100-Day Challenges are love in action

Nadim Matta, GBVF NSP 100-Day Challenge Strategic Partner, reflects on the work done to date by the seven teams currently piloting 100-Day Challenges to fast-track implementation of the GBVF NSP at municipal level.

The 100-Day Challenges that End GBVF Collective (the multi-sectoral GBVF NSP  Implementation Collaborative), designed several months ago have just been through their halfway mark. In the 100-Day Challenge journey, this was referred to as a Refuelling station. But for some teams, no refuelling was needed. The team energy was far from depleted. The team in Bloemfontein bragged that in roughly 50 days it had almost achieved the 100-Day goal It had set 50 days prior: clearing 75% of the cases in maintenance courts – an overambitious goal to start with, by all accounts!

Makhamuni Chauke, a social worker who is part of the Pillar 1 team in Sol Plaatje, declared at the Refuelling station that 100-Day Challenges are all about LOVE. She was loving the work. She was loving her colleagues. And she was loving the impact they were beginning to see and experience. 

There is a buzz in the air. And many organisations working on GBVF issues are reaching out to End GBVF Collective to ask for help organising their own 100-Day Challenges: “Where can we get some guidance? How do we start.”

It is a pivotal moment in the trajectory of this work in South Africa. The work could grow and transform the way society tackles the GBVF epidemic. Or it could fizzle out as every short-term project begins to be referred to as a 100-Day Challenge, and fewer and fewer of these produce the hoped-for impact.

It is worth pausing and reflecting on the essence of 100-Day Challenge work: What makes it so powerful as a catalyst for collaboration, for trying new ideas, for persistence, and even for love in action?

One of the moments that stands out for me in two decades of social impact 100-Day Challenge work took place in Nicaragua. This was the first time I was asked by a team leader at the World Bank to introduce 100-Day Challenges in one of the multi-year World Bank agriculture projects. Six 100-Day Challenges were launched. They were hugely successful. We gathered 100 days after the launch to listen to the teams describe what they had achieved and what they had learned. 

An old farmer, one of the team members, was sitting in the back of the room. It was a large hall with more than 100 people in it. Others were chiming in with their testimonials and elaborations.  The farmer remained quiet. I recall his straw hat, the occasional glint in his eye, and the hint of a smile on his weathered face. On an impulse, I turned to the farmer and I said: “You have been very quiet. We would love to get your perspective on the past 100 days”. 

The hall was dead silent while the farmer gathered his thoughts: “I have been a farmer for the past 40 years. And my father was a farmer before me. Over the years, many from the Government and all kinds of other agencies came to give us advice and to tell us what we needed to do to improve our productivity. This was the first time someone asked ME what I wanted to do!” 

I carry this moment with me in all 100-Day Challenge work. It is a reminder of the power that can be unleashed when those closest to problems feel the agency to solve them.

The hardest – and the most gratifying – part of 100-Day Challenge work is to create the conditions that enable people closest to the problem to genuinely feel this agency. To feel trusted. To feel seen. To feel respected.

Many of us feel disenfranchised in our work. We get used to being told what to do. Finding our voice is liberating. And 100-Day Challenge work, in large part, is about helping each person involved find their voice. This is why people involved go the extra mile without additional incentives. This is why some team members cry when the 100-Day Challenges end. This is why when Makhamuni, the team member from Sol Plaatje said this work is about love, it was not shocking to anyone who was involved.

As we move into the next phase of this work, we need to keep this principle in mind. And we need to design this – and a few other principles – into the way we organise 100-Day Challenges. This will ensure that these projects do not become an empty shell that has the form of 100-Day Challenges, but not the soul.

When these initial GBVF NSP 100-Day Challenges safely land after their journeys of exploration and impact, we will be creating strategies for scaling this work. This will include different types of 100-Day Challenges, peer learning laboratories, policy forums, and a host of other elements of a national campaign that mobilises the local teams in every district and municipality of South Africa.

There will be training workshops and learning platforms for 100-Day Challenge Ambassadors. For local leaders, for 100-Day Challenge team members. Some for people trying their hand at 100-Day Challenges for the first time. Some for veterans of the 100-Day Challenge experience.

As we do all of this, let us keep in mind the story of the Nicaraguan farmer sitting in the back of the room. It’ll help us protect the soul of the 100-Day Challenge work by preserving its integrity.