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Southern Africa Trust |

Getting from Crisis to Systems Change

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Written a few months into unarguably the most severe global crisis since World War 2, this report is a call for leaders to seize this moment as an opportunity for transformational systems change. As they deploy trillions of dollars and make new laws and demands of the public that will have massive long-term consequences for us all, they must do so in ways that ensure the world emerges from this crisis on a better path than it was on before. However tempting it may seem, no one should fool themselves that it will be enough merely to try to “get back to normal”. The truth is, even before this crisis, normal wasn’t working. Normal was an unjust, unequal and unsustainable world whose deep flaws contributed directly to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and to the extraordinarily high social and economic costs of containing it. Normal was a situation in which, only five years after the governments of 193 countries committed to achieve by 2030 the UN Sustainable Development Goals, we were already decades behind schedule to fulfil that vision of a just, inclusive and environmentally healthy world.

This is an optimistic report, brimming with positive ideas and recommendations that can transform this crisis into an historic turning point, a catalyst for building a much better world. It is a report written by an alliance of thousands of social entrepreneurs, innovators who partner with the people worst served by our current systems to make changes that unleash social progress. In this present crisis, many of us are engaged on the frontlines, battling alongside vulnerable communities to beat the pandemic, cope with its wide-ranging consequences and find a path to a future we can all feel good about. From delivering essential protective personal equipment to community health workers in poor African neighbourhoods, and training them about COVID-19 via their cell phones; providing online educational courses to children suddenly unable to go to school; helping smallholder farmers survive the disruption of the food supply chains that provide them with a livelihood; supporting women and girls whose hard won progress is threatened by unemployment, domestic abuse and the reduction in maternal healthcare as health systems prioritise COVID-19 patients; figuring out how to sustainably reinvent a tourism industry devastated by the economic lockdown; and standing up for victims of institutionalised racism who in many countries are bearing a disproportionate share of the pandemic burden; social entrepreneurs are there. We have earned the trust of many millions of people who have been failed by the world’s existing systems and now have little or no trust in its leaders.

Now, more than ever, as they take so many hugely consequential decisions, those leaders need to hear our voice and act on our advice. We launched Catalyst 2030 in January at the World Economic Forum, bringing together the world’s leading networks of proven social entrepreneurs to more clearly and loudly speak truth to power. The COVID-19 crisis has greatly increased the urgency of our mission. In the past three months, we have brought together more than 4,000 social entrepreneurs representing over 1600 organisations in the discussions and working groups that have produced the ideas and recommendations set out in this report.

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