Past Dialogues, workshops & colloquiums

The national gathering of the Mandela Initiative

12 – 14 February 2018

Intense discussion and reflection marked this event during the second week of February. While the main aim was to report on its work since 2012, it involved government, academia and civil society in the hope of also contributing to reinvigorating the debate about speeding up the pace of change in the country. The gathering anchored the MI’s work within the current South African political and economic context; shared recommendations from the MI workstreams; and engaged critically with the potential impact of the recommendations on eliminating structural poverty and inequality. The workshop outcomes will be incorporated into the draft synthesis report towards a final document. The last day’s discussions on ways of promoting popular debate about what needs to be done to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality will be considered by the Nelson Mandela Foundation as part of their strategy to take the Initiative’s work forward. Learn more

The Church and Poverty

3 – 5 September 2017

Early in September, some three dozen theologians, pastors and others from the universities of Stellenbosch and the Western Cape gathered for two days at a colloquium on ‘Theology & Economy: The Church and Poverty’. Hosted by the Volmoed Centre near Hermanus, the colloquium, led by Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, was one in the series of action dialogues that took place since a similar one, also involving the churches, focused on education in 2013. This one considered particularly what ecumenical renewal, as it is now happening in the country, can help in the process of overcoming poverty and inequality in South Africa. The Mandela Initiative action dialogues have focused on a wide range of issues including renewable energy, stunting in children, and social cohesion. A dialogue report is pending.

The road to zero stunting in South Africa

16 – 17 June 2017

About a quarter of South Africa’s children under three years of age are nutritionally stunted, and stunting rates have been largely unchanged for the last 40 years. The persistence of chronic under-nutrition in the country is also coupled with rapid growth in obesity, and research has shown that these phenomena are closely related and should be tackled together. This situation is a major concern because adequate nutrition is crucial for human development, the ability to learn and be economically productive. This action dialogue, convened in partnership with the DG Murray Trust, brought together selected participants from across the country to pool ideas for action that might prove effective in improving the nutritional status (as measured by stunting) of all children in South Africa.

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Engagement on strategies to overcome inequality in South Africa

1 & 2 June 2017

There has been a significant increase in research and policy debates on South African inequality over the last few years. A team of (primarily) researchers and (past and present) government officials, each with intersecting involvement in the Mandela Initiative, has often discussed the pressing need to consolidate and systematise local learnings on inequality along with lessons from similar processes internationally. This goal was be pursued in the first week of June at workshop with key local and several international contributors. Supported by the Programme to Support Pro-poor Policy Development, an European Union-funded initiative in the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, the event aimed to consolidate local and international thinking and policy practice and to map a work agenda that would lead to a report and a set of well-motivated and well-processed policy proposals by year end. Read concept note or View Presentations.

Intersectoral action to reduce violence against children in South Africa

22 & 23 May 2017
Hosted in partnership with the Children’s Institute and the Safety and Violence Initiative (both at the University of Cape Town), UNICEF South Africa and the national Department of Social Development.

A week before Child Protection Week 2017, the Mandela Initiative action dialogue series brought together government, academic and civil society representatives to facilitate agreement on joint actions to reduce violence against children and break the intergenerational cycle of violence in South Africa. The event was part of an ongoing multi-sectoral process to help inform government’s programme of action to reduce violence against children. The dialogue concluded that what are needed is supporting families and communities in their efforts to care and protect children, and to change attitudes and practices related to violence. The dialogue report is pending. Read press release

Disproportionate Income Differentials – the Long Walk to Social Justice

18 – 19 April 2017
Organised by the Labour and Enterprise Policy Research Group and the Institute of Development and Labour Law (University of Cape Town), and the Social Law Project (University of the Western Cape)

The term “apartheid wage gap” refers to pay differentials between occupations which historically were reserved for whites, or were limited to black workers (known as “disproportional vertical income differentials”). While the Labour Market Commission has called for substantial reductions in earnings differentials in the long term, these are now being deracialised rather than narrowed. This action dialogue debated pro-poor and pro-equality policies on disproportionate high-income differentials within the context of section 27 of the Employment Equity Act, which addresses the apartheid wage gap with the aim to achieve proportionate income differentials between the top and the bottom earners, and also along the pay scale. The workshop was part of a process to identify practical measures to address to the apartheid wage gap, and a follow-on event is planned for December 2017. The dialogue report is pending. Read the dialogue report, or View programme and some presentations.

Sufficiency: what we require for a dignified life

14 March 2017
Hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute

The Nelson Mandela Foundation, in partnership with the Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute and the Mandela Initiative, hosted a dialogue titled, “Sufficiency: What we require for a dignified life”. The dialogue addressed the question of daily needs and go to the heart of what citizens desire and deem enough to feel safe, fed, secure and enabled to perform without the pervasive ‘threats to survival’. The dialogue engaged with ideals of permanently transcending poverty and living sustainably in the broadest sense.

