According to Noxolo Hlongwane, head of philanthropy at Nedbank Private Wealth, the Innovation Awards were introduced as a way of recognising and rewarding NPOs that were able to achieve great results despite the pandemic and leverage on innovation.

The awards are looking at organisations that can show financial stability, strong leadership and effective risk management, and can effectively harness the power of technology, says Hlongwane.

"Covid-19 and the national lockdown response have been a massive test of the resilience of social-sector organisations globally," says Hlongwane. "[This is] not just in terms of the ability of these institutions to maintain themselves financially but also to meet the growing needs of communities despite the constraining environment and limited resources at their disposal."

Hlongwane says that in South Africa, this increase in the demand for services from NPOs was especially acute during 2020 and some of these social entities found themselves unable to continue serving their communities.

Those NPOs that were able to respond innovatively and use technology to their advantage were able to continue providing the vital support and help that millions of vulnerable South Africans needed, Hlongwane adds.

"It is these innovative, resilient and technology-minded NPOs that Nedbank Private Wealth wants to recognise with these awards," Hlongwane says. "Through the prize money, we hope to give the winning organisations the means to further strengthen their operations, enhance their programmes and service offerings and position themselves to do even more good in society into the future."

"We appreciate the crucial role that these organisations fulfil in our communities and the extent to which communities are dependent on the services NPOs provide," Hlongwane says. "Our years of experience in supporting the sector have shown us that the impact of NPOs is significantly enhanced when they effectively harness innovation and more recently leverage digital capabilities."

Hlongwane says that the Innovation Awards aim to not only inspire NPOs to higher levels of such resilience, innovation and digital enablement, but to also catalyse meaningful discourse between social-sector organisations, their donors and partners.

"Covid-19 highlighted the fact that social-sector stakeholders need to spend more time engaging constructively around ways to leverage investment to build greater resilience, institutionalise best-practice crisis response and prepare our social sector for any future crises like Covid-19," says Hlongwane.

"We hope that these awards encourage such conversations, while also prompting NPOs and their funders to invest in systems, tools, technology and leadership development," concludes Hlongwane.

Entries for the Nedbank Private Wealth Innovation Awards are now open and will run until Friday, 26 February. Applicants are encouraged to visit the website for full details of the entry requirements and to submit entries. 

The winners in each category will be announced in March. All entrants will also be invited to attend a workshop, hosted by Nedbank Private Wealth, at which key principles around reliance, innovation and the use technology will be unpacked by various experts in these fields.

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