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Management Development Programme participants help to alleviate the water crisis in the rural areas of South Africa with Water Matters

USB Executive Development's Management Development Programme (MDP) is a strategically focused leadership programme, which aims to provide its participants with the tools that they require to operate efficiently on a strategic level. One such mechanism for facilitating this learning process is the Business Driven Action Learning  (BDAL) project: a practical assignment focused on achieving leadership development and true organisational transformation, using a results-focused orientation, in which a syndicate group seeks out and partners with an SMME. 

As part of their Business Driven Action Learning project, Management Development Programme syndicate group, The Dominators, supported Water Matters (Pty) Ltd (hereafter referred to as Water Matters) - a new business concept, established in East London. The Dominators facilitated and supported Water Matters in a number of ways to uplift the initiative including establishing better streams of more sustainable income apart from government funding.

The rationale for starting Water Matters was impelled by the current water crisis facing South Africa, along with the lack of access to clean water for a considerable number of people living in this country. Water Matters aims to improve access to clean and safe drinking water particularly for people living in rural areas who mainly depend on river water; i.e. water that is not subjected to cleaning and purification processes prior to consumption. This is aligned with the South African government’s strategic objective of improving access to clean water for disadvantaged communities.

The intake of water not suitable for human consumption can transmit a myriad of diseases that could potentially result in loss of life. Currently, the market offers a wheelbarrow tank and a number of water purification systems, however, a solution that combines both the wheelbarrow tank and a filter into one integrated unit, to our knowledge, is not yet available. This is where Water Matters comes in. To mitigate the occurrence of this risk, Water Matters designed a cost-effective solution to purify the water collected from the river using a wheelbarrow water tank that comes with a built-in filter.

A research study conducted with people living in rural areas confirmed a great need for the product, however, the affordability to purchase the product is a major challenge. In this regard, an interview conducted with a district councillor highlighted the benefit of engaging and involving government in this process as the government is responsible for providing clean water to the public. Moreover, to prevent the business from being solely dependent on revenue generated from the government, the company aims to form strong partnerships with local hardware stores to retail the product and corporates to procure the product as part of their corporate social investment initiatives. 

Speaking into her experience of the programme, Kim Jonas, Specialist Scientist at South African Medical Research Council, shared that among her highlights were the collaboration and teamwork that her group demonstrated. She shares, “The project was conceived out of passion with a combination of diverse skill-set that the group members possess. We had weekly evening meetings that we all adhered to as a group, and we all put our time and effort into the group project in that we didn’t exactly mind going past the allocated meeting time if it was needed. A group of strangers have since become collegial and friends. We emerged from the project more than peers, and have maintained contact since. We learned to work so well with each other, so that no one felt left out or taken for granted. More importantly, we came out with the greatest and most promising proposal there ever was in the water crisis for the rural areas.”

In her personal capacity, she mentions, “I learned something about my own character amongst the group of other aspiring leaders. The group highlighted to me my strong “voice” and my preference for fast decision-making - which, of course, I took as positive and constructive feedback.  Ever since, I have been cognisant of this element of my personality in the workplace. I’ve also learned to compromise in the interest of the bigger picture, as the process taught me how to value and acknowledge everyone’s views and feelings and be less reactive in my approach.”

To those considering the programme, she shares, “Go for it! The programme is so incredibly valuable! There’s so much that I learned from it that I have integrated into my own daily routine.  You will surely learn practical ways to become the best manager/leader you can be. It has certainly capacitated me to become the best young, agile leader that I can be both for myself and my team. So, go for it and thank me later!”

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