Post number 3 – already!

More stories are emerging that tell of the power struggles over resources amassed and centralised for Covid-19 relief. Sometimes the help needed does not come. Shining a light on ‘non-centralised’ ways of providing tangible and effective relief seems super important right now. Thanks to Talent Talks, we have a channel to do this.

Small, local players have long been building wellness into communities at root level through their hands-on support and care. Their established networks operate at a frequency that resonates with on-the-ground needs, and they are well-placed and usually well-informed to meet people at their place of hardship. There are a great many of these players rolling up their sleeves in response to Covid-19.

The Care to Act posts are about ways to act, about shining a light in places where good work is being carried out. If you feel you want to do something, there are many ways to act. Raise your levels of awareness on a wide range of issues, be brave in putting questions out on how we’re stewarding our natural capital and building our social capital, support local businesses and initiatives doing excellent work, share what they do. And you can tell me about what inspires you so that I can share that too.

Here are a few ideas for the week:

  1. The Viva Foundation

The Viva Foundation’s strategy is to address community needs through secure hubs in informal settlements. Their project work focuses on children, poverty alleviation, art and sexual violence.

Pre-Covid-19, Viva was feeding two cooked meals daily to around 300 children, and delivering food parcels to the homes of 15 families. With lockdown in place and schools closing, the situation has changed dramatically. 272 families are now on their list of beneficiaries (approx. 1 000 individuals). Providing food parcels is turning out 10-fold more expensive than cooking meals at the centre. In the face of increasing numbers of hungry people, Viva is starting to make more parcels available, including to students who would otherwise be eating at least one meal a day at institutions that are now closed.

If you would like to support their work, do so here. Or, take a look and follow the work they do:




  1. Food Forward

Established in 2009 to address widespread hunger in South Africa, FoodForward SA connects a world of excess to a world of need by recovering quality edible surplus food from the consumer goods supply chain and distributing it to community organisations that serve the poor. More than 80% of the food recovered is nutritious food. Their vision is a South Africa without hunger, and below you will find their foodbank model and their beneficiaries.

The Foodbank Model
Where the food goes

Please visit their website and take a look at their measurable results – astounding and inspiring!




  1. Take a MOOC (massive online open course) to increase your knowledge on a topic, such as food security

Top learning institutions globally have made their coursework available across a wide range of subjects. Many of us have tapped into these platforms for our own personal growth – especially for professional development and career progression. But there is so much more available that is relevant to where we find ourselves right now.

Here are three popular MOOC platforms, with search results under the term “Food Security”. You can search under any term relevant to you.





Have ideas? Please tweet them to me @gaylinjee with the hashtag #CaretoAct.


Until then.


This is the second post in the Care To Act series. Read the call to action in the first post for more background.

Covid19 has shone a bright light upon the uglier parts of what we accepted as ‘normal’. With the country starting to move through the lockdown stages, the challenge for businesses will be to build back wiser, more conscious and more sustainable. And as people wade through the range of experiences and emotions prompted by this world epidemic, they will be faced with a personal call to action too.

The Care to Act posts are about shining a light in beautiful spaces and bringing ideas to a central place. There is no shortage of ways to act, through raising your own levels of awareness, supporting local businesses and initiatives doing excellent work, or simply through sharing good work being carried out.

If you are looking for ideas, here are a few.


  1. Take a look at The Makers Valley Partnership supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses, including their Emergency Food Security Model for Covid19. Here is work that is inspiring, focused, committed, creative and aligned to Well Being Economy principles.

Makers Valley is a neighbourhood to the east of the Jozi CBD, stretching from New Doornfontein to Bez Valley. The name Makers Valley comes from the many creative entrepreneurs in the area, the artists, artisans, urban gardeners, carpenters, shoemakers, metal and woodworkers, clothing designers and more. The concept and practice of ‘Changemaking’ is key to many of the activities within the Valley. Progressive entrepreneurs and organisations mobilising locally are recognised for their potential to help propel systemic change within a Wellbeing Economy framework. The evolving community culture builds on versions of the ‘Makers Movement or Revolution’, which encourages creativity, sharing, giving, learning, participation, mutual support and positive change.

