The Cooperatives Solution

The Cooperatives Solution

By Fariba Bowen

According to Statistics SA, up to 80% of rural South Africans live below the poverty line, on an average income of less than R 20 per day. With jobs and the economy concentrated in cities, rural citizens stream into urban areas in search of better prospects. While studies have shown that rural-urban migration does result in reduced poverty, in the process families and incomes are divided, urban infrastructure is strained and many settle for low paid work becoming the working poor. The question is ‘Is there an alternative to the rural-urban migration trend?’

Government is working hard to reverse unemployment through the promotion of investment and work readiness programmes, but both have a predominantly urban focus, drawing more people to cities. The solution may lies in rural development and a systematic approach to the creation of jobs through the development of cooperatives. Cooperatives are an internationally recognised form of business structure wherein members collectively own, run and share the profits of an enterprise.

One of the most cited success stories for the cooperative model is the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation in India, which has annual revenue of $5.3 billion and is jointly owned by 3.6 million milk producers in Gujarat State. The cooperative manages the collection of milk from its member farmers at village depots and has associated enterprises for the processing, marketing and distribution of milk products throughout the country. Each member shares in the profits of this massive enterprise.

The South African government supports the cooperative model and provides an incentive scheme which funds cooperative start-ups. In 2018, the Services SETA launched the Enterprise and Cooperatives Development Institute. i-Fundi was involved in the piloting of this programme with five cooperatives (two new and three existing) in Sekhukhune District of Limpopo Province, an area with over 60% youth unemployment.

What set the programme apart was the large amount of onsite coaching that accompanied each training session. Our five modules of accredited training from the New Venture Creation Level 4 qualification focused on Qualities of an Entrepreneur, Working with Teams, Business Planning, Marketing, Financial Management and Administrative Systems. Over the six month project period, five members from each cooperative were trained and systematically supported through the process of identifying their businesses’ needs, creating a marketing strategy and developing financial plans. All of this culminated in the development of fully-fledged business plans, that were presented to the heads of Limpopo Economic Development Agency and SEDA in the District for ongoing support.

One of the cooperatives that was supported was Mashiane Brick Makers Primary Cooperative Limited. Mashiane focuses on supplying bricks to residents who are building houses in the area. The members of the Cooperative are experienced in the building industry and know what is required to satisfy local demand.

They currently produce bricks manually. They also do not have the means to transport the bricks to meet demand and struggle with the shortage of water.

i-Fundi connected Mashiane with their local SEDA office, who will provide ongoing support in marketing and accounting. SEDA will also help Mashiane present their business plan to various funding agencies and banks.

Overall, the programme was an extremely uplifting experience to see the progress and potential of the individuals and their enterprises over the six month period. Where participants initially struggled with their command of English and understanding of business concepts, it was clear that by the end of the programme, they oozed confidence and put forward coherent plans that communicated a firm grasp of business concepts and demonstrated solid potential for investment.

This programme shows that with well-structured programmes and sufficient hands-on support, rural communities can turn their fortunes around, create local prosperity and reduce the need for mass urbanisation.


For more information on our New Venture Creation programme, click here.

Read more on A Short History of Cooperatives here.

A Catalyst for Change with Liz Laing

By Alexandra Kinmont


Change is everywhere. In the business environment especially, regular progressions in technology require constant adaption to the working world. If our computers and our smartphones are updating and progressing daily, what of us and our thinking?

No one thinks of changing what they don’t know can be changed. The way we think – our thought processes and outlook – can be changed, and should be changed. At our last Community of Experts session, Liz Laing brought us what she calls a deceptively simple method for initiating change.

The Frameworks® for Change Process is a tool for inspiring agile thinking in our ever-changing world. The toolkit teaches employees and executive management alike how to adapt their thinking to new and enhanced business models, breaking tired and stale habits that have been previously overworked.

Liz, whose experience spans people and business, started out her career in IT as a computer programmer and worked her way to becoming a business analyst and project manager. With more insight into the working world, Liz then completed her MBA at Wits Business School for a better understanding of the business environment. She has since specialised in corporate strategy and business operations working with companies such as IBM and Ernst & Young.

Liz used the Frameworks® for Change Process to guide attendees through a six step process designed to push their thinking outside the corporate conformity. Organisational change usually begins with organisational needs with individual needs as a mere afterthought. The Frameworks® for Change Process begins from within the individual, using personal power to align with the organisation. It recognises the importance of personal growth and how that can contribute towards business development.

