One person gently pushes over one domino. Before you know it, all the dominoes are knocked over.

The UK Zoom

Last night i was part of a Zoom call with around twenty people, mostly from the UK.

Alongside a new friend, Shabazz [filmmaker, rapper, goatee wearer extraordinaire] and hosted brilliantly by another new friend Andrew, the two of us answered questions around the topic ‘Jesus, Race and Change’ and engaged with each other and the audience comments and questions around race and injustice from a Jesus-following perspective.

When asked, right at the beginning actually, whether we had future events in mind, the answer was “Not particularly, but the hope is that this call will be a catalyst for more of you to start up groups with your friends and start speaking about these important things with each other.”

We did this for two hours and covered some really amazing ground and it felt like a really beneficial time for all of us who were on the call, based on feedback we have received so far.

Zoom call

It just takes one…

So how did i end up on a two-hour panel discussion around race with a bunch of people from the UK? 

Well, a friend of mine, Liam, who i know from South Africa but who now lives in the UK, asked me to join a session he was holding with some friends. Some questions about race had come up and so he had gathered a diverse group of friends [and their friends together] for a one-off session where we spoke to some of the issues. The ask was for me to actually just observe and listen and maybe share a few words if it felt necessary.

A group of about eight or nine of us ended up meeting every week for the next five or six weeks. New friendships have been formed – that feel ridiculously deep after such a short time to be honest. We covered a lot of ground with regards to race and justice and commitment to live better.

Then Andrew suggested we do a week where Shabazz and i are on the hot seat and everyone just throws questions at us because within that group we are the ones who have been focusing on this stuff a little longer or more directly. And from that it grew to an open conversation where group members invited friends and suddenly twenty of us were on a call.

The point is that it started with one. One person. One conversation. One idea. And the first invitation. And it grew from there.

i CAN even

In South Africa, at the moment there are at least three provinces [and there may be more now] where Community Action Networks [CANs] are uniting communities to reach out to those who are struggling during the Pandemic.

This began in Cape Town. As far as i know, it started in a Facebook group called Cape Town Together, where suburbs were invited to start a CAN seeking to meet some of the challenges their community faced.

Quite an early development with a number of the Cape Town CANs is that some well-resourced CANs formed a twinning partnership with some less-resourced communities for mutual benefit.

One of the best stories i heard come out of this was one of the less well-resourced communities taking responsibility for providing meals for one of the more well-resourced communities turning the notion of charity on its head.

Now i’m sure there have been different levels of success and failure within the different CANs and my wife Val is helping run our local CAN [who have managed to feed close to 200 families in the past couple of months] so i have been privy to some of the challenges and successes. But both the Eastern Cape and Gauteng provinces have followed suit and i have heard some really amazing stories of connection and assistance and provision and more.

It starts with one. One person. One idea. One group. One invitation. And it spreads across the country.

Community Action Network CAN

A Common Change

When Val and i were in America we worked with a non-profit organisation called Common Change.

The focus was on small groups of people pooling some money together to meet the needs of people they know and care about. Relational giving.

When we returned to South Africa, Val brought Common Change with her and now runs Common Change South Africa.

There are around 30 Common Change groups in South Africa. Some of the CANs actually adopted Common Change as their primary means of collecting and distributing funds.

The idea behind Common Change is super simple, but extremely powerful. A lot of giving that is done in South Africa happens on a charity handout model and often happens anonymously. People give money to a church or a charity or organisation and often don’t have much say or idea of what happens to that money.

With Common Change the idea is to pool money beforehand [charity always starts with the need] and so a commitment is made to give a monthly amount or percentage to the group. The hope is generally that there is one degree of separation between the recipient and someone in the group. So along with being able to give money [or ideas, or resources, or the benefit of networks] there is a commitment from someone in the group to walk alongside their friend/neighbour/associate. The relational aspect adds so much.

Common Change challenges the worldly notion that “the one who has the money has the power” as whether you are giving R10 000 per month or R10 per month to your group you each have one equal vote.

Another great aspect of Common Change is the idea of inviting “The Wisdom of the Group” when there is a decision to be made. The hope that eight people working together will come up with better ideas than just one person on their own.

Once again, one person inviting a friend, forming a group. Making so much difference. Common Change groups over the past five years have given out more than R1, 3 million. That’s a lot of difference to individuals and families.

Want to find out more? You can take a look over here.

Push that first domino

South Africa is faced with a lot of giants – education, healthcare, leadership, violence – and the list goes on.

We can wait on the government, which i think too many of us are losing hope in.

Or we can commit to being a part of the change.

When it comes to race, we can start up a group with some friends. Do a book study, ask some questions, watch a movie, have a conversation.

When it comes to violence against women, we can start calling out our friends, standing up against inappropriate comments and jokes, start conversations.

When it comes to education, we can volunteer with a non-profit like BottomUp, The LifeMatters Foundation, Outliers…, get involved in advocacy or help out at a local school.

When it comes to our communities, we can join our local CAN, refuse to let our neighbourhood watch whatsapp groups give in to racism and profiling, investigate starting a food garden, find a local NGO to volunteer with…

It starts with one person pushing one domino and watching as the whole row of dominoes starts to topple. Which may not happen in our lifetime. But at the very least we can make it so that our children and the children of our friends are guaranteed a much better world to grow up in than we had.

What is your next move going to be? Share something in the comments! And share this post if you found it challenging or helpful in any way.