linde said, “these are all limited in scope, relevance, impact and enforceability”. And meanwhile, the 2013 Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill, which provided for equal representation of women on the boards of public and designated private bodies, was withdrawn for further consultation in 2014 and “appears to have since been abandoned”.

The recommendations in brief

For companies

Prof Bosch said companies could play an active role in “effecting change from within” by identifying, training and promoting high-potential female employees and candidates to board positions – for example by:

  • Closing the gender wage gap between male and female, signalling to women that they are valued equally for their contribution.
  • Prioritising the search for female candidates for senior management and board positions. It all starts with the existing board members.
  • Looking outside of traditional networks and exploring avenues such as academia, professional bodies, government and non-profit organisations for new, female talent.
  • In the medium-term, sponsoring emerging talent in women senior managers to prepare them for future board positions.
  • Developing a “shadow board” where prospective future directors can shadow and learn about board protocol from existing board members.

Prof Bosch said companies could play an active role in ‘effecting change from within’ by identifying, training and promoting high-potential female employees and candidates to board positions.

For existing board members

The report recommends that current board members play a part in developing the next generation of women board members by:

  • Supporting initiatives such as shadow boards; and vouching for women in senior management to open up opportunities and prepare them for future board roles.
  • Using directorships in non-profits, unlisted companies and larger private companies to grow the pool of experienced women from which listed companies can make board appointments.
  • Supporting female executive directors to take on independent and non-executive directorships to gain experience.
  • Implementing family and other support mechanisms to enhance the opportunity for women in their child-bearing and -rearing years to serve on boards.
  • Engaging in questions of what the board is doing and what more could be done; and supporting research on board gender diversity in order to stimulate debate and critical conversation.

For shareholder activists

“Shareholder activists have the power to encourage change through applying pressure to regulatory and industry bodies, and within companies themselves,” Prof Bosch said.

She said recommended actions included:

  • Lobbying for more accurate reporting, such as the movement for the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) to report on board gender diversity and for licenced exchanges to enforce listing requirements on gender, age and race reporting.
  • Nominating strong women directors to the boards of companies they hold shares in, especially where a woman director is performing well on one company board and could add value to another company in which they hold shares.
  • Using their public voice, such as in the media, to stimulate public debate on board diversity.

‘Shareholder activists have the power to encourage change through applying pressure to regulatory and industry bodies, and within companies themselves,’ Prof Bosch said.

For institutional investors

Large institutional investors have a duty to look after the long-term value of investments made on behalf of their investors, and economic, social and governance considerations are interlinked with the long-term sustainability of a company. These institutions can use their voting and lobbying power to shape company strategy and influence the composition of boards, Prof Bosch said, by:

  • Encouraging the appointment of at least one additional woman to the boards of companies they invest in.
  • Giving preference to investing in companies that are making progress towards gender-balanced boards.
  • Making their votes count with a coordinated voting policy that prioritises gender diversity when voting on new board members.

On targets, monitoring and reporting

Since one in three listed companies already have at least 25% women directors according to the BWASA Women in Leadership Census, the report recommends a voluntary target of 30% for listed companies as “reasonable and feasible”, with 40% as a stretch target.

And, she said, since most board decisions are actually taken at committee level, listed companies should set specific targets for women directors’ representation on board committees and as committee chairs. They should also be required to show gender parity in nominations for board members and to document the reasons for selections to the short-list stage.

In terms of reporting, the report recommends that the Institute of Directors-South Africa (IoDSA) facilitate the enhancement of recommended practices in King IV by setting a voluntary target for gender diversity at board level, thus ensuring JSE-listed companies must report on their progress.

Prof Bosch said various government departments and agencies, as well as the IoDSA and listed exchanges, could play a role in monitoring progress and enforcing compliance.

The regular reporting mechanisms of organisations such as the Business Women’s Association of South Africa (BWASA) and the Institute of Direstors South Africa (IoDSA) should be used to keep board diversity on the national agenda.

The regular reporting mechanisms of organisations such as the Business Women’s Association of South Africa (BWASA, whose 2017 Women in Leadership Census provided much of the data for the USB report) and the IoDSA should be used to keep board diversity on the national agenda. Reporting information from the JSE and other stock exchanges could be used to produce lists of companies meeting, exceeding or not achieving gender targets, and to develop a national progress-monitoring index.

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About the report

Women on South African boards: facts, fiction and forward thinking is a publication of the Research Chair: Women at Work, at the University of Stellenbosch Business School, the publication of which was sponsored by WDB Investment Holdings (WDBIH) and published in March 2020 on the USB Management Review platform.

Prof Anita Bosch, USB Research Chair: Women at Work

Prof Kathleen van der Linde, Professor of Mercantile Law, University of Johannesburg

Shimon Barit, USB Research Fellow

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Responsible Leaders

The role of responsible business leaders in SA

USB News

The role of responsible business leaders in SA

Responsible Leaders

  • Dec 05
  • Tags USB-Kgalema Motlanthe, Foundation, Gala, Leadership, Keynote

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What is the role of a responsible business leader in South Africa, was the question asked by Sim Tshabalala, CEO of Standard Bank. He says the first is to articulate a clear purpose and that profit-making should be done within the rules of the game.

He was the keynote speaker at the USB-Kgalema Motlanthe Leadership Lecture Series, a prestigious annual event hosted by the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) and the Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation on Thursday, 31 October 2019.

During his address Tshabalala also referred to German sociologist Max Weber’s lecture, Politics as a Vocation. “Weber defines two kinds of responsibilities that strategic leaders should fill.

“These are the ethics of responsibility and the ethic of ultimate realities. Every important decision that a leaders makes is both a decision to do something and not to do something else. A responsible leader will be acutely aware of opportunity cost and will work hard to reduce such costs,” he said.

Former President Kgalema Motlanthe said the Foundation has two purposes. “The Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation focuses on dialogue among equals and education,” he said.

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