Why are Partnerships Vital in the Green Movement?

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Jessica Ronaasen

Why are Partnerships Vital in the Green Movement?               

The Retrade project has benefited greatly from collaborative partnerships over the last 5 years, it was a change in perspective when we realised that we didn’t need to pioneer the green agenda alone but that there were wonderful people from around South Africa who were just as passionate and eager to not only actively engage with us but were ready to action change.

Here are some thoughts about the benefits and implications of collaborating with other people, organisations and causes as a non-profit.

  1. Partner with purpose

Over time we have realised that partnerships are best formed when there is a connection of values. When both parties share a heart for people, the environment and for excellence in service delivery, we have seen wonderful outcomes. When all parties involved see goal of the project or programme as being mutually beneficial and the collaboration allows for creativity, freedom and growth -there is no mountain too high. How you may ask?

Well, our journey has shown us that a small team, with limited resources and a big heart can compete and thrive in a market alongside much larger organisations purely as a result of team work and leveraging partnerships. This doesn’t mean we’re riding on other people’s success, rather we’ve been blown away by the leaps that Retrade has taken as a result of purposeful partnerships which last the test of time.

We have realised the value over and over again that although we love to partner, collaborations work best when there is a shared value set behind the work.

  1. Learn from others journey

As young people in the NGO sector we by no means have it all figured out, we feel passionate about business growth and delivering an excellent service to our beneficiaries, community and supporters. This has meant that our team must prioritise learning from others. Partnerships allow for a unique reciprocal relationship where all parties can share knowledge and benefit from the learning journey.

We have learnt. More than we ever imagined. About business, about people and about ourselves.

We have not always made the right decisions (Am I allowed to admit that?) but we have tried to maintain our integrity and remain true to our mission through many changes and seasons of the project. We have been so grateful for mentors and other partners who have so generously invested in guiding and encouraging our team to dream and action projects bigger than we ever imagined.

We hope to always be open to learning, because that makes us open to new partnerships and open to greater impact.

  1. No one owns the sector

There is an underlying fear in the NGO world that the market is small which means that everyone needs to compete for their piece of the good-cause pie. We would like to challenge that ideology. We would like to be known as an organization that loves to share and is not afraid to team up!

Do you want some stats to prove this? We live in a country with a population of 55 653 654 people, 16 923 307 Households (all which create waste!) and only 59.4% of South African citizens are receiving refuse disposal from a local authority, private company or community waste site (Community Survey Data, 2016).

 I think we can all agree that the need is great and there is plenty of work to be done.

Our hope is that as the green agenda in South Africa grows, so will the positive, long-lasting partnerships of organisations and individuals who dare to see the sector as a playground where we are all included and can each continue in a unique and meaningful way.

  1. Resources don’t have to mean money

Our approach to managing a small non-profit is that we hope to leave a meaningful legacy and to stand for dignity in a world that doesn’t always reflect equality, social justice and sustainable living. We aim to partner with accountability and integrity with all our supporters and partners  but this means we need to view resources as more than only financial. Retrade has learnt that  some people have time, some people have financial resources and some people want to cheer from the side, others are good with spreading the word, some are good with practical tasks, some love to be a part of thinking forward and networking. Some people are able to keep a trading store organized and tidy (we love those kinds of people!).

We have loved integrating a wide range of volunteer skills and passions. This has taken many forms and we hope to continue to see individuals coming forward to share their skills, stengths  and talents.

We realised the value of being able to draw from others expertise, for example when our graphic designer turns our dreams into a reality we realise how lucky we are to have partnered with someone who is able to capture our heart and add towards the project with their unique skills or expertise”

Community engagement opportunities mean that anyone, young and old, working or not working, eco conscious or people caring, can choose to find a way to partner and offer their resource or support to the project. We love it when individuals or business come up with unique ways to host food drives, create awareness or collect recycling in aid of Retrade.

In an economic climate where fundraising can seem like a minefield, we chose to believe in human and social capital.  We choose to see that resources can take many forms and that as an NPO in a sector that often is seen as dirty, we choose to believe that your recycling can be an asset to us!

  1. Furthering the green agenda should be top-down and bottom up - everyone has a platform

This last point was inspired by a fellow recycler who reminded me recently that the environmental world can be viewed in two ways. Firstly, there are influential people in recognised positions who have authority and clout to forward the green agenda. This could be anyone from a politician, to a COE or your small business director. It could also be large corporations who have the resources to further for green incentives. Celebrities and leaders in our local communities also hold power to speak up and should be seen as potential partners.

Imagine all leaders in their sectors began to speak up about social justice, equality and sustainable living! Let’s face it, if  started talking about recycling or social issues, you would probably give it a listen, a like or a retweet!

Secondly, the flip side of this point is that bottom up partnerships have just as much of a role to play in furthering the green agenda. This is where you, , become the partner. You are influencing your family, your friends, your colleagues and your communities. In big and small ways. When you choose to further the conversation around recycling, around equality, around sustainable living, you are adding to the green partnership and creating a culture that cares about the future.

I must admit, if we’re waiting for the big league players to do all the work, we may be disappointed. Retrade has lived out the belief that everyone counts, everyone gets to be a part of this movement.

This would be the ideal time to thank each and every individual, business, organisation and supporter that has partnered with Retrade. Without you – we would not be the community based recycling initiative we are today.

If you would like to partner with us or find out more about the Retrade Project, drop us an email on theretradeproject@gmail.com


Community Survey 2016: Statistics South Africa (2016) South African Community Survey 2016. Indicators derived from the full population Community Survey.<https://wazimap.co.za/profiles/country-ZA-south-africa/>