Around 45 thousand people live in the valley, and many of them are currently out of work and struggling to feed their families. The Makers Valley Partnership has a 3-part programme of relief in motion – partnering with local spaza shops to provide food parcels via a voucher system, running a soup kitchen, and distributing masks and information to limit the spread of the virus. On-the-ground community liaison is essential for this work, as are their links with national advocacy groups such as the Community Action Network (CAN), and the C19 Peoples Coalition, and specialist organisations such as Gateway Health Institute.

Web: Twitter:


  1. Support a small, local provider.

Order fresh fruit and veg and have it delivered by Farm Fresh Online (, usually plastic free, but using ziplock bags during lockdown.


  1. Translate a book through The African Storybook Initiative, which provides open access to picture storybooks in the languages of Africa.

Children need books in a familiar language to practise their reading skills and learn to love reading. This initiative works with local educators and illustrators (including children) to develop, publish and use contextually appropriate storybooks that can be read online or offline, or downloaded and printed. The website has thousands of openly licensed free picture storybooks for children’s literacy, enjoyment and imagination. It also has tools for the translation, adaptation and creation of picture storybooks for children aged two to ten.

Two apps are downloadable for free: the African Storybook Reader gives parents and children access to the storybooks even when they are offline; the African Storybook Maker allows people to create picture storybooks offline on their mobile phone or tablet, and publish them on the African Storybook website when they are connected to the internet.

African Storybook was initially piloted in in Kenya, South Africa, Lesotho and Uganda, and then extended to Ethiopia, Rwanda, Cameroon, DRC, Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Namibia. From 2014 to the end of 2018, African Storybook had reached 48,303 educators and 1,145,226 children. Wow!

Translate a book using the African Storybook website:

Web:  Twitter:


Tell us about your ideas.

Tweet them to: @gaylinjee #CaretoAct and we may feature them in the next post.

Until then.


I first came across Patagonia the company around three or four years ago. A bright yellow book caught my eye in a bookshop. On the cover, in bold black and green writing, was the luminous title: ‘Conscious Capitalism – liberating the heroic spirit of business.’ Patagonia is a case study in the book (yes, the book came home with me). Patagonia manufactures and sells outdoor clothing and supplies. But everything that they do is closely bound with the ethos of taking action to find solutions to our environmental crisis. Patagonia’s reason for being, as copied from their website: We are in business to save our home planet. We aim to use the resources we have – our voice, our business and our community – to do something about our climate.

After being exposed to the conscious capitalism work, something stirred in me. I think it was the sense of delight I felt at knowing that real companies existed and operated with a genuine concern and commitment to doing ‘well’ and to doing ‘good’. Before, I’d been assured that this was ideal, but idealistic. The more I explored the four tenets of conscious business approaches, the more encouraged and inspired I was, especially with the hard evidence emerging that conscious approaches turn vastly superior and sustainable profits as compared with less conscious peers. See the impressive results in the Firms of Endearment Studies. Perhaps I was not so naïve after all. We could expect companies to ‘Care to Act.’

Over the past few years I have been enthralled with how we make conscious approaches a more widespread reality. What if we could assist companies to find their reason for existing beyond profit, to look further than a healthy bottom line, generally happy employees and satisfied customers? My posts have been aimed at raising levels of awareness, prompting us to consider IQ, EQ, SQ and SYSQ in leadership and management development, drawing out a conscious leaders manifesto and tracking the Edelman Trust Barometer Results and implications for leaders (there is a new mandate for leaders – stand up and speak out, do good and do well). Conversations, methods and tools for identifying purpose, for creating meaning at work, human flourishing and for building social capital are so important. They can and do assist companies who Care to Act.

Tech helps us to connect, but it also distracts us, potentially from the biggest challenges of our time. The #alwayson and distracted culture of our increasingly digital age could end up burning us out. Pollution-free skies hang over the houses where hungry people knock on doors and ask for food and money. In this time we do mass reflection and mass commentary on the kind of world we want to live in when the storm passes. Covid19 has shone a bright light upon the worst parts of what we accepted as ‘normal’. But we already knew.

