The Learning Lunch podcast explores ideas, approaches and social innovations – creating opportunity for non-profit organisations’ teams to discover what others are learning and space to reflect on what these insights might mean for their own strategy and programme implementation.

Where lies our hope at the moment? The last two years have been challenging for civil society. The Covid-19 pandemic heightened the inequalities of South Africa and NPOs, as always, stepped in to offer a helping hand on the ground amidst a series of corruption reports and violent eruptions in KwaZulu-Natal. Individuals came together to do this while dealing with their own challenges within their organisations and their personal lives. To keep themselves going activists need to keep in touch with their vision for the wellbeing and prosperity of South Africans. However, in the context of South Africa at the moment, it feels as though the vision is becoming more and more out of reach.

There has been an overwhelming sense of exhaustion this second year of the pandemic (2021), within civil society and within the general public. And while we have been trying to keep going, we have been dealing with feelings of disappointment with our government, guilt and pressure because we are not able to meet all the needs of our beneficiaries and hopelessness in our state overall. 

This podcast does not seek to provide solutions to the challenges that NPOs may have faced during the pandemic, but it seeks to reflect and acknowledge. We hope that this episode will help create some space for people to share honestly. We want to let civil society know that we see and value their hard work and that we understand that it has been difficult. 

In this episode Mam Ruby Motaung, Executive Director of TREE (Training and Resources in Early Education), who experienced a whirlwind of challenges in the last two years shares her story and what helped her to have hope and to keep going forward.  

Dr David Harrison is the CEO of DGMT and in 2020 he wrote a book entitled Harnessing the Thunder which he dedicated to those who work in civil society organisations, who mobilised to protect and support families in distress during the Covid-19 crisis.  In the chapter Human Spirits, David says:

“The next few years will be tough. There will be new storms and thunderous rumblings of discontent. But if we listen carefully, we will discern them as millions of voices asking to be heard, looking for opportunity, seeking to be part of our common future. And no matter how dire the present, we always stand on the cusp of new opportunity for ourselves and for our nation. We should not feel threatened by the rumblings, but find ways to channel them into a more inclusive and innovative society. The problems may loom large, but they can be overcome if we are willing to think simply and radically. And at its most radical, a caring and creative spirit is all that is required to harness the thunder.”

In conversation with Mam Ruby, David shares his observations and insights to inspire us and give us hope in this Learning Lunch session.

Ruby Mmatsetshweu Motaung is the Director for Training and Resources in Early Education (TREE). In her 26 years in education, her focus was on early childhood development with a specific focus on – curriculum, policies and children and youth literacy. She recently successfully initiated a collaboration of NGOs and a university project that is looking at developing a Thinking Teacher through Access, Retention and Success in Higher Education towards building a quality ECD Workforce.

Dr David Harrison is the CEO of the DG Murray Trust and a medical doctor by training. In 1991, he founded the Health Systems Trust (HST), a non-government organisation supporting health policy and services development in South Africa.  In 2000, he completed a Masters in Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, before returning to South Africa to head up loveLife, a national HIV prevention programme for young people. In 2010, he joined the DG Murray Trust, which is committed to growing South Africa’s potential.

Print a copy of this introduction here.

Here are some complementary bites to make your meal even tastier

We sent copies of Harnessing the Thunder to many NPOs in the beginning of 2021, so chances are you might already have a copy in your office. However, if not, you can read it online here or write us an email at and we will send you a copy!






Here are some pictures from TREE to help you appreciate their work during COVID-19 in 2020 and how they were affected by the lootings in July 2021:

Handing out food parcels to rural communities in July 2020
Mam Ruby and her team hard at work on proposals for funders in May 2021 – only two months later what they were fundraising for will have to change drastically.
The TREE office after the looting.
TREE’s toy library looted.
TREE’s vehicle dismantled.
The quote that Mam Ruby loves.