Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Interesting debate - is only small scale FairMade?

An interesting debate is going on in the Fair trade forum I am part of. We (a committee comprising of a number of industry people from across the globe) are in the process of reviewing the fair trade & fair made principles for the global jewellery, and the following comments has been published by esteemed colleagues:


“In my experience fair trade and I include fair made as a sister to the idea is in top level terms: 'An economic response to a development requirement'.

This normally means 'for the benefit of the small producer, manufacturer, artisan etc. I appreciate this needs clarification and definition but I always see it as primarily excluding the large operators. In short I support an initiative the promotes the small over the big and maximizes returns to small business and or workers/coop owners.

Given the huge range of manufacturers out there I think at some point in the near future we may need to do some work on bringing greater definition to what we mean by small, medium and large.” – Greg Valerio


What is your take on this?


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

FW: Valentine's Day: Fairly made jewellery



The jewellery project that I set up last year with our team and kind funders is producing now! We have passed all quality tests as manufacturer, and you will be buying a FairMade product, made with love, and benefiting the community! I’m so proud of this project, really adding value to relieve poverty, providing job opportunities, etc.

This is real empowerment – these items are produced by emerging black jewellers, and training is being done on premises, including for 5 deaf learners!


LJC/SLJI can also custom-make any corporate gifts for you in silver, gold, or any alloyed metal (coppers, brass, etc.).

My passion: development communication in action, adding real value.

Read more on the website, and please place your orders!







For more information on Vukani-Ubuntu, our various empowerment projects and the Fairmade brand produced

by historically disadvantaged individuals at the projects, please visit our website www.vukani.org.



Mari Lee

Projects Director


Vukani-Ubuntu Community Development Projects

From dust to gold - a decade of grass-roots community development


Tel:          012 326 8534

Fax:         012 326 6241

Cell:         082 863 3670

Email:      mari@vukani.org

Website:  www.vukani.org

Skype:     mari.lee3


Member of IABC (www.iabc.co.za) and BWA (www.bwasa.co.za)

Winner of 2 Africa Quill Awards 2007

Winner of 2 International Gold Quill Awards 2008

Categories: Branding & Internal Communication



"A good heart and a good head is a formidable combination" - Nelson Mandela




Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The value of practical training

Vukani and the management team personally have always been advocates for practical training as the best school of learning. We offer a number of learnerships and internships in jewellery industry that we formally are part of, but also have interns in the non-related core business activities including marketing, finance and administration.


I have been trained both at Technikon (Pretoria, now known as TUT) and University (of North West aka Pukke), and has always firmly believed that although you might get a job because of your Degree, you can do the job because of your Diploma and practical Technikon experience.


I think it would be a great shame if we allow the incorporation of Technikon’s into Universities to change the nature and intent of the Universities of Technology – which was as I understood it, to provide a work-place ready student, with practical experience, who can walk in and WORK!!! And this has worked – I am a living example of the value of practical training!


I encourage all business owners to employ interns and give them an opportunity. It is a great experience to see them grow and go, and it always grow your business from a number of perspectives.


I also add my voice to the plight – do not take away practical training aspects of the UT’s – it has a valuable role to play in a country where good skills are scares.



Thursday, November 12, 2009

Great people working towards a great future

I have been working on an article for the IABC Communication World Magazine about the future of development communication, and the value of the discipline. I have been inspired by the great colleagues that work with me in this industry. As Madiba says it so eloquently: A good heart and a good head is a formidable combination. Keep up the good work!


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Celebrating a Decade of Development

From a single idea in 1998 to a national network of grass-roots development projects across the country in 2009, Vukani-Ubuntu represents a victory of cooperative spirit that welled up from the desire to improve life for previously disadvantaged communities. These communities are people who were deprived of opportunities most others would take for granted - the ability to sustain themselves. Vukani-Ubuntu started teaching them jewellery skills, within the framework of the jewellery industry.

This eventually led to formulating the now well-implemented Integrated Development Model, an ongoing blueprint for putting formerly marginalised individuals on safe footing, not only as skilled artisans, but also as entrepreneurs in their own right. Through the dedication to this noble mission Vukani-Ubuntu became the single largest trainer of emerging black jewellers in SA.

Vukani-Ubuntu was the first community development organisation of its kind in the country, generating interest and injecting wind of positive change in the jewellery sector in SA. It has established 11 community development projects in one decade, fundraised more than R 30-million from over 30 local and international donors. During the 10 year period Vukani-Ubuntu also trained over 400 students!

In terms of marketing, Vukani’s efforts created several brands and marketing concepts of jewellery, designed and co-produced with our various projects and other relevant partners for the local and export markets. Ancient Precious Metals™, capitalizing on “World’s Oldest Gold”, mined from Barberton and transformed into jewellery by the Umjinji Project, and the Kwaito Jewellery Range™ targeting SA’s vibrant youth following the Kwaito music trend are examples of V-U marketing prowess.

Most notably, Vukani-Ubuntu developed and established FairMade Jewellery SA™, a concept adapted for SA jewellery industry from the global Fair Trade brand and based on the same humanitarian and environmental principles.