When things seem hard and dispiriting, the CEO of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, asks What more can we do? (Watch this 2 minute clip: It is such a great question. Do we Care to Act? What difference can our action make? What if we started small? Consciously? As humans?

cropped-img_12331.jpgHere are a few ideas to get started.

  1. Support or raise awareness of The Lunchbox Fund. Their COVID-19 Relief Feeding Program reaches starving families during lockdown. R400 provides a box of provisions to feed a family of four for 31 days. They already have local networks in place, as they maintain consistent yearly nutrition programs across South Africa. Their ‘Hunger Heat Maps’ indicate children’s vulnerability to hunger and food insecurity and assist with tracking where in-school feeding will have the most impact.
  2. Develop. Take Suits and Sneakers up on their offer to access their online university for free during COVID-19. More about them: “We help people and companies research the future via informal education curriculums. Our ultimate goal is to develop the university of the future, which enables us to offer school leavers a free alternative to current colleges/universities.”
  3. Raise levels of awareness by watching, reviewing and sharing the powerful documentary the Eye of the Pangolin – The search for an animal on the edge. The pangolin may have been an intermediate host for the coronavirus in China. Pangolins are the most-commonly illegally trafficked mammal, their meat is a delicacy and their scales are used for medicinal purposes. Made by South African filmmakers, this beautiful film tracks the men on a mission to get all four species of African pangolin on film for the very first time. They have created a window into the work of people caring for and studying these secretive creatures, essential for our eco-systems and facing critical danger as they are poached to extinction.Watch here:

There will be another post like this coming soon. Until then, will you Care to Act?

Share more ways to act by tweeting your ideas to @gaylinjee #CaretoAct

This series is also being published on Talent Talks Africa.

In his book “Lift as you rise”, Bonang Mohale describes leadership as ‘creating movement and influence’. This definition is resonant with Conscious Leadership, one of four tenets of a conscious business design, which, contrary to popular belief, is proven to deliver vastly superior financial returns (see the Firms of Endearment Studies). The other tenets of a conscious approach are higher purpose, wide stakeholder orientation and conscious culture / values.

Leadership, I believe, matters a great deal. The quality of our leaders affects the quality of our lives and of our families, of our communities, our country, and ultimately, of our planet. Each day, leaders touch numerous natural systems and millions of people through their choices and actions. The calling of leadership is serious business. And we can see that reflected in the year on year results of the Edelman Trust Barometer. 92% of respondents in the 2020 barometer believe that leaders must stand up and be counted, speaking out on issues that affect us all and not just on issues of company performance, and not waiting for governments to lead us. 75% of respondents believe that business can make money and improve society. Employers are expected to have a big idea for the company, a social aspiration, a larger purpose that employees can attach to and feel strongly about. This is the same purpose just mentioned above in the conscious capitalist approach, the one that sees companies outperforming their peers by large margins. Purpose just keeps popping up.

Dan Coyle’s extensive assimilation of research on highly successful groups illustrates that groups able to creatively problem-solve and innovate are marked out by their commitment to a higher purpose, to building psychological safety and to the practice of being vulnerable. Being vulnerable allows the group to transition to being invulnerable, or anti-fragile as Nassim Taleb might call it, a state of thriving through change and uncertainty. The trio of safety, vulnerability and purpose transforms collections of clever individuals to groups that achieve remarkable things.

I sit face-to-face with leaders and managers, one on one and in groups, almost daily. While a share of leaders remain myopic about the role of purpose (believing making money is the only purpose) and the full intra and extra-organisation impact of their decisions, a great many leaders feel the weight and responsibility of getting leadership ‘right’. It is a big job to deliver financial wealth and sustainability, people wellness and to solve the world’s most pressing challenges, or at least not contribute to making them worse. I see a lot of humans not wanting to fail or to disappoint, but rather to be perfect. Amidst growing complexity, connectedness, awareness and competition, a sense of anxiety is stirring. Leaders want to achieve, to exceed expectations and to be rewarded and remembered for that.

