Summary of the A! Virtual Network Hangout
By Paul Mabote
On 30th March 2023, ACTIVATE! Held the year’s first Virtual Network Hangout, which brought together Activators from across the country, the organization’s CEO and the vital members of the ACTIVATE! Staff. This is the written summary. On 30th March 2023, ACTIVATE! held the year’s first Virtual Network Hangout, which brought together Activators from across the country, the organization’s CEO and the vital members of the ACTIVATE! Staff.
It has been over a decade since ACTIVATE! welcomed their first cohort of Change Drivers into the powerful network that would gradually grow in size, strength and social impact. This feat and many others can be attributed amongst other things, to the continued culture of transparent communication between the organization and the network itself. It is great to see, then, that beyond ACTIVATE’s 10-year anniversary mark, that communicative culture is still very much alive.
The hangout, which was relayed through various social media platforms, was facilitated exceptionally by Communications Manager Zamayirha Peter and Network Support Manager Thamsamqa Masingi.
Words from the CEO
Following a warm welcome and introductions, the floor was given to CEO Siphelele Chirwa to unravel ACTIVATE’s organizational strategy. She pointed out that while a large part of the strategy remains to connect, influence and inspire all Activators, the eminent objective within the past 2 years has been to further entrench ACTIVATE! as an organization and as a network within different communities across South Africa.
This is in line with the “Expanding Reach” pillar of the general strategy and can be seen through the recent introduction of the ACD in Communities Programme. “The aim is to expand the reach not only of what ACTIVATE! can do for Activators, but also of what Activators can do for their communities.” The CEO added. Other parts of the strategy include improving inclusivity and social solidarity as well as providing more diverse support to the work of Activators on the ground.
Next, the floor was handed over to Network Support Director Tebogo Suping to give an overview of the Civic Education Programme which ACTIVATE! is currently implementing. “South Africa is at a time where we cannot afford to be inactive as a generation, as a network and as individuals” Tebogo shared. She added that the Civic Education Programme is in itself a toolkit that seeks to equip members of the network and other young people in communities with knowledge about how the different spheres of government work.
This entails knowing where to go to report various municipal issues and the tools with which to do so. The programme, she said, also seeks to encourage government and citizen accountability to ensure that government processes run seamlessly. Ahead of the upcoming general elections, the programme seeks to encourage us to be a talking and not a dormant generation. The work of the programme is done in partnership with Activators who are known as Civic Education Champions.
Thamsamqa Masingi took to the floor next, and said that what he and his team at Network Support are trying to achieve is having an interconnected and active network that spearheads social solidarity across the country. They have 3 key portfolios that they are working on, namely Capacity Building, Mobilizing as well as Policy. Thami highlighted as challenges the perceived communication breakdown between the organization and the network, as well as among Activators themselves. Also, the perception that some provinces enjoy more preferential support than others. He also mentioned the importance of compliance in Activators’ initiatives in order to be better positioned for funding opportunities. These are some of the challenges which Thami said they would be looking to deal with in their portfolio, through different Activator-focused programmes and initiatives.
Rammolotsi Sothoane is the Special Projects Manager at ACTIVATE! and he spoke after Thamsamqa. His department is responsible for bringing opportunities closer to Activators through forging partnerships with different stakeholders in the public and private sectors. He spoke in detail about the initiatives his department runs, including the Youth Hub initiative. Youth hubs are Activator-led information and resource centres and are situated in all nine provinces. ACTIVATE! assists these youth hubs with information and resources such as office equipment. Their aim this year, Rammolotsi says, is to professionalize youth hubs by providing assistance in the form of facilitation and compliance training. He also made mention of Generation G, a global partnership programme that seeks to realize gender-just spaces across society.
A round of questions soon followed and the first one came from an Activator via email who enquired about the availability of Network Connectors. The CEO responded by reiterating the importance of self-mobilization within the network and encouraging the formation of provincial plans, which the organization can assist in implementing. Activator Nkosikhona Mpungose showed interest in being part of the Civic Education Programme. He proposed the introduction of accredited courses for Activators in order to equip them for more opportunities.
Activator Kabelo Mampa made the suggestion that more information be shared on the organization’s website, as some Activators are not too active on social media, for various reasons.
Activator Caiphus Mabitsela applauded the decision taken by ACTIVATE! to professionalize the work done by Activators and echoed Nkosikhona’s plight for more accredited courses.
The next segment of the meeting involved the attendees separating into different breakaway sessions to further engage on the matters raised in the bigger group. The sessions addressed different topics: Civic Education, Network Support, Special Projects and Communications.
The Communications department is led by Zamayirha Peter, who is the custodian of all communications for the network. Her department is responsible for maintaining the organization’s social media and digital presence as well as leading the different teams who are the network’s storytellers in the shape of writers, social media activists, videographers and photographers.
Zamayirha highlighted the great strides by the writer’s hub held a successful writers’ workshop and has gone on to be published through the network onto mainstream media bringing alive citizen journalism. She also noted the call from the network to have information like the meetings shared on the organization’s website. She furthermore informed the network of the fresh content shared on YouTube as well as the upcoming edition of a podcast series for the network.
At the end of a very informative session, Thamsamqa Masingi summed everything up in the following words “ACTIVATE! Is a network. For the network to work, we need to be able to connect with one another independently of the organization and support one another in every way possible. In closing, the CEO thanked everyone in attendance and said that sessions like the Virtual Network Hangout are helpful in highlighting the good work that is being done and the work that still needs to be done. “The network is here,” she said “…and the network is doing what it needs to do. The responsibility is ours as Activators to realize the difference and the change that we have dreamt for our communities.”
More hangouts are expected to occur during the course of the year to ensure that we keep connected as a network of change drivers.
About the Author:
Paul Mabote is a creative artist, writer, storyteller and a member of the ACTIVATE! Network