Good corporate governance — Learning and Unlearning

Good corporate governance — Learning and Unlearning
Bushra Razack, CEO of Philippi Village

In our fast-paced modern society, where change is a constant and innovation is imperative, good corporate governance should not just be a set of static rules. It should be a dynamic service that fuels success.

According to Bushra Razack, the CEO of Philippi Village, an organisation that provides a safe space and opportunities for local residents and businesses in the Cape Flats township of Philippi. “As organisations and bodies negotiate complex regulatory landscapes, and stakeholders demand ever greater accountability, effective corporate governance becomes an even more important part of sustainable growth. It’s not just a box that we tick; it is necessary for the long-term health of the organisation.”


In view of the need for more clearly defined board and community responsibilities, the Philippi Village team is unpacking what effective corporate governance looks like in a series of three articles. This article introduces what they believe good corporate governance is. The second and third articles will further outline the team’s model and how this helps the community and board to work together to achieve a harmonious relationship that produces outstanding results.

Razack believes that the days of corporate boards that distance themselves from the coalface operations, should be phased out and that we need to be co-creators of good governance with those people most affected as active participants in how we design this.


“I am so grateful to be working with Laura and the Philippi Village team to be able to do this. We are reacting to the needs of the team both now and in the future – and focusing on inclusion and active participation of those most affected.”

Laura Horwitz is the CEO of the Bertha Foundation and a part of the Philippi Village Board. Her commitment to social justice movement building has provided an important lens through which to approach this.

She is enthusiastic about the long-term benefits of implementing a service-focused corporate governance process. “There are currently no substantial insights that form a precedent, so we need to be the drivers of the process. We need to establish what good governance looks like for community organisations, and how you get the community involved in the process. It shouldn’t just be a top-down initiative, but rather a collaborative effort that sees all stakeholders working together to bridge the gap and find a model that works for all.”


To set up this journey, Horwitz has supported Razack in mobilising a willing board and Philippi Village team to co-create the way forward. “Very simply, just because we have gotten used to a certain way of doing things, it doesn’t mean it is the best way. Philippi Village is challenging the standards of governance and trying to create a platform for more stakeholders to have a voice.


Philippi Village is aware that this requires their structures to be more diverse and equitable and that board members and staff cannot only be silent partners in the process but need to be actively involved. They are working with their Philippi Village team to recruit a board with various experiences, perspectives, and skills to offer.


The Philipp Village Project Board members include:

Loyiso Mdebuka, affectionately known as DJ Loyd, is a South African born DJ, TV & Radio Broadcaster, Voice Over Artist, MC and Self-starting Entrepreneur, Hertzy Kabeya the Founder and CEO of The Student Hub, Ziyanda Stuurman policy manager at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), Olivier Vanden Eynde founder of Close the Gap International, Axolile Notywala, an activist and the former general secretary of the Social Justice Coalition and honorary member Laura Horwitz the CEO of The Bertha Foundation.


The newly appointed board has begun an induction process where they are learning more about Philippi Village, the team, the stakeholders and the current transparency and accountability needs.

These board members have, instead of simply stepping into a new board, committed to working with Horwitz and The Philippi Village Project Team to design an effective board together. The resultant theory of boards adopted by the team is based on the concept of servant leadership. This concept will be discussed in the second article in this series.


The team is the first to acknowledge that there is a lot more work still to do, but they have launched the initiative with great focus and energy by defining who they need to consult. Secondly, the process outlines how to structure these consultations, to ensure that the right people and voices are included in this journey.


Through the initial consultations, it was clear that the old way of approaching governance does not work and doesn’t allow the governance structures to be structures that serve. This makes it less meaningful and effective for both board members and team. “It is time to Learn and Unlearn,” says Axolile Notywala .


After the initial consultations, board members and the team shared their past experiences sitting on and reporting to boards, and highlighting what worked and what didn’t. It was hugely insightful and led to Philippi Village pairing board members with Philippi Village team members for a more intimate consultation process.


By finding the connection between the individual members of these two groups, they can drive understanding and involvement on all levels. “While it’s still in the embryonic stages, we see great promise for it as it evolves and sets the tone for others to emulate. It isn’t intended to slow down processes, but rather make room for creating more effective and relevant governance processes,” says Horwitz.


Article 2 of this three-part series on corporate governance, discusses the next steps in addressing good corporate governance, including the adopted concept of servant leadership.