By Kay-Dee Mashile
Investing into a Future that is Worthy of our Longing
The current generation of youth has made so many strides and pioneered many innovations. While we are a generation of many firsts, what we cannot rightly claim is that we are self-made. The term self-made has been attached to many successful people in the past couple of years, however, I am of the opinion that it is the sacrifices, decisions and investments of other people that aid us to be successful. Whether it is directly or indirectly so, our success is the combined effort of many people. In a more poetic sense, we are each a collage of the footprints of all who have crossed our path, and the fingerprints of all who have touched our lives. We simply cannot succeed alone, even in a natural sense. It is from this premise that I want to highlight the importance of social investments into young people’s lives and their impact in society.
By definition, impact (or social) investing is an investment strategy that aims to generate specific beneficial social or environmental effects in addition to financial gains. Simply put, social investment is about investing in people (European Commission). While the term is often used in a corporate setting, I am of the opinion that companies and organisations should invest into individual young people who exhibit skills, knowledge and potential to plough back into society in an impactful way. Some examples of this person-based youth social investment approach are programmes such as the Abe Bailey study tour, the ACTIVATE! Change Drivers (ACD) programme for emerging young leaders and various international study opportunities. These programmes are often applied for, have various interview cycles and a competitive selection process in order to mitigate risk and maximise the probability of success and ROI.
However, other than the ACD programme, many of these opportunities are seldom extended to young people in previously disadvantaged communities. While they, in my opinion, are the ones who need them most.
Having grown up in a rural village yet granted the privilege to travel and attend school across South Africa, I can speak from experience on the significance of investing in rural-based youth leaders. To further qualify this statement, in 2018, I had the opportunity to travel to the Northern Cape as an Activator Freelance Writer to cover an Activator event in the rural village of Kortnight. The event was a career expo where various professions and potential funders were brought into the community in order to offer academic advice and study opportunities to the learners from the surrounding communities. This annual event sees many rural scholars placed in institutions of higher learning with full bursaries and scholarships, giving them an opportunity to end the cycle of poverty. This is all made possible by the fact that two young men from the area were selected to take part in the ACD programme and, while at training, identified that the young people in their area were often ‘stuck’ in the villages after completing their high school education.
During their ACD training in 2013, Activator Baamogeng Hube and the late Activator Kgopiso Letobane, who passed away in 2015, recognised this need and founded Matlhwaring Community Development Fund (MCD Fund) in the rural area of Joe Morolong Local Municipality in Kuruman. While Kgopiso only lived a short while after receiving the social investment through the ACD training programme, many other young people will continue to benefit from the MCD Fund as a direct RIO. A similar example of the impact of social investments is the Lebogang Setaka Foundation founded by Free State Activators in honour of the work that Activator Action Setaka did in the community before his untimely death in 2020.
Both of these organisations, and the many companies and organisations run by Activators across South Africa, prove that investing into individual young people through training opportunities, exposure to opportunities and knowledge as well as connecting them to resources and potential partners can have a ripple effect of success in otherwise disadvantaged communities. This, in turn, results in even more young people’s lives being changed for the better. No one can change the world on their own, but everyone can change at least one young person’s life by investing in them. And this is how we can all play our role in creating a future that is worthy of our longing.