For decades leadership development was focused on imperfections. Our models, taken from clinical practice and the treatment of illness, aimed to fix what was broken. And here’s a most interesting thing – what discerns the leaders I have worked with and admire most, for the way they run financially healthy, gregarious and co-operative businesses, for their genuine care about people, and their articulation of a larger purpose through their operations, what discerns them is not perfection. What I observe is leaders increasingly willing to be vulnerable, to be honest and say “I don’t know the answer”, to listen to answers from all kinds of people, to be challenged, to take a risk and be wrong, to admit they do not have all the detail or the assurances that confer comfort. These leaders are not ‘perfect’ nor do they pretend to be. It is almost as if the more they accept their imperfections, the closer they get to creating the real influence and movement that Mohale defines as true leadership. Their modus operandi is to look for strengths and build teams around combinations of diverse, individual strengths. Teams where people are aware of and can leverage their strengths experience higher performance and engagement.

Indeed, the evidence for focusing on strengths, rather trying to panel beat weaknesses or aiming for the impossible ‘being good at everything’, is astounding. Research shows that growth potential in areas of strength is greater than in areas of weakness. We can work from the assumption that humans have natural proclivities or preferred ways of making an impact, and if we know more about them, we can build our skills in those areas, and then apply those skills as strengths. No one ‘perfect’ person can be expected to bring everything to the table.

But leaders can bring these questions to the table: what is the wider impact of the work that we do? How best can we solve the challenges at our feet? Who else but leadership would ask: What is the larger reason for our business to exist? There is a way to describe leaders who exercise this ability – we talk of them as being high on a Spiritual Quotient. SQ is an excellent addition to IQ and EQ.

Imperfect, but candid and humble leaders flourish in situations where there are fewer knowns, where the future is ‘emergent’. But everyone flourishes when we get better at addressing the question of the impact we have on other people, on our natural systems, and on our world.

“The world has an infinite supply of interesting problems, but it also has a infinite supply of important problems. I would love for us to focus on the latter.”

Andrew Ng, Founder of Baidu AI, Co-founder of Coursera.


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Lego ModelThe story of the Lego® Serious Play® method, now widely applied in small and large organisations globally, is an interesting one.

The LEGO Company, despite being in the business of creativity, decided that the manner in which it developed its own strategy was decidedly uncreative. In addition, the company was facing huge pressures as video games had begun to enter the market. The trend of children growing up before their time meant less young people were asking for Lego bricks at Christmas. Kirk Kristiansen, CEO of LEGO, decided that it was time to get imaginative and create a new, lived strategy for the LEGO Company, one that departed markedly from more traditional approaches. But how?

He looked to Professors Bart Victor and Johan Roos from IMD in Switzerland. This business school had been assisting the LEGO Company leaders with their own professional growth and development. The prof’s and Kristiansen departed from many of the same points: they believed that approaches to developing strategy had much room for improvement, that people are central to organisational success and that they can and want to do well.  Strategy should not be static, but rather created and lived every day.

Together they embarked upon a journey of research and development, hoping to formulate a superior, effective and creative approach to setting business strategy. They established a LEGO subsidiary called Executive Discovery Ltd, and agreed that the work would be funded as a new approach for LEGO to use inside the company. The subsidiary offered the advantage of being able to carry out academic work within in a real-world setting.

The task at hand required much iteration and live-session prototyping with companies. Finally the team came upon a process that was found to work consistently across different groups in a robust and reproducible way.  A new way forward was emerging. They called it Lego® Serious Play®.

A large part of the appeal for companies was the way in which the method provided a unique opportunity for groups to see the systems in which they were located, with roles, relationships, and culture, and to test those systems with different scenarios. Organisations today compete within ‘complex adaptive systems’ which have  emergent properties, making it less clear cut to predict how one change may alter an entire system. The Lego® Serious Play® Application Techniques (building individual models, building shared models, creating a landscape, making connections, building a system, playing emergence and decisions, and extracting simple guiding principles) draw on research into complex adaptive systems. They act as scenario planning tools, allowing us to imagine the future and its variants, and to debate them with visual aids.