The toolkit teaches you how to apply intuition to the decision-making process, as it exposes new possibilities and solutions. This establishes innovation and clarity within an organisation.

In a two hour workshop, our attendees were given workbooks and a selection of cards. The versatility of each card allows it to resonate with every individual with the purpose of inspiring a unique response or reaction. There are four sets of cards: Insight, Setback, Resource and Mentor. The process follows the below framework:

Step 1: Statement of Intention

The first step was to set an intention – a goal that every person works towards. Liz had each group choose an insight to provide a focus area. Every insight prompted a different response from every participant.

Step 2: Primary Insight

Groups then chose a primary insight card which provided an empowering direction, leading participants towards achieving their intended objectives.

Step 3: Identify a Possible Setback

Participants were then faced with a possible challenge that could hinder a successful outcome.

Step 4: Resource Insights

Liz then had the groups choose a resource card. This resource would assist each participant in overcoming their setback through various interpreted approaches.

Step 5: Select a Mentor

Each group chose a mentor card with advice and guidance to affirm their core competencies. This would inspire the confidence needed to help them move forward from their setback towards achieving their goals.

Step 6: Action Plan

Change only comes about when the awareness that is gained from the cards is combined with personal choice. Liz had participants choose a main action point to instil this learning and begin the process of action planning. 

Under Liz’s guidance, attendees learnt to deconstruct their old thought patterns and reinvent new ones. Combined with personal intuition, primed by the resource cards, the possible scenarios and prompts for insight generated new and creative solutions.

The challenge we most frequently face is applying this process to the business environment so that those around us see the tangible value of the toolkit. It is difficult to inspire change in an environment where people fail to see how their behaviours can be improved. Human nature resists change, more so when we are stuck in a habitual rut. The cards take common problems that every business would have encountered in one form or the other and simply provides unexpected, yet surprisingly simple, approaches that we could have overlooked. Being made to think in a way that does not come naturally to you is what truly opens the doors for new and pioneering ways of thinking.

For more information on implementing the Frameworks® for Change Process, please contact us at here.

For more on information on Change Management short courses, click here.

This is the single most important skill of the 21st century that will take your career to the next level

This is the single most important skill of the 21st century that will take your career to the next level

By Thomas Oppong for Ladders.com.

You may not realize it, but your skills, knowledge, and competency (past, present) are either helping you advance your career or hindering your progress in life.

The world of work is changing rapidly.

Today we work in a knowledge-based world. And your collective knowledge about your yourself and your industry are the key to your future.

As time passes, it becomes even more apparent that knowledge begets knowledge, and new competencies drive careers forward.

You may not realize it, but your skills, knowledge, and competency (past, present) are either helping you advance your career or hindering your progress in life.

Learnability (the desire and capability to develop in-demand skills) makes you indispensable

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn. — Alvin Toffler

When was the last time you read something from an unusual perspective in your industry?

When have you taken the time to wrap your head around a new industry?

Change is constant in today’s workplace.

To keep up, you need to keep learning. Learning drives adaptability.

Most people know this, but it’s often easier said than done.

Between deadlines, meetings, family life and everything else in between, there isn’t much time for a career-boosting class but you can change that.

As long as you are ready to take responsibility for your career.

No matter where you are on the career ladder, it’s important to continue learning and develop new skills.

It’s the only way to survive in the 21st century.

Brian Tracy once said, “Those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives will be the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future.”

He is right! The ability to acquire better forms of knowledge and apply it when necessary will make you great at what you do.

Investing in learning new skills is essential to stay relevant in a changing landscape as the economy evolves and technology improves.

Embrace career learning

The more you learn, the more you earn. — Warren Buffett

Learning helps you become more open to change. Learning new skills should not be a source of fear and stress.

You can make time to improve yourself and get better at what you do.

When people embrace lifelong learning, it becomes another part of their career journey.

A learning mindset makes it less likely you’ll be thrown off when a project changes, your employer changes growth strategy, or when a job function undergoes transformation.

While others scramble to figure out where to go from here, lifelong learners maintain momentum and productivity even in the face of radical change at work.

Personal career development is fulfilling.

