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The Good Machine's Gita Carroll On Why We Need To Redefine Modern Philanthropy

Mwabi Motaung, Heavy Chef

26 Aug 2020

We know that doing good is good for business, but what exactly does the business of doing good entail?

South African corporate business are a generous bunch. In 2019 alone, a collective R10.2 billion was donated to various causes in corporate social responsibility spending. From that minty amount, 54% was allocated towards education programmes and yet education is still a sore point in our country. And it is not the only sore point neither.

So what are we doing wrong? Why are we not seeing more impact from all this corporate social responsibility and corporate social investment?

The needs usually addressed by corporate donations are immense, with millions of South Africans unemployed and many households existing under the poverty line. It's become even more apparent, in light of the unprecedented need created by COVID-19, that NGOs and corporate social investment (CSI) programmes need to find ways to better utilise their resources, finances and people to build sustainable, ethical businesses with maximum impact.

The charity sector is no longer for the wealthy noble citizen who can write million-dollar checks to reach volunteer social workers on the ground. The gap is getting smaller, and the sectors need to be bridged for critical positive change to happen.

This is what Gita Carroll is hoping to do with her for-good agency, The Good Machine. The social entrepreneur's key mission is to redefine modern philanthropy for this, frankly, new social environment. She wants to help businesses to redefine what they consider to be profitable while maximising social impact.

Thanks for chatting with us Gita, and great job on a wonderful initiative. Can you tell us a little bit about The Good Machine?

Hi there, thank you very much for this wonderful opportunity. The Good Machine is a specialist social impact and modern philanthropy agency. We support and build robust grassroots and best practice non-profit organisations. We foster holistic for-profit to NPO partnerships to eradicate social issues and aim to inspire sustainable and ethical behavioural changes to business practices and social investments.

What inspired you to start The Good Machine?

I have worked in the development sector for over ten years. During this time, I have been asked and presented with critical questions and scenarios about how people can personally, professionally and organisationally 'do better'. By taking on one client at a time I aimed to solve their 'for-good' problems. In a sense - how they would get involved in an NPO as an individual, business or how an NPO can run more sustainably and the same for traditional businesses to. It was not one of those "I had a dream, and this was my vision" so I woke up and worked to make it happen kind of thing - it came from working in the sector and creating solutions for various clients which were the building blocks which lead to the foundation of The Good Machine.

What inspired the name of your initiative? Well, a machine is an 'old 'school mechanism that we use to fix things or provide a service. It is steady and reliable. Within the modern revolution today, we thought the machine is quite an apt way of describing a modern mission agency aiming to do good and provide a consistent service. And then GOOD - GOOD says it all: is non-binary, all-inclusive and powerful. Why is it essential for modern philanthropy to be redefined in the current social environment? The world has changed and is changing fast. We no longer operate in traditional philanthropy that only includes PR and tax breaks. The charity sector is no longer for the wealthy noble citizen who can write million-dollar checks to reach volunteer social workers on the ground. The gap is getting smaller, and the sectors need to be bridged for critical positive change to happen. How we live and how we choose is a new kind of philanthropy. We need to look at our environment and humanitarian problems as a whole with a multi-sector approach - and through this aim to create tangible solutions working at it daily: on a deeply individual, societal and organisational level. How did you go about starting the initiative? I had a smaller social impact consultancy, Thanda Co, for a few years straight after I left a senior position in a large development organisation where I spent just under ten years. The demand for people and organisations to do good, or do better was so great I needed to evolve quickly, upskill and build capacity and therefore The Good Machine was an organic evolution of this. Where did you get the capital to start? Profit made from a strong three-year run of Thanda Consulting (my first consulting agency in the social impact space). Huge capital is not needed in this line of work, as we will aim to be super lean at all times. We also promote this as a business culture to motivate those to start and not spend money unnecessarily. No vast overheads required in the sense of internal departments and office space. We strictly service our clients needs so therefore recruit and adapt accordingly. Would you say that your purpose in life is well-aligned to what you're doing? Absolutely. The slogan of the company I owned before The Good Machine was Where Passion Meets Purpose. This is essential and is part of our culture as well as the way we work with our clients. Where did you grow up, and how has your upbringing shape your outlook on life and business? Growing up in a small town with a Christian family instilled the importance of a purpose-driven and community focussed life. My mother is the town pastor and is the Founder and Manager of an NPO, Hope Farm. My mother's grass rooted commitment to the community is built within my DNA. She does not understand sectors, social enterprises, fancy jargon or tax laws - she is one of those hardcore legends in our country that gets and follows her heart. I draw tremendous inspiration from this. However, I look at this and am continually finding ways to see how we can create a platform where the rest of the world can learn and be part of this way of being and more essentially what it looks like for all us unique individuals. It is notably different for all - and that is a fundamental realisation. What part of your personality do you think makes you good at what you do? I am decisive, compassionate, resilient mixed with tenacity in fighting for what is right has made the entrepreneurial journey exhilarating in discovering a new sector and challenging the current belief systems and constructs of what we have today. When did you realise that you could create a positive impact with your talent? Again, I think this has to do with the way I was raised. Every single person can and will have a positive social impact by understanding their purpose. This is why we have talents after all. Even for those who do not know their talent or shy away from their true talent - the absolute magic lies within this. Is this not what they mean by finding your purpose? And in return to use that as a force for good. How have you experienced being a woman in your industry? Coming from a male-dominated sports organisation, it presented itself with clear cases of disparity between what is acceptable and opportunities available for female staff. However - fortunately, most have also been in the NPO space - which has had a decent female representation. I love being a woman. I love the challenges it presents currently with the awakening of our power and opportunities. I love being in a position of experience where there is even more responsibility on myself and my peers to correct the wrongs of generations before us and trailblaze the path further for the new generation of WXMAN! How has your organisation experienced COVID-19? COVID has dramatically shown us how the vulnerability of society and the pain and suffering experienced could be met with a tremendous force of compassion. 1000's of feeding schemes and community care networks were created overnight - just as businesses closed down and millions of people experienced a loss of income. The increase of triggering conversations, harsh realisations about #Blacklivesmatter, #GBV (Gender-Based Violence), and loss of revenue have not only shaken the nation but the world. Initially, we aimed to launch The Good Machine in March of 2020 formally and chose not to do so as we did not feel it appropriate. There is a desperate need for equality, nourishment of diversity and female leadership - and a call for those custodians of society in a position of power and influence to decide on which side of this pivoting moment they find themselves. A Shared Value Approach and Purposeful Leadership are trending business practices. How have you risen to the challenge? We kept our heads down and serviced our clients the best we could by listening and observing - constantly adapting to what serviced them best. We saw this as a huge opportunity to act as a safe space, a solution-driven platform to assist people and organisations adapting to it all. We decided to keep our narrative positive, caring and uplifting on our social media platforms. Common questions that hit our desk were: How do you start a feeding scheme? Who do you fund? How do I get funding? How can my business help? How can I run my business purposefully? How do I start an NPO or what is an NPO? We took it case by case and did the best we could to be of value in what our clients and more importantly the communities they worked in needed. Do you have any rituals or habits that have helped you to keep your focus during this pandemic? Jees, pretty much spent half the time in a headstand or downward dog. Meditating, praying, speaking to loved ones. Crying and intense sadness met with a period of complete transformation. I felt this within myself as well as listening to the change of the world and saying goodbye to some things that would never be the same again...therefore also preparing to welcome the new.

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