Since the early 2000s the ILO has provided technical assistance to develop national capacity in the areas of business management training, women’s enterprise development, social enterprise development, entrepreneurship education, business competitions and workplace cooperation and productivity training.
In July 2014, the ILO was involved in a conference that brought together Government, business and organized labour to share research and knowledge about what works in enterprise development. The workshop was a great success in terms of sharing knowledge, lessons learned and experiences of enterprise development interventions.
Following the conference, the ILO was tasked to design an SME development knowledge sharing project, including the establishment of a knowledge sharing network between government departments, enterprise organizations, private sector and development practitioners.
The project sought to share existing knowledge as well as to develop new innovative approaches to job creation that would inform policy, strategies and programmes.
It did therefore not operate downstream (directly with SMEs), but rather upstream through research, development of policy briefs, knowledge sharing events and capacity development of institutions and development practitioners.
Whereas South Africa was the project’s initial target country, it also involved participants from Malawi and Mozambique who took part in events in South Africa.
A series of innovative knowledge-sharing and capacity development events were co-designed and co-created with the government, workers’ and employers’ organizations, in South Africa.
One of the highlights was the ILO Decent Work Academy in 2017 that was developed in collaboration with the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC), South Africa’s national social dialogue institution. It took place in Johannesburg with more than 150 participants from 20 countries.
“It was probably one of the best events of this kind we have had for some time, particularly in the context of our priority of job creation and looking at automation and technology in the workplace,” said one of the South African entrepreneurs who attended the meeting.
Not the usual panel discussion
The Academy included plenary discussions, virtual games, panel debates, topic electives, future foresight exercises and field visits.
With many ILO and external resource persons and contributions from across the continent, the dialogue and exchanges were filled with depth, optimistic visions and honest assessments of the situation of the continent.
Study visits exposed participants to an automotive factory, a community conservation initiative that also addressed labour rights, a social enterprise working in the green economy, and to NEDLAC, where participants engaged in a social dialogue role play on collective bargaining.
“Participants appreciated learning about our model of social dialogue, being in the ‘shoes’ of social partners, engaging on difficult issues and striving to reach consensus,” said the Head of Programme Operations at NEDLAC.
A key output of the project is the creation of a knowledge sharing platform on the e-campus of the International Training Centre of the ILO (ITCILO), where all research and publications as well as tools, videos, case studies and other relevant materials from capacity development and knowledge sharing events are accessible.