Mandela and the foundations of change


December 11th, 2013

This morning as over 90000 people gathered for Nelson Mandela’s memorial service we had our usual all-staff briefing about the week’s events… And we spent a moment to connect with this momentous event and to ‘make a noise’ in appreciation of a remarkable and inspirational man. We marked his passing with noise rather than silence, in honour of all the noise he had made over his life on behalf of the oppressed and the marginalised. We counted ourselves fortunate to have been in the world at the same time and to be working for Practical Action, an organisation that shares his passion for changing the world.

mandela13Like most of us I have spent the last few days thinking about the great man and reflecting on those incredible events around his release, journey to president and then global statesman. I was in Cape Town in 1995 working on a trade project shortly after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission began their work…  the local radio was broadcasting people sharing their painful experiences, confronting what they had done and/or had done to them. It was incredibly moving and powerful, and part of the foundation Mandela was laying as he led the country through the long process of confronting and changing what had been.

Recently I saw that one of his charities  is focused on dialogue and I made a connection with my own work here at Practical Action. One of our core values is ‘people first’ and so we invest in processes that will enable the marginalised to have better access to the opportunities they need and want for a better life. In our approaches, like the Participatory Market Systems Development approach, we put a strong emphasis on creating spaces for dialogue and building the trust and relationships between people. This can take time and often donor deadlines are not conducive to this type of investment, but we believe it’s a necessary foundation for change. I like to imagine that Mandela would have agreed with us.

So we have paused today and stood with South Africa and millions across the globe to give thanks for the inspiration that is Madiba.

One response to “Mandela and the foundations of change”

  1. Peter Fox Says:

    I grew up in Joburg and left in 1954 to further my engineering knowledge and also to be able to explain to people in Britain a little about the problems of living there. I had never felt “at home” there because of the maltreatment and poverty of such a huge percentage of the population, though I’m ashamed to say I did not feel I should have stayed and tried to improve things for all. What a magnificent example Mandela has shown what can be done. His leadings prove that it is possible to achieve peace when one treats people positively rather than fighting. What a supreme example he has set for all of us to endeavour to follow in future.

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