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Merchants is co-winner of Trialogue’s 2018 Strategic CSI Award

Categories: COMPANY NEWS , Employment
The programme took the honours as it has not only generated numerous social benefits in the communities where it operates.

Call centre experts Merchants (a Dimension Data company) which partners with non-profit organisation Columba Leadership to activate the potential of young learners in under-resourced high schools, has been named co-winner of the prestigious 2018 Trialogue Strategic CSI Award.

Staff from the Merchants Cape Town office with learners and educators from Sophumelela Secondary School at a Columba Leadership six-day residential academy held in Stanford in July 2018.

The programme took the honours as it has not only generated numerous social benefits in the communities where it operates, but has also delivered business benefits for Merchants. The company has invested R4.8 million in the project to date through Columbia Leadership, in nine schools in the Western Cape and Gauteng. 

Trialogue MD Nick Rockey says: “We initiated this award in 2014 to encourage corporate social investment (CSI) practitioners to think more strategically when planning and implementing their initiatives.

“While developmental CSI offers beneficial social outcomes, it does not always have significant corporate benefits. Similarly, commercial grantmaking prioritises corporate benefit over social returns. Our award highlights and encourages successful combinations of the two.”

Social benefits for Merchants include equipping learners with problem-solving, collaboration, communication and leadership skills. Learners become effective leaders in their schools and communities, interact better with their parents and elders, and improve their chances of getting jobs and entrance into higher education institutions. 

Merchants has in turn benefitted through strengthening staff and management leadership (the impact of the participation was empirically assessed)  and is better positioned to attract promising school-leavers to join its organisation. The programme also contributes to its BBBEE rating.

Merchants Transformation Director Sydwell Shikweni said CSI only becomes authentic and impactful when it identifies a societal  need and fulfils it with like-minded partners in a collective endeavour.

“What underpins our CSI is the pursuit of adding value through the growth and development of young talent through investment in education, for a greater social impact.

“Our collaborative approach with Columba has enabled us to nurture leadership, inspire confidence and accelerate the ambitions of young talent. The progressive development of  young talent leads to the evolution of individual  competitive flair and greater opportunity to exercise their skills, abilities, aptitude and expertise in the highly competitive job market.”
The pass rate for 2017 matriculants in the programme topped 82%, with a 74% pass rate at diploma or bachelor levels. Three-quarters of the graduates transitioned well from school to further study, work or volunteering.

Judges Dr Stan Hardman and Anthony Wilson-Prangley said this programme is “a real gem and illustrates the need for adaptive leadership as we enter the fourth industrial era. It highlights the way in which a more developmental initiative – high school learner leadership development – can be linked strongly with companies to facilitate executive leadership development. This is a strong example of strategic CSI, and of a partnership between a non-profit institution and a corporation.”

Merchants shared the Trialogue award with the AECI Group’s Wise Wayz Water Care. Rural communities in eThekweni, near Durban, keep a 30 km stretch of the Umbogintwini River catchment area clean and free of alien vegetation. AECI can in turn abstract cleaner water for its Umbogintwini Industrial Complex, saving on processing costs, and has developed a close relationship with its neighbours.

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