2020 in Review: A year of paradox

2020 in Review: A year of paradox

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree today” (Martin Luther).

2020 was a difficult year, one full of uncertainty, suffering and endings. But it was also a year that encouraged renewal; an exceptional year that forced people and organisations across the world to rethink, relearn and re-vision, to contemplate anew not only how we could adapt to living differently, but also how we might create a different future in which to thrive.

2020 offered us two visions of the future: the potential for unpolluted skies, clear water and birdsong, or the hurricanes and wildfires that ripped through and devastated so many natural areas. These are just two of the manifest dangers that will accelerate should we continue on our current path. The question is, what will we choose? Will we choose to rise above ourselves and change? Will we still plant the apple tree today and make sure we live – as humanity – to enjoy its fruits tomorrow?

For us all at the Impact Trust, we are committed to planting the apple trees we can. Indeed, 2020 demonstrated just how important our efforts to contribute to deliberate practice in support of resilience building and sustainable development were across all our various initiatives. Like organisations the world over, we were forced to transform how we work. We had to unlearn and relearn, draw deeply on our own sources of resilience, agility and adaptability, in the same way as we encourage so many young people to do. Some of our programme highlights are below but we invite you to consider the detail in our Report to Society for 2020 and share your thoughts on what more we could, or should do, or do differently, to further our common global goals.

Routes to Resilience: New ways to reach, engage, inspire, inform and ignite

Throughout 2020, the Routes to Resilience team demonstrated that resilience is in its DNA; innovating and collaborating to find new ways to reach, engage, inspire, inform and ignite their students, to help them feel empowered, despite isolation, to be part of creating a new future within their families and communities. Pivot strategies included (unsurprisingly) WhatsApp and Zoom. But more importantly, they included creating ‘family groups’, students connected in pods that collectively allowed them to engage and support each other with conscious and meanintful connection. The programme content was narrated into beautiful and engaging student workbooks, enabling students to have materials available at home around which they could connect on zoom to discuss, in seminar style, and to engage in learning.

Routes to Resilience’s programmes continue to grow in both uptake and recognition. The Sygnature programme has now reached more than 1,200 young people and has achieved recognition of quality through its successful CPD accreditation. Meanwhile, the Resilient Futures programme was born and has already experienced significant uptake and impact with first graduates working or interning at  the social enterprises they were introduced to through the Routes to Resilience marketplace. The programme reach will expand significantly in 2021 as the ‘train the trainer’ programme, already launched, stretches beyond our own organisation. 

The growth that Routes to Resilience enjoyed in 2020 allowed for expansion of the team and enabled us to act on our commitment to developing black leadership in the field of sustainability in South Africa. We were thrilled to find and welcome Miselwa Mzanywa and Nwabisa Mjoli to the organisation and we look forward to watching them grow into the leadership roles they have already demonstrated the potential for. 

Routes to Resilience has not only “grown up” and established itself independently of the Trust, it has navigated the year with strategic and resilience skill and compassion.  We are profoundly impresed at how it has emerged stronger, more agile and as focused on its purpose as ever, assured of its potential to coninue contributing to the resilience journey of its young people in 2021. We look forward to watching this independent young organisation rise to the potential is has demonstrated.

ALERT: giving epistemically disadvantaged children a successful, joyful education

The ALERT programme aims to establish a ‘pedagogy incubator’ that will assemble a range of teachers to collaborate within a community practice, drawing on research insights from education partners and working with the most marginalised children to give them a successful, joyful education. The programme was stymied by the pandemic in 2020, but the time was used to establish sturdy foundations for future development: analysis of the curriculum and how it may need to be restructured for ALERT; research into ICT as a pedagogical resource; securing an anchor funder; and improving the library and its systems at the flagship ALERT primary school, Silverlea.

Resilience by Design: Implementing intentional strategies to support the needs of a changing world of work

For some years now the Trust has been convinced that the world of tomorrow – a world that is, indeed, already here today – demands a different way of thinking, being and doing; one that is evidenced in behaviours in service of the principles of Ubuntu, behaviours that reflect alignment with the principles of nature and the compassionate needs of an interconnected, social world. Importantly, we have to see ourselves, our work, our companies, colleagues, employees, communitiies as part of the embedded fabric of a whole system within which we reside. And resilience has to take account of this entire socio-political and economic context, not just the resilience of the individual or the abstracted community or team. Critical contextual determinants that support resilient must be considered if we are to intentionally establish policies and practices that are resilience-building.