More recently Vukani-Ubuntu purchased shares in Metal Concentrators, one of the leading metal refiners in the country in the most significant and true broad based empowerment deals in the jewellery industry. This mutually beneficial venture will have further positive impact on the sustainability of development projects in South Africa by providing even better access to mentorship and technical support, making Metal Concentrators fully compliant with the SA Mining Charter in the process.

2009 saw the launch of another two ambitious development projects under the leadership of Vukani-Ubuntu. The Ekurhuleni Jewellery Project and Limpopo Jewellery Cluster connect several businesses and development organizations, combining training programmes with jewellery production on a large scale for local and overseas clients. They also employ qualified students from other Community Development Projects, providing fertile ground to start and grow their own businesses – enterprise development.

The success started already with the name: "Humanity, wake up (Vukani) and help each other to help our communities (Ubuntu)." It was a complete mission statement in two words, a call to move, from helplessness and poverty to      self-reliance and prosperity. From     Dust to Gold. It conveys hope and inspires vision. It carries intent and defines the goal. Genuine concern about the cause, selfless dedication, unshakable belief that it can be done and the right insight has all been present too.

The more practical attributes of the success can't be overlooked: Flamboyant yet responsible management, thinking big but seeing details, ability to develop human resources. Insistence on quality, efficiency throughout. Energy and synergy. Vukani-Ubuntu has always been more than sum of its parts.

Perhaps these are some of the characteristics that captured attention and helped open the flood-gates of generosity from so many distinguished funders, sponsors and donors including the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, European Union, givers local and international. The list is too numerous to complete here. Their understanding of Vukani-Ubuntu's aim has been crucial to moving forward.

Vukani-Ubuntu? Yes, they can. They know how and why. And their timing is always right.


Demos Takoulas

CEO, Vukani-Ubuntu







Saturday, October 31, 2009

The land of opportunity

We indeed live in the land of opportunity. Just out of the MQA’s 9th Annual Consultation Conference (Friday, 30 October 2009), and I must congratulate the MQA and their stakeholders on the excellent job they are doing. Today I realized once again that if you apply your mind, your passion and your talents, you can and will have a brilliant future in our country. The industry is in need of skills, but as the motivating and inspiring Musa Zulu said – it can only happen if we put our passion and our minds to it! We make the impossible “I’m possible”. What an inspiring event, and what a great group of individuals to develop an industry with.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

New direction for Vukani

When a company reach a significant milestone like a 10-year birthday celebration, it is time to reflect on where we have been, what we have achieved, what we do really well, and what we should stop doing, and focus on in the future. The Vukani team has just been through this process of evaluation, and has decided on the way forward to continue contributing to the jewellery industry of South Africa in the most meaningful manner.
In the past decade Vukani has spent most of its time, money raised and other resources setting up jewellery training projects and managing them to a point of stability, and then handing them over to community boards to manage. Vukani has also generated income by being a training provider (and is accredited by MQA, Umalusi and registered at the Department of Education), lobbying and firming relationships in the jewellery industry, delivering research and development and consulting services.
In July 2009, Vukani reached significant milestones, delivering two fully working and operational projects: the Limpopo Jewellery Cluster hosting the SEDA Limpopo Jewellery Incubator (R13-million) and the Ekurhuleni Jewellery Project (R7-million) to respective funders involved. Since then, management has spent time doing research and in discussion with industry role-players, including the MQA and Jewellery Council.  Management have made a decision to position Vukani in the training coordination and service provider sphere for the next 3 – 5 years, based on the need in the industry for simplified and effective training opportunities. The skills shortage in the industry, aligned with the national skills priorities and goals, also drives this strategy.
Vukani will continue to assist the two recent projects with (as per current SLA and contracts with funders) the services listed below, as the projects become more self-reliant in terms of operational implementation. Vukani will:
·         oversee financial and other management,
·         report to funders
·         support with stakeholder relationship, and
·         support with marketing and fundraising
The core focus of Vukani as an organization would be to provide training support and coordination to the Jewellery Industry.
These services will include:
1)     Registering jewelers with SARS to allocate their Skills Development Levy to the MQA in order to claim these levies back.
2)     Register and manage all learnership applications, skills programme applications, etc. that jewelers make to the MQA.
3)     Assisting jewelers with Workplace Skills Plans, all administration and the Annual Training Report, in order to claim back mandatory grants.
4)     Handle sourcing and delivering of training, all coordination (venue, time, date and content) according to the Workplace Skills Plan, and the need of the individual jewelers. All training administration and coordination will be done for you as a jeweller, and will meet all the accreditation and statutory requirements.
5)     Presenting an annual calendar filled with short skills training programmes nationally in major city centres.
6)     All other training related administration and services.
With 10 years of experience in providing the industry with high-quality trained jewelers, Vukani is well positioned to extend our scope to the rest of the industry, providing up-skilling and training opportunities to the jewellery industry nationally. It is with great anticipation that we launch the new services, and you can obtain more information from Penny Moemi at penny@vukani.org, or 012 326 8534.