Turning the tide on joblessness: Starfish 2000

Wednesday, 28 August, 2002 - 23:00

The following case study comes from Ashoka's booklet Creative Strategies
for a New Era - South African NGOs Mobilise Local Resources, written
by Fazila Farouk and edited by

The following case study comes from Ashoka's booklet Creative Strategies
for a New Era - South African NGOs Mobilise Local Resources
, written
by Fazila Farouk and edited by Lisa Cannon.

Starfish 2000 (S2K) is a Cape Town (CT) based development project that was
launched in 1998 by the editor of CT's daily newspaper, The Argus, to address
the problem of lack of experience amongst new job seekers. The project, which
is now located in the Careers Research and Information Centre (CRIC), has developed
a programme to enhance the skills of unemployed young people, including the
physically challenged, by giving them training and on- the- job experience through
internships in host companies. S2K's success can be attributed to the clever
targeting of partners through a marketing strategy that is predisposed to publicityemphasizes
publicity.. The project has boldly taken advantage of its media partner to expose
its successes and attract companies who want to be seen as socially responsible.

Establish partnerships through skilful public relations

The key incentive for companies taking on interns is increased media exposure.
Many companies see social investment as an opportunity to promote their brands
and S2K has cleverly exploited this situation. The Argus has proven a reliable
ally and publicity arm. Due to its unwavering support, more than fifty articles
have been written about the organisation, successful interns and partners. In
addition, each major donation has been exclusively reported in the newspaper.
Finally, journalists have been careful to include S2K's contact details at the
end of every article to facilitate easy access for potential partners.

Conduct an audit of potential support sectors

Before entering an area to launch the project, S2K's staff conduct an audit
of different sectors. Partners from different sectors are invited to a meeting
where a request is made for their assistance. Requests are made for companies
to host interns or if they can't accommodate one, to fund a participant's internship
at another company. Local training institutes and NGOs are encouraged to provide
skills training at discounted rates.

Use influential friends and partners to leverage support

Companies that participate on the project are awarded certificates at a
glittering awards ceremony. The event is attended by high profile friends of
the project such as national ministers, providing an additional incentive for
those companies competing for state tenders to get involved.

In addition, one committed corporate partner, the Cape Chamber of Business,
publicly challenged the CT business community to get involved in S2K to demonstrate
that they are at the forefront of transformation in South Africa.

Appeal to the philanthropist in ordinary people everyone

Starfish interns are often breadwinners in the impoverished homes they come
from. Recognising that the cost of transportation is a tremendous financial
burden to them, S2K negotiated reduced travel rates for the interns with a local
bus company for the duration of their internship. Moreover, in the project's
early days, a florist offered to deliver a flower to each intern on their first
day at work.

Establish a paying membership base

S2K got off to a fledgling start in '98 with small donations from three corporate
donors totalling sixty thousand Rand and residual funds from CRIC. CRIC staff,
now employed permanently on the S2K project, built the project during these
lean times in spite of irregular pay. A well-timed two-year grant from the Department
of Social Development pulled the organisation out of the red. S2K's future is
dependent on various streams of revenue, one of which is a once-off membership
fee from corporate companies. For this new initiative, S2K has enlisted the
aid of a friend; the national Minister of Finance, himself a former CT political
activist, who has started writing letters on behalf of S2K inviting companies
to become members of the project for the substantial fee of three hundred thousand


After receiving basic business training, interns are placed with host companies
for three to six months. During this period, the company pays the intern a monthly
stipend valued at a minimum of one thousand Rand. Since S2K's launch, 2000 people
have been placed as interns in host companies. Sixty percent of these have been
hired into permanent employment. Finally, more than 150 companies have participated
in the project, most of these have been from the small business sector.

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