A continuous learning process will both stimulate and empower you as you acquire the relevant knowledge, values, skills, and understanding you will need throughout your lifetime.

A learning mindset means you can freely move between tasks, jobs, regions, and countries. It’s the one skill that can take all of your other skills to the next level.

And guess what, the ability to learn and adapt in any work environment will be there for you at every stage of your career, no matter what else changes in our unpredictable world.

Short-term and long-term learning goals

Anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough. — Alain de Botton

Time is finite.

We only get the next hour once, and then it’s gone forever. So choices about how we spend or invest our time come with real opportunity costs.

Think about the skills and knowledge you need to stay current now and prepare for the future.

You don’t have to learn every skill at once but you owe it to yourself to be the best you can be.

To be an effective learner, any skill you choose to learn should fit into the bigger picture of your life and work — your career path.

Learning can help you meet immediate or future needs.

If you intend to improve your skills in the next three or six months, you can get feedback from your employer about your skills that may need upgrading.

Other clues like tasks you tend to avoid or struggle with because of knowledge or skills you don’t have can help you choose what to focus on now or in the future.

You can also focus on the big picture, define your career path and choose the skills you need to get to your ultimate career goal.

This can help you develop new skills that will be useful beyond your current position. If you want to pursue a specific management role, find resources to help you build the skills you need to prepare yourself for the future.

You can even find a mentor and talk about your learning goals and what to focus on to advance your career.

What’s your learning style?

Do you learn best on your own or in a group? Do you prefer audio, video or a combination of both?

Are you a hands-on learner?

Depending on your current circumstances, you can pick the opportunities that suit your learning style including hands-on workshops, or video-based course if your learning style is visual.

In the abundance-based economy of online learning, opportunities are endless. You can learn on your own, at work, from mentors or role models.

You can also learn online following blogs, downloading podcasts, taking a class, etc. Or through magazines, journals, seminars, videos, and broadcasts. And you can also learn by attending classes at an educational institution, in person or online.

All kinds of learning opportunities are just a “click” or a conversation away.

Create an action plan and pursue learning like your career depends on it. State your goals, timelines and resources you need to achieve every goal.

And then set up a series of steps to start you on your way to a successful learning experience.

Final thoughts

Whether you’re considering changing jobs, applying for a promotion or starting a new career, upgrading your skills changes everything.

Learning is an investment that usually pays for itself in increased earnings.

No matter what level of education you have, if you want to succeed, you need to keep on learning.

More than ever, learning is for life if you want to stay relevant, indispensable and thrive in the changing world of work.

Tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today!

Managing By Project with Davis & Dean

Managing By Project with Davis & Dean

Practical project management experience is difficult to gain in a classroom. Ideally, we would like our project management teams to have prior experience however, this is not always possible.

Davis & Dean, project management training experts, have developed Managing By Project (MBP), an extensive workshop where students are able to navigate through online project management scenarios, combining both the science and art of project management.

i-Fundi has partnered with Davis & Dean to give students a holistic training experience when completing their Project Management NQF 5 qualification. The three-day workshop is built into the 12 month programme where students take the concepts and principles taught and put them into practice.

MBP is a simulation of actual management processes programmed in artificial intelligence allowing participants a complete, realistic experience. Projects unfold differently based on each learner’s decisions upon randomised situations. Learners have a realistic experience applying the principles of project management.

The MBP workshop achieves the following outcomes:

  1. Core Skills Integration: –
    Integration of leading, managing and team work as learnable soft skills that each student develops.

    • Leadership: Building strong relationship with relevant stakeholders to later leverage off;
    • Management: Planning, organising and controlling project approach with a time-phased and task-oriented approach;
    • Teamwork: Introduction to science of teamwork and develop teamwork skills for a high-performance team.
  2. Project Fundamentals: –
    Fundamental project planning tools.

