Adriana de Beer and Martin Manmohan are not your typical Coady Institute alumni.
They do not belong to a community development, civil society or international aid organization. In fact, de Beer is a Local Economic and Entrepreneurial Programme (LEEP) business analyst and Manmohan is a LEEP project manager with Sasol, a fully integrated global oil and chemical giant based in Johannesburg, South Africa with 34,000 employees in 38 countries, including Canada. Sasol is large enough to be listed on both the Johannesburg, South Africa and New York stock exchanges.
As you might expect, the two Coady graduates (Mobilizing Assets for Community-Driven Development/Livelihoods and Markets certificates) work in a clearly defined corporate structure with a top-down ‘pyramid’ business model, similar to any large corporate or government organization operating in North America. So how did they end up at Coady International Institute, which promotes just the opposite: community-driven and citizen-led development?
“We met Gord Cunningham (Assistant Director, Coady Institute) and Brianne Peters (Program Associate) at a meeting with funders in South Africa last year,” says Manmohan. “Adriana and I both saw the need for a new way of thinking as we engage local communities — a process led by community members themselves and much more participatory in nature. So we decided to learn more by coming to Antigonish.”
Both Sasol employees were serious enough to attend the two certificate programs this spring that they each spent $4,500 of their own money to get here. Although they received partial scholarships, they dug into their own pockets to pay the balance of their tuition, along with accommodation and airfare.
“The facilitation was exceptional,” says de Beer. “When we return to our corporate work, I see our role now as being collaborative ‘influencers’ among colleagues. Of course, working in a large corporation we will need to be diplomatic and strategic as we share what we have learned here, but we will definitely get the message out.”
“They were such excellent examples of what small communities can do for themselves,” says Manmohan, who also holds an MBA and completing his Mphil in entrepreneurship. His colleague de Beer, with a Bachelor of Commerce and Masters Certificate in Social Impact Assessment, is a strong believer in sustainable local development. She says when she lived in a very rural community in Northern Uganda, she saw first-hand how successful development activities could play an important role in the holistic growth of a community.
Despite being surrounded at the Coady Institute by so many development practitioners who work in the not-for-profit sector, Manmohan and de Beer say they came away with many practical new skills that they hope will enhance their corporate community engagement strategy.
Says Manmohan: “Money doesn’t make problems go away; it takes strong local interest and effective participation.”
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