When corporates and non-profit organisations (NPOs) interact with government, there are often misaligned expectations and incentives, and misalignment of each other’s processes, abilities and requirements.
To move forward, there should rather be greater emphasis on the positive outcomes and impacts that are intended, says Jak Koseff, Chief Director leading the Programme Management Office for Tshepo 1 Million – the Gauteng Provincial Government’s youth empowerment programme.
Speaking at the recent Trialogue Business in Society Conference 2019 (Subs: 16-17 April, Johannesburg), in a session on Building Healthy Relationships in Development, Koseff said many NPOs have a “grotesque” view of government, focusing largely on obstacles such as multiple administrative forms.
Government, in turn, can view a corporate partner or NPO as seeking favours and concessions, insufficiently concerned with transformation, and not developed enough to address the task at hand.
“They miss one another in awareness of the internal mechanics of each.”
Rather, advised Koseff, “you have to be increasingly vigilant for the zone of opportunity.” Government needs to lead the way by clarifying what impacts are intended.
“If you understand how to demystify systems and processes for other people, this can help a great deal. In government there are many layers, but it should be remembered these are designed to stop bad things – to prevent fraud and to manage various risks.”
He agreed that “bureaucracies are excellent brake pads, but lousy accelerators” and urged conference delegates to “find vehicles where you can co-innovate.”
Koseff advised the more than 400 stakeholders in development present at the conference to “start with the problem you are trying to solve ‒ summarise, crisp up, make sure all understand what you are trying to do. Work out the resource pathway. For example if you are looking for stipends for youth beneficiaries, do these have to be loan financed from the state, or can you look elsewhere?”
Koseff agreed that government “has to get better at simplifying”. He gave the example of the SMME Clearing House which is being launched by the Gauteng Provincial Government. Small businesses can enrol on this free platform to seek work with government and corporates.
“One of the biggest advantages of the digital age is the platform effect. If you know there is recourse – a feedback loop on a platform – this makes a big difference. Government can see how platforms bridge gaps with the people they deal with. Data that’s commonly understandable builds relationships,” said Koseff.
The popular annual Trialogue Business in Society Conference brought together thought leaders on social development to discuss sector challenges, lessons and innovations.