In a connected modern world, the need to reduce inequality has spurred a global rethink of capitalism. It is no surprise that the world’s models of good corporate governance, such as the principles of King IVTM and the International Integrated Reporting Framework, encourage an inclusive and socially conscious business model.

Given the global development agenda, for any organisation to become commercially successful and impactful, its leaders must understand the dynamics and intricacies of the communities and intertwined stakeholder relationships that surround them.

South African companies, more than most, need to be sensitive to the motivators and influences in the daily decision-making of the communities which surround them. The persistent disparities in wealth distribution within the country have caused large organisations to become the centre of communities, carrying the responsibility for the welfare of the people who live and work around them.

Legislation, in the form of mandates and charters, has been implemented to encourage the inclusion of these communities in the procurement of products, services and talent at a localised level, as part of the government’s transformation agenda.

The benefits of greater community inclusion include the creation of value that goes beyond mere compliance in the organisation’s ecosystem while creating a regulatory and policy environment that enhances competitiveness and investment on a national scale. The ultimate objective is to simultaneously deliver a socio-economic impact that will encourage sustainable inbound investment.

Many community members will ultimately end up devoting their lives, directly or indirectly, to the development and sustainability of these organisations, which means rights holders must contribute to the socio-economic wellbeing of their ecosystems – especially their surrounding and host communities.

At M4Jam we use our platform to connect organisations to communities to help ensure that developmental objectives are met – and evidence of the benefits of better community engagement and economic opportunities are plain to see.

One of the best examples is from a mining industry client, which sought to implement a community transformation and activation solution to become more inclusive of host communities in its procurement. Historically, local communities which host mining projects tend to experience unrest and dissatisfaction as a result of exclusion from mining operations, and our client desired a way to effectively ring-fence tender opportunities for local small businesses.

M4Jam was tasked with developing a pilot project in 2018 – based on its proven crowd-tasking app platform – which would facilitate community development through creating an inclusive and sustainable community around the client’s operations at a particular site.

Communities surrounding mines are overwhelmingly dependent on the jobs and wealth created by the mines in the area. Since these mines tend to have a finite lifespan, the economic sustainability of these communities can only be ensured if the mines contribute to the development of a localised commercial base that will ultimately become independent of mining activity.

The problems M4Jam was called upon to solve included providing tender opportunities to the local community in order to generate income, to develop skills through training delivered via mobile web apps, to help community business owners and their employees gain experience and to ensure that businesses remained commercially viable in a sustainable way.

The first step was to radically simplify and streamline the process for local SMMEs around the mine to partake in projects channelled through the client’s procurement department. The key to M4Jam’s approach is our model of empowering community members to execute tasks as incentivised indepen-dent contractors We activated the local community in the pilot project by sending out an activation team into the community to sign up as many local individuals as possible.

As part of this campaign, our team handed out airtime, beanies and T-shirts and helped anyone wanting to sign up to the project to get access to zero-rated data for using the mobile platform. We also ran a PR campaign concurrently to create excitement about the jobs being created for community members. M4Jam connects platform members with more than 100 000 jobs nationally per month and can ring-fence allocation to target specific communities for localised impact.

We introduced the M4Jam app and, in collaboration with the client’s procurement department, identified opportunities in which local businesses could participate. Training was then provided to local SMMEs on the submission of tender documents.

M4Jam’s team assisted local SMMEs in creating and updating profiles and documentation, rolled out an integrated learning platform addressing both safety training and procurement onboarding requirements, simplified the tendering process for jobs

The client was able to monitor progress and completion throughout and could make payment immediately upon successfully validated completion via e-wallets, from which business owners could easily withdraw cash at local retailer sales points.

Through this pilot project, M4Jam was able to help its client create sustainable SMMEs around its facility, generate more external funding to the community, promote a positive relationship with the host community and avoid mine close-downs by reducing unrest incidents to zero during the project. M4Jam’s tasking technology is still being used as the tender solution which notifies all registered local SMMEs of new job opportunities which can be pursued through the app.

The platform can also be used as a communication, information and training tool, with a digital classroom and bulleting functionality to improve real-time communication between the client and the local communities.

Results are unambiguous: 150 SMMEs have been onboarded onto the community engagement web app, R1.7 million in economic opportunities flowed to the community in the first three months, 96% of contracted SMMEs said they would apply again for future tenders and feedback from the community on the communication platform was 83% positive.

We have shown how digital technology can be at the heart of a seamless, efficient shift to a more inclusive and sustainable business model.

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