In this our 20th anniversary year, the Field Band Foundation celebrates both its achievements and continued relevance while confronting the ongoing challenges of sustainability in an unforgiving environment.

We marvel at the resilience of an organisation born in 1997 as the PG Group’s “gift to the nation” in celebration of the company’s Centenary.

We pay tribute to the insight and wisdom of our founding fathers who in the early years of our fledgling democracy recognised the need to give young people hope and opportunity.

Having had the extraordinary privilege of serving the Foundation since its beginning, I am reminded that in the founding strategy document (November 1997) the board agreed that:

“Although music and movement play an important part in Field Bands, it is not the main priority. Apart from providing a forum for fun and entertainment, Field Bands are designed to teach young people important lessons of life such as:

  • The need to co-operate with and serve others;
  • The important of self-worth, punctuality and responsibility; and
  • The thrill of belonging.

Widespread recruitment and easy entry to Field Bands ensures that the activity is not restricted to the ‘talented few”, but that youngsters who need it most are drawn into the process. In particular, those who come from disadvantaged circumstances will be given a sense of purpose and achievement.”

These guiding principles, suitably adjusted to our evolving developmental model, continue to inform our work 20 years later.

We salute all who have contributed to the sustainability of this wonderful organisation that has been:

  • Directed, governed and served by dozens of volunteers from all walks of life
  • Staffed by hundreds of employees for whom work is a vocation
  • Owned by many thousands of members who have demonstrated through their conduct and achievements that the guiding compass of the Foundation has never wavered
  • Financed by compassionate and principled funders (corporate & individual from the private & public sectors, both local and international) who have found comfort in the fiduciary accountability of the Foundation and measured meaningful returns in their investment
  • Supported “in kind” by endless numbers of service providers who give new meaning to the concept of social partnerships
  • Endorsed by leaders from all sectors of society, none more important that President Nelson Mandela who gave the foundation his personal stamp of approval in 1997, and lived long enough to actively celebrate its achievements.

Our realistic view of future challenges is forged from the heat of past experiences: the frisson of anxiety when cash was tight and salaries due; the “going concern” debates; the searing disappointment when our sunny confidence in human nature was betrayed, and the deep sadness when we took leave of champions like Retha Cilliers and Bertie Lubner.

Our confident optimism is informed by the visible achievements of many thousands of Field Band members who continue to make their mark in society, by the unswerving loyalty and support of so many partners, and by the passion of our management team and staff.

As we celebrate two decades of service and look to the future, we recognise that remaining “Fit for Purpose” is tight governance and accountability on a continuous loop.

Two major performance assessments were conducted on behalf of funders during 2017. Notwithstanding the excellent outcomes, they identified numerous areas of potential improvement in terms of operational effectiveness and efficiency.

They also nurtured the evolving realisation that the Field Band funding model that has served us so well (bands being funded by donors, with a percentage covering had office expenses) must be overhauled. Increasingly, our funders and partners will be invited to support cross-cutting programmes that deliver measurable results across the width and breadth of the organisation.

The Foundation’s management team, which demonstrates the highest standards of financial compliance, business leadership and strategic intellect, recently proposed a new Business Development and Resource Optimisation Strategy to the board, which will provide the foundation for a further two decades of sustainability and growth.

As we adapt to new era of ROI-based corporate social investing, the Foundation’s enhanced Measuring & Evaluation capability will demonstrate conclusively that our developmental model delivers true value based on true values that always face True North.

Lest we become over enthusiastic during this celebratory year, Confucius reminds us that “humility is the solid foundation of all virtues”.

In all humility, we invite our stakeholders to help us celebrate our achievements while demanding that we remain “Fit for Purpose” in the decades ahead.

Brian Gibson