The Partnership Pitch – an interactive pitching session in which three non-profit organisations presented case studies on how they are leveraging technology as a tool for strengthening cross-sector partnerships –closed out the Trialogue Business in Society Conference 2019. Samantha Barnard of Phambano Technology Development Centre, Jak Koseff of the Gauteng Provincial Government and Rudi Matjokana of Vodacom served as a cross-sectoral sounding board, offering diverse perspectives on how to enhance and maximise these tech interventions.

Daniel Smith of ABALOBI presenting the apps created to assist fishing communities

Empowering fishers with direct access to market

ABALOBI (meaning ‘fisher’ in isiXhosa) assists fishers to create a sustainable, equitable and thriving small-scale fishing industry. They aim to create an ecosystem-based and climate change adaptation approach to fishing, empowerment in the value chain, cooperative fisheries governance and to roll out a tool for policy implementation. The organisation co-creates with the fishers to meet a collective vision.

To date, the organisation has developed five apps of which Daniel Smith, who represented the organisation, went into detail about two. One traces the fishing process and makes the logistics and post-harvest work accessible to fishers who would otherwise be at the mercy of middlemen. The second app connects the fishers to the marketplace and to chefs who can offer fishers a direct price for their catch. ABALOBI apps offer transparency in the supply chain; from who caught the fish, to how it was done. “We have started seeing behavioural changes in how restaurants are buying fish as well as how fishers are approaching the practice. We actively promote that a basket of different resources are harvested,” said Smith.

The goal of the ABALOBI marketplace app, to have 50 restaurants signed up by December 2018, was exceeded. Currently, there are 120 restaurants on the waiting list. The app allows users to view the fisher’s story, their boat and to learn more about the species on offer. The fisher app enables about 300 fishers from the south and west coasts of the Western Cape to log the conditions of the sea on the day of the catch and to keep a record of the income from each fishing expedition. To date, 31 tonnes of fish across 30 species has been traded through ABALOBI. “Of the R2.5 million that has been sold through the app, R2 million of it has gone back to the fishing communities and 2 117 deliveries have been done so far,” said Smith.

Jak Koseff urged the organisation to think about how to scale the platform without inadvertently driving overfishing, as well as to introduce diversification of opportunities in the supply chain. “You may have to think about giving the members of the fishing community access to another livelihood that isn’t only fishing.” Koseff also suggested that the data collected from the apps, on fishers and their sales histories could be used to approach financial institutions, venture capitalists and fintech companies as proof that these small businesses are viable lending risks.

Samantha Barnard strongly advised that ABALOBI refrain from selling data and advertising space to anyone in order to ensure sustainability, if the core focus is social impact and eco-sustainability. “You could use something similar to Airbnb for a social impact experience and take people that use the product out on a boat instead.”

Rudi Matjokana recommended that ABALOBI make data indicating, for example, overfishing or excess of certain species of fish, accessible to fishers and the Department of Fisheries by perhaps storing the information on the cloud.

Lynette Maart of Black Sash presenting the organisation’s technological solution

Technology that compels accountability

Social assistance and social security were a priority for the Black Sash. The organisation introduced technology to about 20 facilities across South Africa to assist them to evaluate whether community needs were being met. The objective was to ensure that the CBOs employed could operate the technology and understand the goals of the programmes.

The organisation encountered a few issues. Facilitators lacked the necessary digital skills, making training and digital education a priority. However, an unintended success was that a lot of younger people were drawn into organisations to help older people use the technology, nurturing intergenerational relationships. The Black Sash also had to carefully consider the data integrity of the people whose information was being collected and the lack of connectivity in rural areas. To solve this connectivity problem, the organisation stored it on a website for facilitators to reference their work. The data was then shared with local government to highlight what problems various communities were experiencing. They then fed back to the communities for them to vote for the first three problems they wanted to prioritise.

“The benefits of the technology for us were shorter result cycles and improved quality of data. We augmented narrative reports with data trends, and it helped us scale our operations,” said Maart. It made it easier to illustrate and discuss the most effective solutions with government and the organisation was further linked with the Open Government Partnership to see how, on a global scale, other governments attempted to solve similar problems.

Jak Koseff advised that Black Sash look at increasing what they are tracking and sourcing other types of data to show impact at a macro level, for which they will need to randomise and use statistical methodology.

Allan van der Meulen from RLabs presenting Zlto mobile app

Rewarding community service

Allan van der Meulen presented RLabs’ Zlto mobile app, designed to reward young people for good behaviour and community-based work. Users can earn Zlto currency to purchase goods and service, as well as demonstrate employability and work experience with the hours accumulated from learning skills or helping community members. The app was piloted in Mitchells Plain in Cape Town, infamous for socioeconomic scourges such as gangsterism and drugs. Here, young people struggle to finish school and find jobs. There are skills shortages and work experience is often the barrier to entry for most. “You make finding a job, your job. If you start to make the calculation [of how much it costs per day to actively look for a job] it could add up to about R1 500 a month” he said. That amount, he added, is likely a third of the total household income for most families living in the area.

Another component of the app is to create opportunities for young people to show their employability through their community services. A user can upload their community work along with pictures as proof of the work done and the hours spent on the task. A Zlto verification member will follow up to ensure that the uploaded information checks out (this process is managed through blockchain).

Jak Koseff advised that RLabs communicate with other youth development programmes to use the data points to map out how Zlto fits into their development pathways to creating opportunities for young people. This asset-based community development model aims to empower communities to identify and leverage what they have available to help them improve their own circumstances, without reliance on external stakeholders. Therefore, Zlto should think about creating a list of community assets that need volunteers.

Zlto was selected as the audience favourite and will be more extensively profiled in the 2019 edition of The Trialogue Business in Society Handbook, to be published in November.  

IMAGE: Flr Jak Koseff (Gauteng Provincial Government), Allan van de Meulen (RLabs), Lynette Maart (Black Sash), Daniel Smith (ABALOBI)

Article written by Khumo Ntoane

Photos taken by Cobus Oosthuizen