Saturday, April 21, 2007

A Summary of the Past Week

What a week!! I signed up for the WOW programme to learn, not only from our guest lecturers but from the members of the group most importantly. This past week ended with very dynamic topics ranging from the African Peer Review Mechanism presented by Steven Gruzd an expert from the South African Institute of International Affairs situated at Wits University. To Berenice La Croix's (Learning in Practice) talk on conflict resolution, culminating in a wonderful interactive presentation by Anton Gullub (Johannesburg Housing Company), who also treated us to a 'walkabout' of one of their building complexes - Brickfields.
Steven Gruzd gave us a crash-course on NEPAD and the African Peer Review Mechanism. I have a fair idea of what NEPAD is and the general reasons for its creation. I however never really paid much attention to it because I thought it to be one of those structures set up by African heads of states, that do not benefit the masses. I was fascinated by the whole idea of a system that called for a fair amount of 'transparency' amongst African States. Heads of States asked to review one another, on the basis of socio-economic growth amongst other areas. A novel concept in my view, seeing as nothing is 'transparent' with regards to governance and politics in Africa. I questioned in particular, the sincerity of the governments (Nigeria, a case in point)who agreed in principle to be part of this project. Governance has so many nuances and operates on so many different levels, that what is shown to the world is very different from what is actually happening in individual nations on the continent. Most importantly for me, Steven's talk opened up new career possibilities.
Berenice's lecture dealt with conflict resolution in some detail. It gave me pause for greater self-reflection. I think my most popular style of dealing with conflict is to compete, second would be either withdrawal or compromise (on occassion). I am currently dealing with a personal conflict, because of my new knowledge about the different methods of conflict resolution, I am giving more careful thought to my approach. Asking myself questions like do I want a win/win situation or am I prepared to avoid the situation, compromise or compete? This is the most significant lesson learnt this week.
I was captivated by Anton Gullub, a no-frills sort of individual, solid, forthright and obviously passionate about what he does and has been doing for about 10 years now. How do you sustain such a passion? How do you take that risk of going the solo-route? The Johannesburg Housing Company is a social housing project, providing quality low-cost housing. For more information on their profile please visit It is a company with inspiring and laudable achievements in my opinion. I was particularly interested in this excursion, which involved visiting the newtown precinct (where Brickfields is located). I spent a large part of my arts & culture management course, touring and studying the heritage and development component of this precinct. I wanted to find out more about the housing development component and how it has impacted on the broader Johannesburg inner-city development plan. It was also interesting to learn how the initial idea blossomed into a successful business venture.

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