Community development partnerships: key steps in the social investment value chain

Collaborative approaches to community development can magnify the impact of social investment, but only when the key steps in the social investment value chain are followed.

South African social investors show great willingness to collaborate on projects and programmes, but too many fall short on one of the key steps in the value chain – governance. This insight was shared by the team from Tshikululu Social Investments at a recent briefing at Anglo American Platinum’s Alchemy programme.

Alchemy is a R3.5 billion community development and empowerment transaction to provide equity ownership to mine host communities around four operations and labour sending areas. Anglo American Platinum’s Lefa La Rona Trust acts as a conduit to Development Trusts in the four benefit areas.

Tshikululu, one of the sponsors of the Alchemy Reflection Day, noted that collaborative approaches such as Alchemy stood to deliver a sustainable developmental impact. In contrast, however, some attempts at social development partnerships and collaboration around the country have failed, primarily because key steps in the social investment value chain had been neglected.

The key steps include planning, engaging, developing a business case, building partnerships, investing and co-investing, and evaluating financial and social return/impact. One step in which some community partnership efforts have fallen short is governance. This may be due to ignorance or haste, but it is crucial to build robust governance structures and processes into projects and programmes from the outset.

In the case of governance structures for example, these must clearly spell out what the expectations of the trust are for all stakeholders; what the trust and trustees can and cannot do; what the trust will deliver; decision-making processes and procedures; and what the conduits are for support. In community trusts, governance is enhanced through support from an overseer, as well as through knowledge sharing forums such as legal workshops and forums to clarify roles and responsibilities. These steps improve the long-term sustainability and impact of the project or programme, and also help manage community expectations.

Another key step in the value chain is impact evaluation. New monitoring and evaluation models support ongoing outcomes assessment and programme flexibility for maximum impact. Ongoing monitoring and evaluation also helps to ensure that a collaborative programme keeps delivering on the expectations of all investors and stakeholders.

Egos versus agendas, and failure to disagree constructively, are common sticking points in collaborative programmes however. The ‘egos versus agendas’ challenge emerges when stakeholders seek to drive their own agendas over the shared vision. The other challenge, a failure to disagree constructively, can see programmes drifting off vision and stakeholders opting out of the programme altogether. By laying the groundwork effectively at the outset, and by continually evaluating milestones and remaining committed to constructive engagement, the stakeholders are able to overcome hurdles such as these more effectively.

With a 20-year track record of supporting social development with impact, Tshikululu also recommends that for effective community development partnerships, stakeholders use the company’s Asset Based Community Development approach as a tool for entering a community; design monitoring and evaluation indicators in collaboration with communities, and build trust with all key stakeholders through open and transparent communication and by creating the necessary resources such as community liaison officers.