Lego® Serious Play® requires 100% participation, everyone must lean in and contribute as wisdom is considered to be in the system – a useful touch for our distracted age. It activates, extends and releases new thinking, valuable in our age of high innovation. The facilitated process of construction, where Lego bricks serve as metaphors, is said to function as a language that connects within and between brains. Building shared models connects individual thinking into collective wisdom and can rally teams around a central focus or goal. The method is used for a wide range of personal, team and business development topics. Facilitators must be trained to work with the method.

It is seldom that we have the pragmatics right at our feet for unlocking new thinking, breaking habitual thinking, and jointly designing new futures. But here it is.

Have you tried Lego Serious Play at work?




It is not possible to predict the future with much accuracy. So says Nassim Taleb, whose deep and considered work concerns problems of randomness, probability and uncertainty. Exposure to unknowns is amplifying and our world, calibrated by rapid rates of change and technological advancement, seems increasingly complex. While some individuals appear to relish change and complexity, discovering within it treasure troves of opportunity, others primarily experience stress and anguish. Our task as leaders and citizens of the world is to set the conditions for more relish and less anguish. So should we focus our efforts on building personal and organisational resilience? Probably not.

We need to go beyond resilience in order to thrive through chaos. While the resilient can take shocks, they stay the same. Staying the same or copying more of what we already know or do is risky strategy in times of turbulence and change. To go from zero to one, we need to keep learning and growing. We need to go beyond building resilience. Taleb describes the ideal state as ‘antifragile’. This is when you encounter change, or possibly even chaos, and you learn from it so that you emerge differently, stronger. The job after all is not to catch up to the current status quo, but rather to create it (Seth Godin’s famous mantra).

Building antifragile

Virginia Satir is an important figure in the history of systemic therapy. Her model of change details how we transition from a late status quo, through resistance and chaos, to a new status quo. It was developed to assist individuals to move through dramatic personal change, and is successfully applied in organisations.

There are 5 phases to the Satir Change Model:

  1. Late status quo: a period of relative familiarity, comfort and balance with established routines. The balance is likely not ideal, but the system maintains it. We may not speak up about poorly performing team members, or resist changing ways of doing things that are no longer working for us.

Enter the Foreign Element, something that the system can no longer deny, internally or externally. It could be a randomly generated event. The balance is now destroyed. Examples could be a technological change or other factor that invalidates position in market, or attrition rates of employees / customers tipping over a tolerable edge.

  1. Resistance: the natural repertoire of response to a foreign invader is ignoring, rejecting, denying, blaming or trying to swallow the element within established practice. Another tactic might be to try and ‘wait out’ a change initiative.
  2. Chaos: confusion typically ensues around what to do and how, and the discomfort with uncertainty is usually pervasive and palpable. Loss aversion kicks in and there may be a search for the familiarity of the old status quo.

Enter the Transforming Idea. Astute leaders recognise that change cannot be entirely mapped out in advance and forced through with inflexible plans. They create an experience of change where transforming ideas can and are encouraged to surface, where ideas get recognised, and where learning and discovery is prized.

  1. Integration: the phase of learning about new practices and new tools. Energy lifts and excitement starts to build for what could be. More ideas mean more experimentation. Some ideas will not work, and systems can fall back into chaos. Indeed there are organisations that oscillate between chaos and integration, stuck in a liminal phase where no benefits are ever truly realised. Is your organisation one of these? A quick succession of new leaders, each looking to make their mark, can stir up this state.
  2. New status quo: supportive environments and continued enrichment assist with moving from chaos towards positive resolution. Familiarity with new ways starts to settle in and ‘the way things get done around here’ becomes established and known, providing relief and relaxation.

Your responses to the events of life are more important than the events themselves. – Virginia Satir

The model is valuable as it provides one tool for dealing with major unexpected change. In my mind, I see how this thinking is actually aiming at building ‘antifragile’. I find Virginia Satir to be a source of inspiration in our digital age, reminding us of what is important but may be forgotten. The principles informing Satir’s view of transformational change are:

  • experiential (encouraging a full and meaningful perception of one’s own life),
  • systemic (interacting with others, past, present, future, and environment),
  • positively directional (generating new interpretations of experiences with the help of others, a positive approach, strengthening personal resources)
  • focused on getting to know one’s self better.

