The role of memory in creating change

Some Activators recently had the opportunity to attend a talk on “Leadership and Innovation for Social Change and the role of Memory & Legacy.” This talk was hosted by the Board and Alumni of the South Africa – Washington international programme. Below are some reviews from the Activators who attended.

It was an event organized by the South African Washington DC International program (SAWIP) and InkuluFreeHeid (IFH) which is a movement that has been founded by ordinary South Africans. One of IFH key goals is to drive unity behind solving social problems. One of the key topics that were discussed was on how do we mobilize the youth and drive social innovation? How do we move away from looking at leadership as a status to understanding leadership as facilitating evolution and that things change with time and understanding that issues of concern from generation to generation have not been the same and to ask ourselves what is our mandate?

We talked about how the youth feels that they are misrepresented in SA politics. One of the panellists said social innovation starts with questions and what questions are we asking? Government cannot be the sole agent for social innovation.

 My take home message was, what is it that I am doing in my space, what conversations am I having with people I interact with? And what is it that I am fighting for. This was my previous facebook status after the dialogue “What are you fighting for? I am fighting for conditions that everyone can live in. I am fighting for access to resources, Nation building and personal development. I am fighting for a generation that actually takes the step and do things; I am strong on development of individuals and challenging the Status Quo. What are u fighting for? Thank you InkuluFreeHeid for quite an informative discussion” – Zanele Lwana

The questions tackled were how does legacy inform memory and perpetuate a historical narrative that doesn’t represent the complete fabric of SA society. Also how does this legacy idolize our leaders and place all the answers in their hands while they continue to mistreat their power and reinvent injustices to different groups of people.

My feedback would be that we didn’t touch on social innovation enough and come up with any innovative solutions which is what I was interested in. The question for me is how is the Legacy of apartheid and the memories it continues to invoke, prevent the youth generation from tackling the social issues they face and find solutions for them. India has one of the poorest populations in the world (without the legacy of the apartheid) and as a result one of the highest levels of entrepreneurialism. Why do we not see this in SA? Everyone expects the government to fix things in SA but our leaders are beneficiaries of the apartheid era doing little to redress the inequalities of the past, rather they are perpetuating racial inequality and segregation in different ways.

I would have liked the event to have had an end goal- one which everyone could move forward with i.e. a basic action plan. The wrap up speaker did encourage everyone to consider how they could implement their learnings/thoughts generated from the discussion though.

Mandy from the District Six Museum disclosed some fascinating facts about how people in District 6 innovated toward social cohesion and met on mountain hikes to align and keep their activities unsuspicious.

My question was if people innovated in those times why do we find our youth today less innovative in terms of tackling unemployment and the crises they are faced with today. Youth of the apartheid generation had something to fight for but today many people are not fighting unemployment, prostitution, crime, drugs etc- all symptoms of poverty arising from the apartheid legacy.

I proposed that Nation Building was the mandate of our parents’ generation- Nelson Mandela’s legacy of forgiveness- a very solid basis for nation building. I suggested that the platform for nation building had been laid and that it was the youth generation’s mandate to tackle unemployment and through this nation building will continue and many of our social crises dealt with. – Joanne Anderson

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