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Migrant Labour in South Africa

7 & 8 February 2017
In collaboration with the HSRC and Fort Hare University

The first action dialogue of 2017 focused on the historical legacies and contemporary realities of migrant labour. The continued importance of migrancy and migrant labour to the lives of many black South Africans on the mines emerged from the Marikana investigation, and this gathering allowed academics, government and development practitioners to workshop how the legacies of migrant labour, and its current features, might be dealt better with at practical and policy level.

Read More and View Programme

Rethinking Agriculture (UWC)

11 – 13 October 2016
Hosted by PLAAS, UCW

In October 2016 Ben Cousins, holder of the DST-NRF South African Research Chair in Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, hosted this workshop/ action dialogue which focused on the South African rural economy. Three key issues were discussed:

  • Job creation in the rural areas;
  • The nature (and heterogeneity) of small-holder agriculture in the country;
  • Continuity and change in commercial agriculture over two decades.

This drew on the insights of two previous action dialogues held at Hobeni [September 2015] about agriculture in communal areas; and at Goedgedacht [July 2014] considering specifically small-scale agriculture in South Africa.

Read More in the Full Report

Inclusive Philanthropy in the New Gilded Age

3 October 2016
Hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation

In July 2016, Bill Gates delivered the 14th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture. The lecture, one of the flagship programmes of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, serves to foster debate and offer inspiration in building a better tomorrow. Gates has become synonymous for his philanthropic endeavours. As chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation he has not only changed philanthropy but has become an important non-state actor across the globe, particularly in Africa. Yet the role of private foundations and philanthropy must be considered within a highly unequal political economy. With this in mind the Nelson Mandela Foundation convened a dialogue on ‘inclusive philanthropy’ on 3 October 2016 with the aim of understanding philanthropy in the South African context.

Read More in the Full Report

Job-Creating Skills Development

29 September – 2 October 2016

Unemployment is one of South Africa’s most serious social, political and economic challenges. Youth between the ages of 15 and 24 are particularly affected as over 50% of them are unemployed. Of importance is the development of their skills, which requires a sound basic education, technical and vocational education and training, as well as on-the-job experience. For this reason, this dialogue brought together experts in skills development from various sectors to devise concrete plans of action on how education and training can be used to enhance and increase job creation. The dialogue was led by Johann Maree, an emeritus professor in sociology at the University of Cape, and took place at Goedgedacht Farm.

Read More in the Full Report

Solar Energy for Poor Households in Rural Areas (UJ)

June 2016
Hosted by the University of Johannesburg

This was led by Nickey van Rensburg, Director of the Solar Research Unit at the University of Johannesburg, who is working in collaboration with researchers at UCT; Sol Plaatje University and the CSIR. The action dialogue took place in June 2016 at Mulder’s Drift in Gauteng over three days and was attended by participants from government and business. The dialogue report is pending.

Social Cohesion in the Karoo (UFS)

June 2016
Hosted by the University of the Free State

The issue of social capital, social networks and social cohesion has increasingly come to the fore as a key factor in understanding socio-economic development and poverty alleviation. Poverty is very often overcome, or at least made manageable, by social networks, whether in families, kinship groups, ethnic groups, faith-based groups, or relationships with employers, officials and politicians. Calling on one’s social networks is often a critical dimension of economic survival.

The purpose of the workshop was to identify critical new insights which can inform policy and interventions in future. It was led by Prof. Doreen Atkinson from the Centre for Development Support, University of the Free State.

Read More in the Full Report

Youth, Inequality and the Labour Market

18 April 2016
Co-hosted by REDI3x3 and the Poverty and Inequality Initiative at UCT

Jointly organised by the Research Project on Employment, Income Distribution and Inclusive Growth (REDI3x3) and UCT’s Poverty and Inequality Initiative (PII), this colloquium focused on youth unemployment by exploring policies that can offer our young people a better future.

Youth and the Intergenerational Transmission of Poverty

16 November 2015
Hosted by the Poverty and Inequality Initiative and the Children’s Institute, both based at UCT

The key focus of this policy workshop was the role played by the education system in either entrapping or freeing youth from the circumstances of poverty in which more than half still live.

The main aim was to discuss the policy implications of the evidence about the conditions of youth in the country, as published by the South African Child Gauge 2015 of the Children’s Institute.

Communal Area Agriculture and Rural Development

15 – 17 September 2015
Consultation Workshop hosted by the Donald Woods Foundation, Hobeni

In cooperation with the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), the Donald Woods Foundation (DWF) facilitated a consultation at the Hobeni Training Centre on enhancing rural small farm and homestead production systems in communal areas. The overall goal was to find ways to sustainably increase rural income and food supply in the former Bantustan areas where the deepest poverty is located.

