Juanita Pardesi
Chief Executive Officer, Seriti Institute

The past few years have been a real challenge for Seriti Institute. Six months following my appointment as the CEO of Seriti, we unfairly lost the Community Work Programme (CWP) contract, after implementing the programme for over nine years following a procurement process. The outcome of the process saw five of the most experienced Implementing Agents not being re-appointed considering functionality was the main criteria.

This had a devastating impact on the organization. We had to lay off over 85% of our staff members – those contracts that could not be renewed post-April 2018 without the CWP. Having to tell so many staff that I have worked with that they no longer have jobs, was tough.

The Seriti Board, Staff and I strongly believe in accountability and fairness as our foundational values. Hence, Seriti proceeded with legal action against the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), requesting the tender process be rerun in a fair and transparent manner. As a non-profit organisation, adequate funding is always a challenge, the decision to spend the little we had on a court case was not a decision the Seriti Board took lightly but we felt strongly that it had to be done.

Seriti does not stand to gain financially from the court case, except to ensure that CoGTA is held accountable in implementing the CWP. We simply want the tender process to be rerun following a fair and transparent manner.

Seriti’s survival over the last 2 years has been an extremely unpleasant and difficult period, burdened with the numerous organisational difficulties inherited but we quickly realized the need to push forward.

The Seriti Board and team came up with innovative ideas to help other social organisations avoid finding themselves in the black hole we once found ourselves. We came up with 4 key focus areas which we refer to as our thematic areas.

The first thematic area is the Seriti Solutions Exchange (SSE) that offers our social partners tools and technical assistance to help them run their organisations more effectively, so they have a better chance of making a sustainable social impact. We provide support in areas of financial management, programme and project management, data management, supply chain and procurement.

The second thematic area is Programme/Project Management and Implementation where every intervention we make is framed as a unique programme with specific results, performance targets and a clear budget.

The third, Facilitated Learning Events in which we facilitate courses and workshops in a participatory learning environment.

The fourth, Civic Driven Change and Accountability uses ‘facts on the ground’ to make proposals for the shift in policy; support innovation and system-wide changes in development thinking.

These thematic areas help us to fulfil our ultimate purpose, which is to help communities and social partners reach their goals by delivering innovative and comprehensive solutions.

In January 2020 we kickstarted the programme aimed at strengthening the Primary Care Giver. The programme, run in partnership with Standard Bank SA, seeks to capacitate primary caregivers with the content, skills, tools and resources that will ensure their understanding and appreciation of the critical role they play in shaping the life of the children in their care.

We continue our work in the land reform space in collaboration with the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR) and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR). We build the skills and knowledge base of Communal Property Associations (CPAs) and provide mediation and
administrative support services via the Land Rights Management Facility (LRMF).

We look forward to completing the pilot phase of the Work.Learn.Grow project. The aim of this project is to create sustainable community-based food supply chains, which create work opportunities, improve incomes and food security by supporting household production and selling of fresh vegetables to the local market.

Seriti TALKS a civil society discussion initiative which we launched in 2018, brings together people on the ground, policymakers, academics, funders and other stakeholders so they can share knowledge, ideas and experiences. We will use these talks as a way of fostering collaborative partnerships between our social partners.

Expect to see more of Seriti on social media and in the media in general as we endeavour to increase our public profile, share our ideas, and knowledge and connect with stakeholders in as many ways as we can.

We have weathered the storm; a cloud with a silver lining looms, we have learnt to think differently as we seek to meet our partner’s needs and find innovative solutions to strengthen the development agenda. We have learnt how to be relevant in an ever-changing landscape. We are future-ready and more energized than ever to achieve the social impact we all thrive for.