Great news for IkamvaYouth as we become the first South African (and African) organisation to make it onto the WorldBlu-accredited list of the “World’s most Democratic Organisations”.
IkamvaYouth is in the habit of performing minor miracles as most of the township high-school learners who join the programme need to jump at least at least 2 or 3 symbols to access quality post-school opportunities when they matriculate. However, it is not just what IkamvaYouth does, but also how IkamvaYouth does it that contributes to its sustained success. For the past 5 years, IkamvaYouth has achieved a matric pass-rate of between 85-100% and over 70% of IkamvaYouth learners have gained access to tertiary education. This is particularly impressive given the prevailing schooling challenges in South Africa and that IkamvaYouth does not have an initial academic entry requirement for learners.
A key feature of IkamvaYouth’s achievements is a commitment to inclusive value-based democratic decision-making which has resulted in IkamvaYouth’s inclusion in this year’s Worldblu List of the “World’s Most Democratic Workplaces”. There are 7 township-based IkamvaYouth branches in 3 provinces across South Africa and each branch is run by a democratically elected branch committee (branch-com) made up of committed volunteers and beneficiary representatives. The branch-com is responsible for implementing the IkamvaYouth model and everyone is invited to participate (including parents, partner organisations, learners, and community leaders) in all matters relating to the functioning of the branch. Great emphasis is placed on ensuring all deliberations are open and transparent and all aspects of the local branch are open for discussion including budget allocations and recommendations, hiring and firing of branch coordinators, performance reviews, budget decisions and ideas for improving the core programme offerings.
Joy Olivier, co-founder and director of IkamvaYouth, believes the democratic emphasis is a key reason IkamvaYouth achieves the results it does. According to Olivier, the democratic process leads directly to genuine collective ownership and community support. “This youth-centred decision-making model has effectively enabled the beneficiaries of the project to become its leaders and in the process, IkamvaYouth is building the leadership capacities of these young individuals through exposure to value-based democratic deliberations.” She adds, “It can only be good for this country’s democracy for young people to be actively involved in democratic structures and achieving the success IkamvaYouth achieves through this manner of engagement. It is therefore particularly gratifying to be included on the Worldblu List of the “World’s Most Democratic Workplaces” because democracy is not just something we do at IkamvaYouth, it is who we are.”
Alongside IkamvaYouth on the Worldblu List of the “World’s Most Democratic Workplaces” is the Fortune 500 company Davita and a number of other well-known democratically structured companies and organisations including Zappos.com, HCL Technologies, New Belgium Brewery, Great Harvest Bread Company and WD-40. Organisations from across the US, Canada, Mexico, the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, Malaysia, Haiti, India, New Zealand and Singapore made this year’s WorldBlu List from a diverse range of industries including, technology, manufacturing, healthcare, retail, services and energy. The organisations range in size from five to 90,000 employees representing over $17 billion in combined annual revenue.
According to WorldBlu founder and CEO, Traci Fenton, this is the most global WorldBlu List to date which reflects an increasing movement towards democracy in how we organise ourselves and find ways to relate better to one another. “WorldBlu-certified organisations model how democracy unleashes human potential and builds highly successful organisations that change the world for the better.
Fenton continues, “We are especially delighted to have IkamvaYouth on the WorldBlu List this year as the first WorldBlu-certified organistion in South Africa and Africa. The youth represent the future of Africa and our world, which makes this especially inspiring. We hope African leaders will take note of IkamvaYouth impressive example and find ways to implement elements of its democratic model in organisations across the continent.”
Regional Coordinator, Andrew Barrett, adds that it goes deeper too, “We sometimes forget that democracy at both a broader political and narrower organsational level is not something that just happens on its own but requires careful cultivation and deliberate attention. To borrow an idea from Terry Tempest Williams, although we often see ‘democracy’ as something somehow ‘out-there’ and beyond us, the truth is that democracy ultimately begins in the human heart. If our democratic engagement is not rooted in the core human values of love, truth and justice then it becomes a very blunt instrument indeed.”
Democracy necessarily requires a high level of collaboration which itself requires an equally high level of caring and trust and because of this, IkamvaYouth dedicates a considerable amount of time and energy into creating a conducive environment for grassroots-directed democracy. This not only offers lessons in contemporary engagement in South Africa’s bigger social issues but also enables young people to engage with the rich heritage of this country’s past and craft their own response. Barrett concludes, “The overwhelming sense you get from everyone involved with IkamvaYouth – whether they are staff, volunteers, parents or learner beneficiaries – is a collective sense of pride in the organisation, and pride not just in what IkamvaYouth achieves but most notably in what IkamvaYouth is and represents.”
It must surely be true that the more young people there are actively involved in value-based democratic initiatives, the brighter the future of South Africa’s own democratic future and aspirations.
Marking the Occasion
To mark IkamvaYouth’s inclusion in the list of the “World’s Most Democratic Workplaces”, the IkamvaYouth branches in Gauteng are running a competition for learners and volunteers to submit a response to the question, “What does democracy mean to me?” Learners will be writing essays or employing other creative means at their branches on 10 April 2012 and will be presenting to the group on Saturday, 14 April 2012. Media enquiries or visits to any of our branches on either of these days is widely welcomed.
About the WorldBlu Accreditation Process:
Companies and organisations become eligible for a spot on the WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Workplaces™ only after its employees complete the WorldBlu Scorecard™, an assessment evaluating their organisation’s practice of the WorldBlu 10 Principles of Organizational Democracy™, with an overall combined score of 3.5/5 or higher. The WorldBlu Scorecard™ was developed based on a decade of research into what makes a world-class democratic company. Organisations from the for-profit and non-profit sectors that have been in operation for at least one full year and have five or more employees can apply for WorldBlu certification.
For more on the 10 Principles: http://worldblu.com/democratic-design/principles.php
View the full WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Workplaces™ 2012 and read more unique best practices from this year’s list at http://worldblu.com/awardee-profiles/2012.php.
WorldBlu has offices throughout the US and UK and specializes in organizational democracy and freedom-centered leadership, with organizational and individual members in over 70 countries worldwide. Founded in 1997, WorldBlu’s vision is to see one billion people working in free and democratic workplaces. For more information about WorldBlu, visit the website at http://www.worldblu.com.