The Hobeni Consultation was a gathering of experienced practitioners, academics and rural strategists. Participants reviewed rural development practices, activities, strategies, interventions, successes and failures over the last 30 years and provided suggestions regarding ways in which homestead income and food supply can be sustainably increased within the rural community surrounding Hobeni.

Read More in the Full Report

A Call to Action: Engaging Poverty, Inequality and Unemployment and Rethinking Social Policy and Post-Education in the Eastern Cape

20 – 21 August 2015
Hosted at NMMU, Eastern Cape

This was a 2-day regional colloquium held to explore the problems of the ‘triple crisis’ (unemployment, poverty and inequality) in how they relate to the Eastern Cape specifically; as well as to assess the particular role of Post-Secondary Education and Training as an intervention to this ‘triad’.

Read More in the Full Report

Bridging the Gap

22 August 2015
Hosted by the Centre for Science and Technology (COSAT) in Khayelitsha

Over one hundred people from various sectors including MEED, UCT, the Poverty and Inequality Initiative (PII), the Schools Improvement Initiative (SII), principals, teachers, practitioners, learners and interested individuals participated in a one-day symposium/ seminar as “a deliberate attempt to see how we can learn from one another” (in the words of Professor Crain Soudien). The aim of the symposium was to share experiences and learn from one another, thus bridging the gap between UCT and Khayelitsha, and between learners and institutes of higher learning.

Read More in the Full Report or Summary of the Dialogue

Towards a More Cohesive Society

November / December 2014
Hosted by the Poverty & Inequality Initiative at UCT

The Poverty & Inequality Initiative (PII) is a multi-disciplinary UCT initiative dedicated to addressing critical social challenges around the persistence of poverty and the deepening of inequality in South Africa. Whilst the PII supports and profiles work across a wide range of topics and disciplines, two themes have been selected for special attention and focus: (1) Youth and their development; and (2) Social cohesion.

In November/December 2014, the Poverty & Inequality Initiative (PII) hosted a series of four one-day workshops to explore the following themes:

  • Identity and social cohesion
  • Rebuilding trust in a segmented society
  • Youth, safety and social cohesion
  • Designing a socially cohesive society.

Read More in the Full Report

Western Cape Regional Workshop: A Focus on Health and Education

November 2014
Hosted by the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies (STIAS)


This workshop was jointly organised by the University of Stellenbosch (US), the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and the University of Cape Town (UCT) with the purpose of updating interested parties on the Mandela Initiative and providing a platform for researchers, members of civil society and government to discuss developments in their fields and to plan activities for 2015. The workshop was attended by prominent academics, government officials and leaders from civic organisations who agreed that several high-level quality conversations had been initiated which help to inform government and policy makers.

Read More in the Press Release

Opportunities, Constraints and Innovative Approaches in Small Scale Agriculture in South Africa

6 – 8 August 2014
Hosted at Goedgedacht Farm, Western Cape

The aim of this action-dialogue was to facilitate discussions between small scale agricultural practitioners and policy makers. The main objective was for agricultural practitioners to talk from the richness of their experience about what works, and why it works – and more importantly, about what it says to policy makers. Policy makers, in turn, would listen to the practitioners and consider the question: what does this say about how policy should be intervening to create a wider set of conditions in which the experience of these practitioners can multiply across the country?

Read More in the Full Report or Summary of the Dialogue

Report on the Worcester Carnegie Workshop

17 – 21 February 2014
Hosted at Goedgedacht Farm, Western Cape
By the Restitution Foundation and the Towards Carnegie3 Inquiry (now Mandela Initiative)

Worcester is a relatively small but significant South African town with a troubled history and a colonial-apartheid legacy of poverty, unemployment and deep inequality, expressed not least in spatial terms. But unlike most South African towns, it has been grappling hard in recent years with its painful past (which included a racist bomb attack in 1996) in order to find a way forward to real reconciliation and restitution. In this process a huge amount of work has been done by the Worcester Hope and Reconciliation Process, which laid the foundations for this workshop, seeking to bring to Worcester leaders from right across the town some of the ideas and inspiration that may be drawn from other South Africans working in different parts of the country on the four themes – employment, education, substance abuse and housing – chosen as the priorities to be tackled by the people of Worcester themselves.

Read More in the Full Report or Summary of the Dialogue

“See, judge, act…” Report on the Church Consultative Workshop

27 – 28 November 2013
Hosted by the Towards Carnegie3 Inquiry (now Mandela Initiative)

Initiated by Francis Wilson and Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana from their ongoing dialogue, and as a response to Bishop Mpumlwana’s call issued at the launch conference for churches to play a more active role in harnessing moral energy in South Africa. This workshop drew church leaders together to discuss particularly education and called the church leaders to 4 areas of intervention: Early Childhood Development (ECD), Proactive Citizenship, Systemic Interventions and Strategies to address Teenage Youth.

Read More in the Full Report or Summary of the Dialogue