    • Project definition: defining the scope of work;
    • Task List: tasks to achieve project objectives;
    • Work breakdown structure: List of tasks are grouped or ordered;
    • PERT: Relationships between the tasks are defined and the critical path found;
    • Gantt: project timeline developed from PERT diagram, start to finish.
  3. Analytical Techniques: –
    Applying analytical techniques during the iterative process of planning, executing and monitoring and control to overcome project deficits and take advantage of opportunities.
  4. Stakeholder Plan:
    Identifying stakeholders and their interest and influence to develop a stakeholder plan which then is implemented through workplace simulation.
  5. Communication Plan:
    Developed alongside stakeholder plan, followed through project implementation.
  6. Human Resource Planning: –
    Ensure optimal usage of available resources through a levelling exercise.
  7. Financial Plan: –
    The human resource plan together with additional budgetary items are developed into a financial plan using a bottom up and top down process.
  8. Project Implementation: –
    Planning reports are generated, results analysed and control tools updated on a weekly basis.
  9. Project Reporting: –
    Effective project reporting from task managers to projects teams, thereon to management.
  10. Project Controls: –
    Additional control tools are introduced for maximum effect.
  11. Risk Management and Contingency Planning: –
    Integrating risk management and contingency planning exercise.
  12. Project Management and Leadership: –
    Level, timing and influence of management and leadership principles.
  13. Project Monitoring and Control: –
    Key Performance Indicators established are used in managing the monitoring and control processes.
  14. Project Closure: –
    Complete necessary administrative duties and prepare final project report.

BEE MATTERS: Unlock skills funds for tertiary education

The higher benchmark for training and skills development set by the new black economic empowerment (BEE) codes may provide an ideal solution to help fund tertiary education.

If entities were allowed to donate portions of their skills development spend to existing student assistance funds, they could earn BEE points and be allowed to claim the section 12H tax allowances.

No additional “wealth tax” would be needed. Big businesses have budgeted for the amounts required to bolster their BEE credentials and many battle to find ways to spend the money.

The new or revised BEE codes have been substantially cranked up in the area of skills development. Some of the most significant changes for generic entities are:

• Expenditure by generic entities with an annual turnover above R50m has been increased from 3% to 6% per financial year.

• Training expenditure must be incurred according to racial and gender demographics based on the economically active population targets for each region. Should a business operate in more than one area, the national demographic targets must apply.

Skills development is a priority BEE element. Entities that fail to conduct training for disabled employees or neglect learnerships, apprenticeships or internships will not achieve the 40% subminimum.

Very few workplaces in SA reflect both the race and gender demographics to train enough people in the right proportions to take up 6% of the annual payroll. The solution would be to train other black South African employees in the same group of companies or to look at unemployed black South Africans.

The concept of training people outside the workplace is foreign to the South African corporate environment. But they need to overcome their hesitance because the new BEE scorecard has been developed in such a way that generic entities will be required to look at training black South Africans outside the workforce and to offer learnerships, apprenticeships and internships.

Apart from the bonus points to be earned for this category of training, there is significant financial benefit in that a large portion of the cost of this category of training is tax recoupable.

This type of training also reduces the amount to be spent, given that the salary of a person on a learnership or a similar programme can be deducted in full. A simple illustration: entity ABC’s 6% calculation amounts to R800,000 to be spent on skills development and it has decided to incur the total expenditure on 12-month learnership programmes.

Deducting the salaries of black South African employees who are on the programmes would reduce the amount to, say, R500,000. Of this, about R450,000 could be recouped from tax.

It is, therefore, a no-brainer to spend R500,000 instead of R800,000 and recover R450,000.

Learnership programmes are often perceived as, or confused with, programmes of a technical nature such as apprenticeships. Programmes include office administration, venture-creation and generic management.

Some of these programmes can be presented at NQF level 1 and above, which means people with a school qualification as low as Grade 6 can enrol. There is enough learnership scope to accommodate all categories of employees and nonemployees.

If entities were allowed to donate portions of their skills-development spend to existing student assistance funds, they could earn BEE points and be allowed to claim the section 12H tax allowances.

I deal with big multinationals and domestic entities daily and am convinced that enough money would be raised to oversubscribe the amount we need for tertiary education tenfold — two of these entities have to spend R20m collectively before the end of their financial year next month.

Education, training and skills development will remain in the spotlight. There can be little doubt they serve as the starting blocks in the race to break generations of poverty. They give an opportunity to compete and industry needs a qualified, skilled and competent workforce to increase output, which in turn makes the economy grow and create jobs.

With legislation in place in the form of the BEE codes and businesses having the money available and under pressure to spend outside the workplace, leadership should link the challenge of free or affordable higher education with the solution.

A deal not to be missed.

• Gerber is an attorney and the founder and director of Serr Synergy, specialising in BEE structuring and compliance.

Article sourced: www.bdlive.co.za