As a multi-disciplinary engineering company, Proconics’ business is to execute projects that improve and extend the life of factories. The nexus of its commercial philosophy is operation in ways that are consistent with its transformational, relational and community-orientated beliefs. In order to express these ideas through an influential corporate social investment (CSI) strategy, some very specific needs had to be addressed.
“We searched for a CSI initiative that would allow all our stars to align,” outlines CEO, Melvin Jones, “a perfect blend of conflicting needs, something beyond charity – a way to give back more than money.”
Proconics was after one inclusive programme that addressed societal needs on a scale that would make a meaningful difference; creating a better future for the company, and helping its employees to get involved and become part of social change in South Africa.
“We felt that many of the existing CSI programmes had little or no lasting community impact, as they seldom functioned as preventative strategies,” adds Jones. “We wanted an initiative that would have a long-term positive impact on the future of our country. A low-friction platform that would allow our employees to actively get involved in community projects, without any added administration for our business.”
The FutureNow Initiative – mentoring the youth to lead
FutureNow describes itself as a non-profit association and resource network for schools and youth-care workers who are passionate about serving young people through high-quality mentoring programmes.
The stars had aligned. Here was a way for Proconics and its employees to make a significant contribution to the future of the country, without the burden of added management overheads. The partnership between Proconics and FutureNow was created to implement a unique youth development programme, ideally tailored to the South African context.
The primary instrument of the programme is one-to-one mentoring, delivered in one of two ways:
1. The older children at a school are trained by a social worker who equips them with the skills they require to mentor their younger peers.
2. Proconics employees are trained to act as one-on-one mentors to children at all levels within the school.
“This is what’s known as a preventive youth development strategy,” explains FutureNow MD, Gert van der Merwe. “It’s designed to instil an understanding of the fundamentals of healthy interpersonal relationships in children who, due to personal circumstance, may not have access any other way. It’s not meant to deliver short-term benefits, but rather, like compound interest, its value grows powerfully over time.”
Working in partnership with FutureNow, Proconics chose the Nelson Mandela Primary School in Zamdela, Sasolburg, as the partner school for its initiative. Once the preferred school had been selected, the FutureNow team met with the stakeholders to describe the programme and benefits to all involved. MOUs (memoranda of understanding) were signed, and a new position for Youth Development Programme Coordinator at the school was advertised and filled by a qualified social worker.
FutureNow provided the programme coordinator, Sbongile Zulu, with the training and guidance she needed to deliver on her new mandate. Subsequently, teachers and senior learners were coached by her on how to implement the preventative mentoring programme. The younger children were then each assigned an individual mentor and the relationship building could begin. The basic premise is that the easiest way to help someone learn about the benefits of a healthy relationship is for them to be in one. At Nelson Mandela Primary, this process is ongoing, both in the classroom and through extracurricular activities like sports and gardening.
Interested Proconics staff members received similar initial training and are now also responsible for mentoring activities at the school. These activities take place on a regular basis during working hours with time booked against a special CSI code in a scheme fully endorsed by Proconics.
“We believe that through initiatives like this our company can make a real difference in creating a better society for all South Africans,” says Jones. “This project succeeds on many levels. It engages our heads, helping to secure our licence to operate as a Level 1 B-BBEE company. It engages our hands, enabling our employees to be active in our community. And it engages our hearts, providing purpose and hope for a better future.”
To date, 1744 learners and 55 educators have been reached through this holistic preventive social development programme.
“I would like to invite other companies to join us,” concludes Jones. “As you can see from the numbers, this programme has the reach and scope to transform the future of South Africa. Proconics on its own will make a big difference. Together with your partnership, we could make it massive!”
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