2017 05 26 Sustainable Solutions

26th May 2017

The challenges inherent in our current context elicit a wide range of responses from everyone that is affected by those conditions. While sadly, some people might be prone to complaining about everything that is going wrong without actively taking any action to improve situations, people generally seem to be completely willing to play their part in making things better, not only for themselves, but also for everyone around them. Over the past year Grahamstonians have become used to individuals sweeping pavements in front of their houses and business premises while others go around removing illegal posters or buying light bulbs for street lamps for Makana’s Electricity Department to install. On a bigger scale organisations such as the Grahamstown Area Distress Relief Association (GADRA) was established in 1968 to assist those in dire poverty, as do a number of service organisations such as the local Rotary Clubs, Roundtable and Rapportryers who regularly organise fundraising initiatives to support specific institutions or projects. Similarly, the role played by many local NPOs and NGOs in making Grahamstown a better place to live and work cannot be overlooked.

If there is anything to be learnt from the wide spectrum of responses to current local challenges, it is that focussing on long-term sustainable solutions rather than short-term wins has the potential to bring about enduring and deep changes. GADRA Education is a case in point. While the mother organisation was working across a broad range of initiatives from soup kitchens to incorporating the Grahamstown Civilian Blind Group and its programmes under its umbrella, the organisation’s main focus has in recent years shifted to education. Education is the area where GADRA has had the most immediate positive impact, for example in the number of GADRA graduates who enter higher education studies every year. However, the long-term effect of their programmes will not only improve employability of GADRA graduates, but will stretch over generations in that the second change afforded to the GADRA youth will eventually be passed onto their children.

Primarily aiming at creating and sustaining a supportive and enabling business environment in Grahamstown and surrounding areas, the Grahamstown Business Forum has played an active role in cleaning major streets before the National Arts Festival last year. Realising however, that raising funds and supervising workers year after year is not a sustainable strategy for addressing the challenges in the City, our organisation took a strategic decision to shift our focus from short-term gains to long-term solutions. This means that rather than again asking businesses for money to clean up streets and thereby effectively taking over the responsibility of the Municipality and doing the work of the municipal workers, the GBF opted for engaging with local and provincial government in a bid to empower Makana Municipality to discharge of its duties as local government. Following meetings with the Premier of the Eastern Cape at the end of last year, the GBF called upon representatives of local educational and religious organisations to give of their time and expertise to engage with Makana councillors and officials as well as provincial departments over sustainable solutions at a turnaround strategic meeting convened in February this year. Ongoing meetings with the Executive Mayor and representatives of the Office of the Premier are aimed at ensuring that action steps proposed at that turnaround meeting are acted upon and decisions are followed through.

While the GBF would not like to prescribe to businesses how and where they should spend their money, the organisation acknowledges that there is a limit to which any business can contribute to such “good causes”. For this reason the GBF calls on local businesses to rather become members of the GBF as this support will enable the organisation to continue its work in engaging with local government to create and sustain a supportive and enabling business environment in Grahamstown and surrounding areas. For more information please send an email to grahamstownbusiness@gmail.com.

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