South African Citizen Engagement Initiative Receives Global Attention

South African Citizen Engagement Initiative Receives Global Attention
Play Your Part Ignite

Local media agency, Brandfusion, has garnered international attention for their work on “Play Your Part Ignite” – a Brand South Africa campaign that is now being used as a case study for best practice in citizen engagement. The citizen engagement report, which was released by City Nation Place, a global forum for nation branding, included several learnings from citizen engagements in the United States, Australia and Europe. These learnings were then compiled into a toolkit for other countries to use when developing their next citizen engagement strategy. “Play Your Part Ignite” was the only example from Africa.


“Play Your Part Ignite” initiated in March 2022 with the core concept to give young people the opportunity to flex their entrepreneurial muscles, showcase their business talents and be rewarded via mentorship, investment and recognition. All participants were invited to join a pitching masterclass led by a Play Your Part Ambassador or industry leader to give them the skills needed to successfully communicate and promote their business idea. Students then had an opportunity to brainstorm and refine their small business idea before they pitched it to a panel of judges. The judges often included captains of industry and successful entrepreneurs, providing candidates with advice and assistance, and rewarding viable business plans with mentorship and investment. Socio-economic impact was a driving force behind the initiative, with knowledge enrichment and the opportunity of business development acting as primary drawcards.


Brandfusion developed the concept as part of Brand South Africa’s mandate to create opportunities for lasting socio-economic impact in the country. And the impact was felt from the very first session. Portia Mavhungu pitched her product, the ParaTube, an invention that features a built-in toilet with biodegradable bags that can be retrofitted to a wheelchair to allow individuals to go to the toilet without having to leave their wheelchair, to a panel of judges that included Elaine Brass (CEO of the Health and Wellness Sector Education and Training Authority). Brass was so confident in the product, that not only did she land up mentoring Mavhungu, but facilitated a cash injection of R500 000 towards funding the prototype development of the ParaTube.


While the first Play Your Part Ignite engagement only had around 30 candidates, the impact of the event quickly garnered attention and would later spark engagements with over 250 attendees. City Nation Place highlighted this growth as a learning in their case study analysis, drawing attention to the fact that “[your] previous events are the biggest asset you have in promoting the next one”.


Brandfusion was also aware the while the events in major metropolitan areas such as Durban and Cape Town drew large crowds, the programme wasn’t addressing the skills gaps in smaller communities – communities that ordinarily would not have access to business incubators. This is why the agency chose to collaborate with the International Youth Foundation (IYF), the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), Harambee and TVET colleges to take Ignite to Limpopo and the North-West – provinces that are underserved in terms of economic opportunity. The wealth of entrepreneurial potential discovered in South Africa’s smaller communities was impressive, and the candidates who attended grasped at the opportunity to learn and grow.


The decision to rollout the programme in more rural areas was highlighted as a key learning in the case study analysis. City Nation Place pointed out that “The Brand South Africa team identified skills gaps in various communities and developed a programme that would help those gaps and provide support to those who needed it most”.


City Nation Place’s report acknowledged that getting citizen engagement right can be a challenge, and that for a nation brand to be successful, you have to have buy in from your citizens. Play Your Part Ignite’s inclusivity was identified as one of the key indicators of the campaigns success in garnering citizenship engagement.


Brandfusion has continued to develop Play Your Part Ignite conceptually, honing in on the initiative’s most impactful elements and identifying sustainable opportunities for new and existing participants.


Katie Mohamed, CEO of Brandfusion, is incredibly proud of the project’s continued success and honoured to have had the campaign included as part of the global citizen engagement toolkit. “At the end of the day, Play Your Part Ignite is a hands-on initiative. It’s not something done from a distance. It’s not something that runs without the support from Brand South Africa and the buy-in from the candidates. South African youth believe in Play Your Part Ignite because we believe in them.”