Whilst ACTIVATE! Exchanges got underway in Cape Town and Klerksdorp, Port Elizabeth had its first ACTIVATE! Exchange at the B&E Conference centre on Saturday the 29 November.  Janice Jobson was the presenter of the event. She is a Social Activist who has been involved in various organisations such as Amnesty International; she also spearheads the ACTIVATE Programme.

The quarterly ACTIVATE! Exchange opens a dialogue for young people from all walks of life to discuss Government, Social Responsibility and other pressing issues. One thing that ACTIVATE regularly highlights is the need to change attitudes and rethink post-Apartheid South Africa. One topic that emerges regularly is Citizenship.

ACTIVATE connects attendees with insightful leaders of varying ages. Participants are able to interact with these leaders in a relaxed atmosphere as well as having the platform to share pressing ideas and opinions with leaders around the table.

Participants and panel members sat together at tables before leaders addressed the panel. Panel leaders selected challenges from their respective fields that they felt needed to be highlighted, within their groups. The groups were presented with object cards and had to link their cards to the challenges they face.

The focus for the day was Innovation.  Groups came up with innovative ways to tackle pressing issues. Issues such as Land Reform, Social Responsibility and Education stood out.

Ngaba Mpofu, @NqabaMpofu, tweeted “Necessity is the mother of invention, and innovation is key to overcoming many of society’s problems. #ActivateExchange

Luyolo Nqakula, a Social Activist/Entrepreneur and one of the panel members, raised the hot topic of Land Reform. Nqakula said Land Reform is an uncomfortable conversation for some that needs to happen.   Nqakula’s statements got the crowd talking.

Then Janice Jobson responded to Nqakula’s comments:

“I think this is a question and an issue that we really have to get to grips with now. For a very long time land-reform has been a notion that everyone generally agreed to but we haven’t dug down- into.  I think that’s the critical, crux for our generation- Can we translate theory into practice? What would it mean to revitalize the Agricultural sector? What would it mean to shift ownership in a way that everyone thrives? “

Lizalise Mngcele, a Statistics and Economics student at NMMU, was also on the panel at the ACTIVATE! Exchange. He offered innovative ideas and a captivating speech. He told everyone of an Information Communications Technology (ICT) project where ICT developers were brought into a township to offer residents the tools to generate mobile applications. He pointed out that this collaboration was mutually beneficial to the developers and the residents, because without the residents, the IT developers would not have had access to application ideas that truly affect the people.

A probing question asked by Prince Charles, a panel member and a sociology student at NMMU:   “Does it benefit the poor? – and if it does not benefit the poor it is not innovation!” His statements resonated with panel members and the participants and also inspired a few tweets.

Lenina Rassool-Louw, @Nina_210, echoed: “If it doesn’t benefit the poor or change the lives of those around us, then it is not innovation.” #ActivateExchange

Nqaba Mpofu ‏@NqabaMpofu  tweeted: “Speak out against authority, be respectful, take responsibility and ask questions” Glenton de Kok #ActivateExchange

Glenton de Kock, a panel member and the Project manager for Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber offered a refreshing take on what the role of citizens in South Africa is.  Through his experience working in the Civil Society Coalition in Port Elizabeth, De Kock states that we should reinterpret our role in governance. “If you make a cross you have a right to tell a counsellor they are not doing their job.” He encouraged citizens to bring forward complaints to Ward Councillors and Municipal Managers.  In turn those officials should be willing to accept criticism and not view themselves as being above reproach.

Ethu Ncanywa, a bubbly and bright NMMU student who attended the event said the most exciting part for her was “How we could all figure out cohesively as group-innovative ideas. Another exciting thing was networking with other people and being surrounded by different people who come from different backgrounds.”

Sesethu Gqomo, the Faculty Marketing Officer at the Engineering Department at NMMU, was on the panel. Gqomo has a strong focus on personal growth and an interest in motivating people. Gqomo said “Activate gave me the skills and tools that I have never learnt in any classroom. They are applicable to young people across all Faculties in any field. Joining the network is one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made.”

The fact that participants get to interact with these successful and influential leaders makes it a day well spent and the Activate programme, a programme worth doing for anyone who is interested in changing the scope of our country.

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By Tina Smith

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