Two stories to be told – South Africa (part three)

Part three:


We had achieved so much with so little resource! But as a result the expat team was exhausted, true, some teams were more functional than others, parts of the network were more healthy than others. The disconnect between the reality on the ground in working towards the goal and the ‘official’ rhetoric reaching for large numbers by the world cup became the Achilles’ heal for the fledgling movement. Had I been more alert I would have acted sooner and realised what the network needed to take it to its next phase of development.


According to Dr Anne Dosha’s work on the four phases of transformational movements, I believe we were probably somewhere between stage 3 and 4 by the end of 2009. Here is basically what she shows: In stage one the need for social change is focused in society’s general consciousness – In South Africa this has been happening steadily in waves for the last couple of decades. It is on to this back drop that many transformative movements have taken off in the country over the years, not least of all the collapse of apartheid. In the second stage, a vision of a new and attainable reality is seen that answers the needs made visible in the first phase, this creates excitement and releases hope. We saw this as people responded to the goal and stories of people in other communities making and seeing a difference (see part one of this blog series). In the third phase, trust is built often through what Dr Dosha calls a ‘statesperson figure’ who is able to translate the vision into realistic strategy and clear, broad steps that people can commit to. In this phase, the vision still has to be clear and releasing hope but people are also equipped and supported and the story strengthens and trust builds further. There is still a fourth phase if the movement is to last beyond its first wave and become regenerating, in this phase things are institutionalised enough to support further growth and maintenance of what already is. This is where the administrators come into their own! We needed the administrators to come in and help establish systems and structures, detailed strategies, business plans and income generating enterprises. The administrations role in the context of the vision, broad strategy and growing trust, further builds trust and credibility both within the network and when viewed from outside.


As I reflect on the Fusion South Africa story it seems more than ever that the four phases, rather than being in linear progression, actually build on one another. So the vision brought by the person Dr Dosha calls the “prophet-mythmaker”, will lose its potency and relevance over time if the needs aren’t being kept in people’s awareness by the “agitator” in phase one. Likewise if the “statesperson” and “prophet-mythmaker” are out of the picture when the “administrators” come with structures and systems, hope dims and trust will be eroded and the life of the movement will ebb away.


Leaving South Africa when I did was possibly the biggest and most far reaching mistake I have ever made! Not pushing for a re-negotiated strategy, schedule and budget when our sponsor pulled out, comes a close second. My sudden departure broke trust in significant hubs and sections of the network and hope drained away in key hubs. What went missing were the functions of the “prophet-mythmaker” and “statesperson”. The year that followed my departure was remarkable in many different ways with amazing tales of courage and commitment that I want to share in the next few weeks, but as I write just four of the 24 communities in which we were working in Dec 2009 are still part of the story; organisations and key people that were keen to be part of the story are no longer so.


At the time I was still finding ways to have a voice and to build trust outside of South Africa so people could see what was happening on the ground. Often my own desperation was my biggest obstacle. My mistake was not to trust what my heart told me and to give up before I had found a way of helping others see and hear it too. I am grateful to friends and colleagues who have journeyed through this year and helped me find my voice again. Perhaps the main reason I can talk about my failure in this way is that in my failing, I have met my redeemer God in a new place and found his grace in a way I have never known before, and for that I am truly grateful. The story “A Life and Kingdom Lost and Restored” is based on this journey.


In other sections of the blog I also share stories of the various people that enriched our lives during those first 15months of the Fusion South Africa. I hope they inspire you as much as they have me.






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