We believe there is a significant role for the private sector – those who significantly benefit from the talent and work efforts of their employees – to lead this change, to inspire, influence and cascade new ways of thinking and doing things, ways that build an Ubuntu style of societal resilience. We have internally called this mindset “the Ubuntu Quotient”. Whatever its name, we believe it’s manifestation will help drive positive changes in our future.

The pandemic has accelerated the nature and extent of change in the world of work. It has demonstrated that there is a pivotial role for the private sector to play in changing behaviours at scale. Businesses have witnessed the potential of their influence. And we are excited to be exploring with them to consider the gaps in resilience building strategies as a core component of employee development programmes. By collaborating with academic institutions, corporate partners, foundation funders and third sector enterprises, we believe we will gain an enriched understanding of how to our deliberate policies and practices can address the need for a broader societal resilient to support the changes of tomorrow.

theCollab: an immersive online learning, convening. collaboration and campaign platform for those committed to being the change they want to see in the world

The Impact Trust has not only managed to pivot its existing programmes to adapt to the new reality under Covid; the pandemic has driven us to explore new and exciting opportunities. As we delivered our programmes over Zoom, we found ourselves wishing that online meeting platforms were more engaging, allowing learners to interact more freely and naturally with each other and, importantly, that there was opportunity for the magic of serendipity. And so the idea of theCollab was born. 

theCollab is an immersive multi-dimensional platform that will take collaborative engagement, formal and informal learning to a new dimension. An open collaboratory intended to support the needs of a ‘metaverse’ of education providers and changemakers, theCollab is a world within which to design, convene, collaborate and campaign in learning, unlearning and relearning for the needs of tomorrow. We have to thank The VirtuLab who have made it possible for this idea to be brought to life and excited by the opportunities it presents. 

There are some FABULOUS collaborative events happening in the Collab in April.  See more here.

Conversations at the Crossroads: exploring how to promote a more future-fit environment for the wellbeing of people and planet

Originating as the world navigated the first Covid-19 lockdowns, Conversation at the Crossroads seeks to engage people from all walks of life in dialogues that explore the experiences, creative ideas, innovations, practices and programmes that could provide a framework for how we create a healthier, happier future for people and planet as we emerge from the ‘pandemic era’. The conversations strive to engage and reflect a diversity of views, voices and experiences in the hope that they will support, design, create, contest, challenge and regenerate a common future from stories of meaning-making. The Impact Trust is committed to continuing the Conversations into 2021 and beyond working with a diversity of organisations to explore the polysemic nature of the issues we face and experience. If you have an idea for a topic that we can discuss at one of our forums, please let us know by emailing [email protected]

Thanks we want to be sure to express …..

A team with unwavering passion, commitment and resilience in the DNA

The Impact Trust is extremely fortunate to be able to rely on an exceptional group of people: our team, our board, faculty, advisors, specialists, partners, schools and institutions with whom we collaborate. It has been humbling to see them respond to prevailing circumstances and we are grateful for their unwavering passion, tenacity, fortitude, agility and authentic care for the purpose and vision of our organisation. They have chosen to rise above themselves, and the impact has been breathtaking.

A contributor network that has consistently engaged and supported dynamic evolution

We are most grateful to our donors, partners, collaborators and supporters, especially those who have risen to the challenges of the time and so stepped up to the financial needs of our work along with our partners at this difficult time. They are so encouraging of our purpose, and so willing to support the need to be consciously responsive to our areas of skill, even taking on moving into new directions without sight of the destination but with an openhearted trust and willingness to give us opportunities to try – even if to fail – are so deeply appreciative.

A turning point – and a wish for 2021

The pandemic has humbled humanity. It has shown us that, in fact, we are not all-powerful. But it has also given us clarity of vision. It has taught us that we must do things differently and do different things. The opportunities are all around us, we just have to take them. Because now it’s urgent. At the Impact Trust, we start 2021 more convinced than ever that our work plays a critical role in bridging some of the gaps that inhibit humanity from taking the journey to joy and thriving.  

If you would like to read more about what we achieved through our programmes in 2020, you can read our annual report here.