In socially and economically polarised societies such as our own, individual empowerment often results in the benefits being captured for private gain – with little direct benefit to society. New connections to information, opportunity and influence can lead to nepotism and patronage – or they could be a powerful catalyst for innovation. If directed to the public good, these connections can strengthen development and democracy by building trust and accountability and making people less tolerant of corruption and harmful social norms.
If we are to ensure a vibrant democracy, social activism needs to go beyond party-political structures. Some activists will choose to work through formal political structures; others will choose other avenues for civic engagement. Both need to be able to engage substantively in addressing the major challenges facing the country.
Activism cannot just be protest action on the streets or even in the courts, but must lead to innovative change. It requires entrepreneurial young leaders who have the skills and perspectives to think critically, draw on ideas, spark dialogue and design new responses to old problems. There have been significant youth development efforts over the past few years, driven both through government departmental initiatives and through civil society organisations. We need to capitalise on those efforts by continuing to develop their best graduates as leaders and linking to each other in ways that sustain the transformation of South African society.
What’s New | Game-Changing Leaders
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