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Place-based synergies

Our integrated, place-based interventions unlock the true power of DGMT’s 10 opportunities to escape the inequality trap. 

DGMT’s place-based synergies team brings these opportunities together in the lives of individuals in specific populations and communities. This approach follows the logic that “people don’t live their lives in health sectors or education sectors or infrastructure sectors, arranged in tidy compartments”. Instead, as Robert Zoellick, former President of the World Bank explained in his address to world leaders: “People live in families and villages and communities and countries, where all the issues of everyday life merge. We need to connect the dots”.1Zoellick, R (2010). Address to the UN Assembly on Millenium Development Goals, 19 September 2010.

The Lesedi Solar Power Park, November 2022. Photo courtesy of Michael Khan.

At DGMT, we are committed to investing in community building and creating safe and nurturing environments for children’s positive development. Our place-based synergies approach focuses on implementing best practice programmes that address children’s needs at all developmental stages, supported by complementary community building initiatives. By concentrating our investments in specific neighbourhoods, we aim to serve a critical mass of children and families, taking the entire community across the threshold from dysfunction to supportive environments.

To ensure the success of our approach, we prioritise interconnectedness and coordination. By fostering unified efforts among our teams and promoting a cohesive experience for the communities we support, we aim to integrate our interventions into the fabric of each community. This allows our initiatives to complement and reinforce one another, maximising their impact and creating a holistic support system for children and families.

This approach aligns with the understanding that people don’t live their lives within neatly compartmentalised sectors like health, education, or infrastructure. As Robert Zoellick, the former President of the World Bank, eloquently stated in his address to world leaders, “People live in families and villages and communities and countries, where all the issues of everyday life merge. We need to connect the dots.”

The neighbourhoods in which people grow up and live can determine their development pathways. We want to change their trajectories for the better.

Our goal is to positively alter people’s life paths and improve their lives. In a country like South Africa, where historical racial segregation has contributed to deep spatial inequality, our work takes on even greater significance. Credible research conducted by esteemed Harvard economist Raj Chetty underscores how neighbourhoods influence the development of human capital. This evidence highlights the critical importance of employing place-based approaches in our work. Through our involvement in key community trusts, we aim to test, evaluate, and demonstrate the effectiveness of a comprehensive set of interventions concentrated in a single location, ultimately enhancing human development outcomes.

Our place-based synergies projects

Pre-schoolers are delighted to enjoy regular story time sparking a love of reading from an early age.

Power projects: Lesedi and Letsatsi

DGMT supports two separate power projects, Lesedi Solar Park Trust and Letsatsi Solar Park Trust. Both are community development trusts with shareholding in solar power companies. Funding from those companies is secured for a 20-year period, with the possibility of extension. The projects thus provide an incredible opportunity to invest in a systemic and long-term intervention that could significantly tap into South Africa’s potential.

Each project has the mandate to invest in black people living within a 50km radius of the power plants that fund them. Both trusts are therefore strategically focused on how to maximise holistic human development outcomes in the communities where they are based.

The Lesedi Power Project is situated in the Northern Cape. The Lesedi Trust invests in three towns and four rural settlements close to the project: Postmasburg, Danielskuil, Groenwater, Lime Acres, Skeifontein, Beeshoek and Maranteng.

The Letsatsi Power Project is situated in the Free State. The Letsatsi Trust invests in three towns close to the project: Bloemfontein, Dealesville and Soutpan.

The five key strategic goals for place-based synergies

Cultivate community engagement and ownership
The sustainability of any intervention rests on local ownership and co-creation. People within the community are generally far more adept at articulating everyday barriers and enablers to maintain their own health, education, and experience accessing opportunities than technical experts who live outside the system. Without an appreciation of local perspectives, expert-driven interventions are far less effective.
Enable the implementation of integrated human development programmes
Most South Africans living in rural areas or ‘poor’ communities face a number of challenges through various stages of life. This reality results in a system where those who “make it” are the exception. To turn things around, we need holistic investment from preconception to employment with an aim to close opportunity gaps and open pathways to self-sufficiency.
Create opportunities for economic participation
There is a limit to the number of jobs that can be created within the current status quo. This is true for South Africa and is hardest felt by young people from townships and rural communities. If we do not contribute to job creation locally, our skills and human capital development investments will not go very far in enabling young people to truly be self-sufficient adults.
Foster safe and enabling environments
Societal issues like substance abuse and gender-based violence hinder our efforts to develop the potential of people in our communities. Similarly, when communities do not have access to basic services like clean water and good sanitation, both their health and their schooling outcomes are compromised.
Scale the impact of effective programmes and approaches
Funding from the REIPPP presents a wonderful opportunity to drive developmental change in some of South Africa’s poorest communities. In addition, many NGOs and philanthropic funders work tirelessly to help vulnerable communities to escape the poverty and inequality trap. As a stakeholder in this ecosystem and a strategic investor in evidence-based programmes, we want to engage with the broader ecosystem and find a way to make a unique contribution to it.

Escaping the inequality trap requires a twist in our thinking.

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