Binational Civil Society Forum

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Mark Swilling travelled to Duke University during the first week of December to attend what was called the Binational Civil Society Forum. The meeting was co-chaired by Bishop Dandala and Ambassador James Joseph (former US Ambassador to SA). Ambassador Joseph is the initiator of the Centre for Leadership and Public Values based at Duke University (North Carolina) and the Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town. The purpose of the Binational Civil Society Forum was to bring together civil society leaders from SA with representatives of US Foundations and civil society formations in the US. Mark was invited to give the keynote address on the opening night based on his recently published book The Scope and Size of the Non-Profit Sector in South Africa.

Some of the key South Africans that attended the meeting included Bishop Dandala from the Methodist Church; Barney Pityana, Principal of UNISA; Professor Lionel Louw, head of the Social Welfare Department at University of Cape Town; Eugene Saldanha, Director of the Non-Profit Partnership; Colleen du Toit, Director of the South African Grantmakers Association; Gil Mahlati, Ploughback Trust; plus various others. From the US side, there were representatives of foundations such as Ford and Kaiser, academics, and a few non-profit formations.

Although different themes were discussed, the primary concern of the main players was how best to ensure that the new emerging black elite develops into a developmentally responsible elite rather than an elite that is concerned exclusively with self-enrichment and extraction. Gil Mahlati from Ploughback Trust played a leading role in the proceedings, together with Bishop Dandala who is Chairperson of the Ploughback Trust. Various follow-up actions were agreed upon and the Centre for Leadership and Public Values was mandated to follow these up.

On the invitation of Gil Mahlati and Bishop Dandala, Mark agreed that the Sustainability Institute would work with the Ploughback Trust on strategies for promoting social reinvestment. This dovetails well with the work that flows fromt he relationship that the Sustainability Institute already has with the South African Grantmakers Association.