On Wednesday, 15 February, the Inclusive Society Institute attended the Pioneer the Possible symposium at the invitation of the Swedish Embassy. Borne out of the need for creative solutions to address local and international poly-crises, the host of the day, Ambassador Håkan Juholt, stressed that it could no longer be business as usual. Instead of attempting to tackle isolated events in silos, it is the task of all stakeholders to collaborate in building a more sustainable world. Complex issues would require innovative approaches that not only see obstacles but through working together find creative solutions. As such, it is not about seeing the impossible, but collaborating to pioneer the possible.
The first session showed how several companies were successful in building sustainable industries fit for the future. The country manager of mega Swedish textiles company H&M, Caroline Nelson, mentioned several initiatives whereby the company is finding creative solutions to the hitherto unsustainable business model of quick fashion. South Africa, she said, faces an excellent opportunity to rebuild its collapsed textiles industry, catapulting re-generative approaches for a collapsed industry. Instead of merely going back to previous approaches, industry leaders must upskill and invest in South African businesses to build a more sustainable model. According to Nelson, the “possibility to pioneer in South Africa is much easier”. We have the spirit and resilience required to create thriving, sustainable industries. We just have to work together and get things done.
In the second session, moderated by the Inclusive Society Institute’s CEO, Daryl Swanepoel, the discussion focused on how a sustainable, circular economy can be pioneered. Dr Roelof Botha spoke about how the introduction of a Basic Income Grant would advance the socio-economic condition of millions of South Africans. His comments follow the extensive work undertaken for the Institute on the feasibility of a Basic Income Grant. Pointing to the success of the Brazilian Bolso Familia programme that not only uplifted millions of people, but also stimulated economic growth, Dr Botha suggested that such a conditional grant programme would offer enormous benefit to South Africa’s indigent and well as to the national economy at large. His analysis is captured in an Institute report that will be released soon.
Further sessions focussed on several key national issues. Delegates representing youth and civil society groups agreed that the nation lacks trust in the political status quo. They echoed the call for broader inclusion in formal political structures and the need for civil society to organise and mobilise. Trust was again central when representatives from media and academic institutions agreed that open, critical and creative conversations are required by a broad cross-section of society.
After a busy and productive day, stakeholders agreed that a new politics was required in South Africa. One based on trust, cooperation, and mutual benefit. It was agreed that civil society organisations, the media and academia should do more to work with and bring together the private and public sectors in developing South African solutions for South African problems.