The Covid-19 pandemic has shown more than ever that collaboration, cooperation and the co-creation of solutions are vital between all local stakeholders if communities are to prosper.
Paul Smith, Kagiso’s Trust’s local government support head, recounted their ongoing work with Makana Municipality as a case study of what can be achieved. He was speaking at a recent Trialogue webinar – ‘Supporting Local Government in the Midst of a Global Pandemic’.
“When people set aside their differences and get their hands dirty, working together, things get done,” said Smith.
The Kagiso Trust began working with the Makana finance department in 2018, assisting with debt and revenue management issues, as well as building capacity and transferring skills. Municipal revenues were shrinking year on year and service delivery levels were rapidly declining. The municipality was losing its ability to attract people to this once sought-after town and unemployment levels were increasing to a staggering all-time high.
“At Kagiso, we wanted to reimagine our support for local government and to think of ways how expanding our support could have a direct impact on marginalised communities,” said Smith. “Our work with local governments was having some impact, but whether that was filtering through to the greater community was debateable.
“We believe we should think a little differently when supporting local government and work on co-creating solutions and place less emphasis on issues-based support,” Smith said. “One size doesn’t fit all.”
In Makana Kagiso included three new elements over and above revenue management support:
- Indigent management – identifying the people who are the poorest of the poor who need the most social support and linking them to the output of the LED (local economic development) strategy.
- Developing a commonly accepted LED strategy for Makana that would promote sustainable local job creation.
- Community engagement and the formation of an integrated stakeholder coalition to co-create solutions for local challenges.
Smith said building stakeholder cohesion was no simple task. Active communities and institutions with diverse views and perspectives had to set aside their differences, agree to collaborate and organise themselves for meaningful constructive engagement. This also meant getting the municipality ready to engage with the communities in the same manner. From this was born the Makana Circle of Unity (MCoU) platform.
Makana has a very active civil society who are passionately interested in the region’s prosperity, Smith said. This group of committed citizens were often referred to as the ‘Circular Firing Squad’, agreeing on the need for change, but without consensus on how to achieve it.
Kagiso Trust had recognised this positive energy as the essential ingredient for transformation and sustainable change and began discussions with stakeholders in 2019.
Makana leadership has demonstrated that transformation is possible when people set aside differences, embrace disruption, remain people centric and hold each other accountable.
The MCoU created clusters that would attract stakeholders with relevant interests and skills. Municipal department heads were represented in all clusters, providing a first-time opportunity for officials and civil society to share views and agree on key focus areas and initiatives.
The new MCoU collaborative structure has started reaping the dividends: relationships have started mending, people are discussing issues and coming up with solutions, previously polarised groups have started collaborating.
The MCoU has enabled a new Food Security cluster to coordinate feeding schemes and enhance the regional response to the food security crisis during Covid-19. This includes collaboration with government agencies Social Security, Social Development, the police and the municipality, making food parcel deliveries possible while adhering to lockdown regulations.
Members of the MCoU have also assisted in developing Covid-19 communication material, manufacturing of face masks, producing sanitation liquid and actively participating in the Municipal Joint Operation Committee (JOC) meetings.
“Members of the MCoU are all like-minded people interested in fixing the city. Through the MCoU, stakeholders now have a platform to engage constructively and positively and find meaningful solutions,” said Smith.
Collaboration by community, government and business on programmes had a greater prospect of enabling local communities to prosper.
“Makana leadership has demonstrated that transformation is possible when people set aside differences, embrace disruption, remain people centric and hold each other accountable,” Smith said. “As Kagiso Trust we look forward to sharing our experience in Makana with other municipalities.”