[I]f you choose to stand up for what is right, no matter how it does (or doesn’t) impact you, you will be able to make a positive contribution to someone’s well-being and consequently to the society.
Returning back from South Africa was an adjustment. Not only is your body clock all haywire due to the time difference, but also because the country impacts you and changes your perspective in many ways.
This made me think about how I can utilize the experience and knowledge I gained from my travel to this beautiful country, and do something positive and impactful here. Just because I am not working in this specific field shouldn’t be my excuse to not participate in socially beneficial initiatives and conversations. Some of these tougher dialogues that we often see around us but choose not to participate in, simply because it does not impact us directly, or we are not an expert in, may result in turning into a monstrosity of an issue that we did not see coming.
We learnt from the history of South Africa that if you choose to stand up for what is right, no matter how it does (or doesn’t) impact you, you will be able to make a positive contribution to someone’s well-being and consequently to the society. Not only did heroes like Nelson Mandela and Steve Biko champion for the winds of change, but there were people like Neil Aggett and Denis Goldberg who fought for what was right no matter what and left a permanently positive mark in history. It made me realize that corporate social responsibility is something that I could participate in at some level at my company. I looked further into this and found many initiatives that are being run which I plan to join now.
The class for this seminar is structured beautifully and allows you to take a deep dive into the different aspects of how and why social impact is so important in countries like South Africa. The topic we chose was related to providing solar electricity to underserved communities in South Africa. We had multiple conference call meetings with the client that we used to understand the complicated topic and familiarize ourselves with the issues ‘on ground’ that we might not be aware of due to the different cultural and social dynamics than what we were familiar with. We primarily engaged with Elizabeth from our client company who was highly professional, knowledgeable and understood the challenges that we as outsiders might face in understanding the community. She was a great asset in guiding us.
After our initial research we presented our client with a high level draft of our suggestions that we would zero in on once they provided us feedback on what seemed most plausible. We were surprised to see we had a full room of employees and clients (okay, not full room but a lot more than what we were expecting!). The engagement from the room was pleasantly surprising. No one from our team had any expertise in the area and were a little apprehensive about the reception to our suggestions. However the client was genuinely interested in our views and how we, as outsiders, matched the issue with our suggested proposal. They were receptive and took a keen interest in the different case studies we found through our research, and parallels we drew with similar projects being done in other countries that they could possibly leverage.
After returning back, we took their feedback and applied it to our final report. Doing such a deep dive into a topic we had no expertise in was a positive learning experience that we did not expect. Walking away from the class, I felt like I had learnt a lot more than I had initially anticipated and I am glad that it was such a pleasant and educational experience.