The well-known philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote in her famous book The human condition: “What I propose, therefore, is very simple: it is nothing more than to think what we are doing”.
In this section we try to reflect on what we – “we” being Nova, but actually all of us, we as society and as country, and we as a global community – are doing.
We limit this reflection to what we do in relation to households, since our vision is a healthy household culture in Southern Africa. Pursuing this vision requires interaction between and the combination of the domains of culture, technology, institutions, the environment, etc. within the everyday lives of Southern African households.
Our mission is to develop and promote ways (models, products, technologies and domestic practices) to improve the quality of life of these households.
We make use of the needs theory of Max-Neef, inter alia in developing our Quality of Life Assessment tool. It is important for us to be able to measure and monitor the impact of what we are doing on the quality of life of households in a comprehensive way.
Our ten-year aim is to establish Nova as institution of highest excellence in developing and promoting solutions for a healthy household culture, and to take solutions to scale in Southern Africa through networks.
Nova executes its mission together with household residents and networks. This interaction with residents has helped us to think about development as something that cannot be given to people, but rather something that must come from them, with the right kind of guidance. The trans-disciplinary approach and Nova’s phased approach enable us to give this type of guidance as effectively as possible. Nova’s phased approach structures the way we plan and work.
One of the questions we have to consider in each project is: What is our role in the struggle of these low-income households to improve their quality of life? These households are often the most marginalized in our society. In 1994, political liberation came with the promise: now is the time for a better life. Many feel that this promise has been frustrated. Many well-meant efforts to make things better achieve the opposite. The households can mostly not pay for what they need, but hand-outs often make things worse. Our point of departure is that all of us, rich and poor, are interdependent and have a common destiny. We must all contribute to the common good. Nova subscribes to the principle of subsidiarity which means that each of us must do what we can, one must not do for people what they can do for themselves, and those who have must assist those who do not have, using the guideline of results based finance. That requires specific criteria for success.
We do our work asking ourselves:
• Am I compassionately doing what is right? (principle)
• Am I applying justifiable scientific methods? (process)
• Am I effective? (practice)
• Am I enjoying my work (play)
We have structured our organisation in four business units in order to optimally execute our mission, and each unit has its own rationale. The Business Units are: BU Incubation, that focuses on the development of domestic practices; BU Information, that focuses on the monitoring of the impact of our projects; BU Implementation, that focuses on taking solutions to scale; and BU Presentation that focuses on communicating results to clients and stakeholders.