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Posted by Sarah Brown on 10 Dec '13

What we can learn from South Africa

The focus in South Africa is on creating sustainable jobs rather than giving charity, this should be the emphasis in the UK. Creating meaningful work changes communities much more than any hand out could.

I started writing this blog as I was flying over the snow covered mountains of the Middle East – they looked like they had been sprinkled with icing sugar. I also looked down on the Tigris and the Euphrates and remembered the diagram I did in primary school of the rivers. I love flying and looking at the clouds it is beautiful and I imagine walking on them.

But since then Nelson Mandela has died so this blog seems even more appropriate as our flight back was from Cape Town where I was really inspired. We arrived in Cape Town after 17 nights on a cruise where I spent most of the time writing my book which has slightly changed in title to “Winning by Being Good”. Generally it was exciting and inspiring as I wrote about how people can be more successful when they trade ethically and hold to their values but I was ready for a break when we got to South Africa. The plan was to have four days of total relaxation but somehow South Africa highlighted the importance of what I had been writing about. Creating successful businesses which do good is critical in South Africa and two examples stood out.

Late one night they profiled a woman who had set up Saris for Good Karma Director Kanchana Moodliar, after getting the idea for the project from when she noticed that her mother had many saris that she didn’t wear. She works in the corporate clothing sector and is using her skills to develop this project.
“’Saris for Good Karma’ exists so that women and children in Africa and South Africa can be fed, clothed, and given the ability to earn an income. That’s what we are trying to teach them. There are many poor people without skills and employment and basically don’t have the ability to do anything as they don’t have a skill. So what we are doing is teaching them how to sew and run a small home industry. So they can make clothing for themselves and their families or they can use this skill to sell their products”

The next day we booked a massage for me and pedicure for Bob as part of the rest and recreation. It was a wonderful massage and towards the end we got talking and I found out that the Spa had started a social enterprise to train women from the townships in massage and therapies. In the first year they have trained nine women and the goal is to get corporate clients, which generate income, who benefit from less stressed staff and also for the women to provide treatments for the sick and needy in the townships. The founder Ian MacFarlane (my masseur) wants the project to be sustainable and for that it needs secure income streams “we can’t rely on donations and sponsorships”. Ubuntu Touch already is generating income for its trainees, Bob’s pedicure was done by one of the graduates who told how it had changed her life.
Both are business based initiatives that are changing the world and in the UK we need more of them. Throwing fish feeds someone for a day, giving them an old Sari clothes them once, teaching them to fish, sew or design can create a business which can change them and their families and communities for ever. Creating meaningful work for people, Winning by being Good is so important and it has made me even more determined to get my book published.

Have you got examples you can share with me? Please email me if you have

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Tags: charity social enterprise entrepreneur