Satir energetically urges us to tune into our own wisdoms, to get excited about who we are, what we are, and what can still be for us. Implicit in this approach is not resilience but rather a relish for the positive opportunity that lies in wait. Satir was one of few therapists to record her therapeutic sessions with individuals and groups. This is a courageous move, one I see repeated recently in a podcast from Esther Perel, another highly on-point therapist whose work extends to the corporate sphere. Perel records her live session with two business partners going separate ways. It is a fascinating listen. The transcripts of Satir’s work reveal a deeply human figure, vigorously and faithfully extending a hand, a connection to those struggling to make sense of the chaos in which they find themselves. These are human problems, she often says, normalising the feelings overwhelming her clients. The main goals of her work were to raise self-esteem, boost decision-making skills, become responsible and achieve congruence. With these in place, conflict in the family could be minimised. We can see why these goals have a salience wider than the institution of the family, notably, within the institutions of business. Her approach is humble, honest and responsible.

The cycles of Stair’s model of change continue, but perhaps it feels as though they are speeding up. We are familiar with and have extensively applied a modus operandi of clarity and direction, which is expected of strong and successful leaders especially in more changeable times. And yet rushing for certainty too quickly could trap us into a state of diminishing returns, where we oscillate between chaos and integration. Satir’s hand of connection through change was vigorous and positively directional, but she pushed insight, decision-making skills, responsibility and congruence. With these factors, unproductive conflict in the system was reduced.

A new status quo

Leaders largely control the resources of the system and set the conditions for learning and experimentation within it. When foreign elements appear and descent into chaos looms, leaders can strip employees of their autonomy and contribution. This is perhaps where we are now, the “late status quo” in Satir’s model. Or, perhaps they may choose to empower humans to become antifragile, to navigate chaos and surface transforming ideas for experimentation and implementation. In this scenario, as leaders we may be able to offer less clarity, and as employees our agency and responsibility may rise. We all need to get used to these shifts. But the probability that we will thrive through chaos will surely go up.

Some groups coalesce to form more than the sum of their parts. They go beyond ‘performing’. We concluded in the first article on this topic, that the secret sauce for achieving truly transformational goals lies in the commitment to building and nurturing social capital.

Academically we now know that highly successful groups are underwritten by their efforts in three critical areas: building psychological safety, being vulnerable (so that they can move to being invulnerable), and having purpose. But how do we put this knowledge into practice? Strategy without backing is as useful as no strategy at all. Fortuitously, culture is a non-linear system, meaning that small changes can have a big impact. What if we could identify and experiment with a few small changes?

This post is dedicated to experiments with small actions. Perhaps you’ll share your experiments with us over time.

  1. Build safety
  • Change the format of a meeting (or part of a meeting) into a standing circle. Physical proximity and eye contact are important factors for building safety.
  • Ask one beautiful question a day at work (tips on asking more beautiful questions here).
  • Say ‘thank you’ more each day.
  1. Share vulnerability
  • The next time there is a strong difference of opinion, try responding with “I am interested in what you are saying. Tell me more about why you don’t agree.”

Vulnerability is the willingness to show up when we can’t control the outcome says Brene Brown. Discussing emotional turmoil and a sense of inefficiency is uncomfortable but necessary. Showing fear or uncertainty can be a valuable precursor to deeper insights. Tough conversations help groups to build shared mental models to navigate the future.

  1. Establish purpose
  • Answer these questions about the work your organisation does, then ask 3 people you work with too: “What’s this all for? What are we working toward?”

Purpose is like a story that gets retold between a present moment and a future ideal. Simple beacons repeatedly focus attention and engagement on a shared goal. Humans are very responsive to patterns of signaling, our brains light up in response to story. In the words of Dan Coyle: ‘Stories are not just stories. They are the best invention ever created for delivering mental models that drive behaviour.”


There is likely to be a part three in this series, with the next post exploring new work on methods for building social capital at work.

Click here to read the first post “On the heels of Social Capital – beyond performing teams”.

This series has also been published on Talent Talks.