Fellow Since 2002
The Foundation for a Brighter Future
This description of Hudson McComb's work was prepared when Hudson McComb was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2002.
Hudson McComb is helping South Africa's troubled civil-sector organizations gain vital management and planning skills that will reduce their dependence on foreign donors and increase their likelihood of achieving long-term sustainability.
The New Idea
Hudson is helping South African citizen organizations construct management plans and tap local resources through his Strategic Development Agency. The agency collects and shares best practices in project development and incubates projects until they have a solid, sustainable foundation. By facilitating networking, integration, and sharing of resources and information, Hudson's organization enables citizen organizations to avoid spending valuable time and money trying to develop processes that have already been successfully modeled and implemented by others. It also helps establish partnerships, train managers, generate venture capital, and develop sustainability strategies. While Hudson seeks donor funding to sustain his program, he intends to turn his work into what he calls "venture consultancy" and recoup the cost of SDA's time spent on a project once the project has become successful.
The South African government recently admitted that it has made little progress in creating jobs or significantly alleviating poverty. It is commonly accepted that the national Reconstruction and Development Plan has failed, and there is wide controversy surrounding the country's present economic policy. As evidence of the government's inability to address the most serious problems, it had to return to the donor countries some fifteen million dollars of poverty relief funds that it was unable to spend in 1999. On the other hand, civil society organizations are struggling to sustain themselves and have come under increasing pressure to be more professional, efficient, and accountable. South Africa needs these organizations to deliver services and respond to community needs more effectively, and to become dynamic partners of government and the private sector. But foreign donors have diverted most of their funding to government departments, and many donor agencies are leaving South Africa in the belief that the country has stabilized and does not need as much assistance as in the past. Government, the civil sector, and the private sector continue to work independently of each other instead of pooling resources through partnerships. While people are losing faith in the government's ability to respond to their needs, civil-sector organizations are closing down and the private sector is trying to reinvent the wheel by setting up social responsibility funds without employing the vast expertise of civil-sector organizations.
Hudson created the SDA in 1997 to test his model of integrated local resource mobilization and implementation. He has started highly successful projects, each with complex and detailed funding sources, implementation plans, and connections to government and educational and other institutions. These projects are models of how the SDA can assist projects to grow sustainably. When the SDA is fully operational, it will have a multidisciplinary project-development team, a development-resource center, and a mobile project research and documentation team. Hudson has been piloting the multidisciplinary project-development team, and he is raising funds to implement the development-resource center and mobile research and documentation unit. The multidisciplinary project-development team revitalizes existing projects and accelerates the development of new initiatives. It mentors projects through their development with the intent of ensuring sustainability and positive socioeconomic impact. As part of this function, the team identifies potential projects, facilitates partnerships, helps generate venture capital, and provides management training. The mobile research and documentation unit will record information about projects, ideas, principles, and models that could have relevance in South Africa. This information will be fed into the development-resource center, a facility to house articles, videos, and other documentation about lessons learned in project development. The materials will be available for use by citizen organizations, churches, private sector organizations, government departments, members of the public, and the SDA's own multidisciplinary project-development team. The SDA works with projects in and around the city of Cape Town. Hudson plans to disseminate the idea by example and word of mouth until sufficient progress has been made to replicate the concept elsewhere. He intends to lobby the government to adopt the model and support the creation of SDAs around the country. He is also promoting the concept through partnerships with organizations throughout western Cape Province.
Hudson McComb grew up as a white South African farmer's son, with the farm workers and their children. Unlike many others with this background, Hudson was deeply affected by the social injustice he encountered. Rejecting the white community, he spent most of his early years in Soweto, struggling to deal with his intense anger at the racism, persecution, and prejudice against black people that were at their height in the 1980s. Hudson channeled his anger and forced himself to study so that he could bring about positive change. He decided to pay his own way through university as a means of sharing the hardships that others were forced to endure. He worked on construction sites, in welfare organizations, and in the film industry to gain a variety of experiences, which enabled him to appreciate and accommodate vastly different people and points of view. He also learned how to work simultaneously on many projects and gained experience in the social/community development field. During his university years, he set up the Beth Uriel organization to provide services for at-risk youth, founded and established the Beit Hatikva youth home for working teenagers, and began the Beit Hamatanot gift shop. He has assisted with the establishment of the El-Shammah kibbutz in Worcester, which provides a range of community services.Hudson went on to study integrated rural regional development in Israel and China and came back to South Africa determined to make a positive change in the country.