This year, Badisa’s reflection is overshadowed by the Covid-19 pandemic which has suddenly and profoundly impacted the way we manage our organisation and live our lives as individuals. We find ourselves in the midst of circumstances that we need to manage without a recipe. Even worse is the uncertain future, because there is no way in which trusted concepts and service approaches, on which we have relied for such a long time, will remain the same going forward.
The first phase of Badisa’s response when the pandemic broke out was the immediate centralisation of decisions. We issued protocols and practice guidelines to manage the consequences of the pandemic uniformly and coherently. A second and more challenging phase involves the repositioning of the organisation based on changed community needs after the pandemic – which affects our relevance and sustainability.
It is difficult to visualise an alternative future amidst current dynamics and without proper facts at our disposal. However, what would help is a reflection based on the lessons we have learnt from the past year.
Understanding the environment and context in which we work
Development and transformation are complex. Current debates about essential social change acknowledge that these processes are not linear, but embedded in complex systems impacted by a myriad of internal and external factors. This insight, the bigger appetite for change that surfaced prior to and during the pandemic, and the collective expertise within the Badisa group will undoubtedly allow us to critically assess our future service offering. What’s more, the progress we have already made to align some of our services with the outcomes of the South African National Development Plan will give us a head start.
Shared identity, culture and vision
The investment made over the past 24 months to strengthen Badisa’s identity and to communicate this to all the programmes and the two churches is regarded as the reason for Badisa’s relative success in fighting the pandemic. The level of confidence in her own capabilities (if we can personify the organisation in this way) to handle this life-changing crisis in solidarity as well as collectively within certain norms and standards serves as proof of this. In addition, the pandemic and associated uncertainties strengthened the link and interdependence among individual programmes – and hence our social capital. Our identity has been internalised as a faith-based professional social welfare service.
The powerful alliance within the faith networks
The investment purposefully made over time to strengthen the relationship between the two churches (and the potential locked up in 520 congregations) is one of the stories of hope that we would like to report on with gratitude. For instance, the decision to handle the Covid-19 humanitarian crisis jointly and with clear role distinctions, was a natural process. The implementation of the strategy within the congregational context happened organically; mobilisation as a result of the crisis shifted personal boundaries. Valuable lessons learnt will be used fruitfully in future as we continue to explore and roll out the concept of shared missionality. Clearly, the narrative has started to change from that of
consumer to symbiotic partnerships.
Systematic and process-driven change
Although challenging and time consuming, the value of evidence-based and well thought through strategies to effect sustainable and systemic change in a diverse organisation like Badisa was highlighted during the year under review. Our medium-term strategy to reposition the organisation was approved during the 2019 Members’ Meeting. Since then, we have achieved the following:
- We have finalised our Strategy for Older Persons through an intense consultation process; regional implementation was arrested with the outbreak of the pandemic.
- Based on our approach to consolidate and strengthen our base in order to enable calculated risks while we innovate, standard operating procedures for child protection were finalised. Our Strategy for Children and Families is still in the development phase.
- We continued to consolidate the Badisa group around one vision.
- We strengthened our relationships within the faithbased network, specifically the two churches.
- We internalised our approach to continuously strengthen good governance as the foundation for innovation and creativity.
- We modernised our strategies for Communication, Brand Management and Fundraising, and, since March 2020, aligned these with our Covid-19 strategy.
- Social and physical distancing protocols highlighted our severe information, communication and technological deficiencies. New realities call for an innovative approach to service delivery, and immediate access to updated management information in order to respond to crises.
The Covid-19 crisis has resulted in great uncertainty about the Badisa group’s financial sustainability. However, we understand sustainability as a concept that goes beyond finances: it includes legal good standing and compliance; the organisational capacity and expertise to do the work; the financial viability of the organisation; the emphasis on the difference that Badisa makes; the quality and professionalism of service provision; a stable infrastructure; and building a brand that portrays a positive public image. Our purposeful work over decades to strengthen our sustainability in this way, directly contributed to our relative success in fighting the pandemic through Badisa’s programmes.
Badisa as a learning organisation
We practise the concept of a learning organisation as one where people are continuously encouraged and supported to expand their capabilities in order to achieve our objectives. We nurture new patterns of thinking and learning together. Badisa staff embraced the “new normal” forced upon us with the outbreak of the pandemic: learning and implementing new standard operating procedures, embracing the use of technology, working from home, practising resilience as we focus on protecting the lives of those we are responsible for, and adjusting personal behaviour in an effort to flatten infection curves. We discovered new potential in individuals, forged new relationships and visibly lived out the Badisa values.
We are immensely proud of the benevolent intent and resilience of Badisa staff who, despite their own fears and uncertainty, understood the level of dependency and vulnerability of those in our care. Never before illustrated to this extent, the staff of Badisa demonstrated their calling to serve and be of service. We deeply appreciate you. We have no control over the dramatic changes happening in our world. We have an urgent need for answers, and we still want to plan projects and set deadlines. We want to start working on solutions that we can implement once the quarantine restrictions have been lifted. Not having all the answers is frustrating to us. We no longer want to hear about promises of economic recovery without knowing what these solutions will entail because there are simply too many unknowns.
However, the Badisa family consist of people of hope: To follow Christ is to be people of hope. And our hope is not in vain, because it is invested in our Creator, who has extended Himself lavishly on behalf of His children. I find my hope in Psalm 90, from verse 12 (The Message Bible): “Oh, teach us to live wisely and well! Come back, God… surprise us with love at daybreak; then we will skip and dance all day long. Let your servants see what you’re best at – the ways you rule and bless your children. And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us, confirming the work that we do. Oh yes. Affirm the work that we do.”