Celebrating 20 years of strategic social investment

Looking back to July 1998, it is with a sense of pride that we celebrate Tshikululu’s 20th anniversary today.

Many people and organisations have paved the way for our very existence and  ongoing success in South Africa; starting as far back as the late 1890s when De Beers Consolidated Mines first started contributing to the welfare of the poor and needy who flocked to Kimberley to seek their fortunes.  Soon after that the Anglo American Corporation, founded by Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, followed suit.

By the 1950s, Sir Ernest recognised the pivotal role of business in society and stated that “the aim of the group has been, and they will remain, to earn profits, but to earn them in such a way as to make a real and permanent contribution to the well-being of the people and to the development of southern Africa”

During the 1970s, Anglo American formalised its community investment approach in what would eventually become known as the Anglo American and De Beers Chairman’s Fund. This ‘professionalisation’ of social investment, led by the late Mr Michael O’Dowd, was deliberate in its approach to address systemic social change through various initiatives such as the Urban Foundation and the Joint Education Trust.

The Chairman’s Fund believed in developing partnerships with civil society and government and paved the way for the improvement of thousands of mud-built rural schools into spaces that would enrich learning, supporting the establishment of higher education institutions of learning and the building of primary healthcare facilities. The Fund also believed in supporting grassroots initiatives, addressing the needs of the most marginalised in the country through feeding schemes; and caring for people with disabilities, the aged and the homeless. Many people that shaped the thinking of responsible social investment during this time including Mr Clem Sunter and Mrs Margie Keeton.

The Anglo American and De Beers Chairman’s Fund ceased to exist in June 1998, following a decision by the leadership of both Anglo American PLC and De Beers Consolidated Mines to run separate foundations, each with their own unique strategies.

In deciding how to manage these new entities it was agreed to establish an independent out-sourced social investment fund management company, with seed funding from Anglo American, AngloGold and De Beers, to run the respective companies’ corporate social investment programmes.

And so Tshikululu Social Investments was born, comprising a group of 11 ex-Anglo American employees, including myself, and headed up by the founding CEO Mrs Margie Keeton. The 1st of July 1998 marks the start of Tshikululu’s exciting journey in to the world of professional social investment fund management.

During the past twenty years, Tshikululu has learnt many lessons in response to the changes in the economic, social and political landscape. We have developed a deep understanding of how business engages in advancing the prosperity and growth of the country and its people – beyond running successful companies, creating employment opportunities and paying taxes.

The work we do is first and foremost about people and advancing development opportunities for the intended beneficiaries of our clients’ social investment funds. The partnerships we have built with thousands of NGOs, academic institutions, government and other funders over the past 20 years has been key to the implementation of the programmes developed by Tshikululu in various sectors such as education, health, environmental matters and sustainable livelihoods.

The strength of these partnerships is influenced by the level of care, trust, respect and professionalism required when navigating the complex dynamics of “donor/recipient” relationships and ensuring that the power and financial influence of a donor never undermines sound developmental principles.

Our experience in scaling programmes and working on systemic interventions is born from a deep understanding of what is happening at a grassroots level and our 20 years of experience and reflection on what works, what doesn’t work, and why.

Our social investment professionals are not confined to our offices in Parktown or the boardrooms of our clients. They are out in the field, covering the length and breadth of South Africa’s urban and rural settings, working with partner organisations to understand community needs and how local and financial assets can be mobilised to bring about positive social impact.

To manage third party funding requires an organisation built on strong ethics, that instils trust, accountability and proper governance. Over the past 20 years, the legislative environment impacting our work has developed exponentially. It has required us to respond with changes to our operating model, systems, processes, internal controls, oversight governance committees and reporting capabilities. This has not deterred us from our core purpose of placing people at the centre of our work and ensuring positive social impact for the greater good.

Development and working towards social impact is hard work. It requires a passion for advancing the social and economic objectives of the country. However, just as important is having the right skills and experience to understand the complexities of the social investment environment in which we operate, be it stakeholder engagement, partnerships and collaboration, monitoring and evaluation, data management, legislation and development paradigms.

The needs in our country are endless and with a limited pool of funds available for investment, focus and a deliberate strategic intent are vital.

Tshikululu is proud to partner with clients who share our values and are focused on social impact. We have grown over the past twenty years and manage 22 social investment trusts and advise numerous companies on how to establish and implement social investment programmes. Our focus has expanded beyond traditional CSI or corporate social investing to the management of social investment programmes, new impact investing models and B-BBEE trusts. We have expanded to new sectors beyond mining, to areas including banking, health, insurance, property and renewable energy. In the past year alone, we managed the implementation of social investment programmes totalling R643 million on behalf of our various clients.

Whilst the numbers tell a story of growth and longevity, the true mark of success of any company is its commitment to its vision and uncompromising stance on ethics. We will not be judged by our numbers, but rather by how we engage with people and support the advancement of ethical and strategic social investment that is focused on long-term impact.

To all our partners in business, civil society, government, the donor funding community and the special people who work at Tshikululu, past and present, I thank you for sharing the Tshikululu dream and for your support in building Tshikululu Beyond20.