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Other innovations 04/06/2018

ENGIE Imaginative Builders in South Africa

In South Africa, the ENGIE Team took inspiration from the "Imaginative Builders" concept to launch internal workshops to enable employees to work on what they can bring to a changing world. To take them out of their comfort zone, the employees were transported to Johannesburg city to experience the lives of underprivileged communities. They also visited some innovative businesses in the area that are working with the community to reduce crime and turn the city historical slums into a place that welcomes innovation, creativity, sustainable living and greater economic activity.Annie van Greuning and Seshni Pillay, from ENGIE South Africa, tell us more about the series of events.

An internal workshop to re-imagine, re-invent, re-innovate

 The first event of ENGIE Innovation Week in South Africa was an internal workshop, where we could think about how we show up in the world, what are our views and fears and what drives our behavior. It was a way to understand that innovation comes from collaboration, trust and non-judgmental attitude and requires people to move outside their comfort zone, which is what we did next.

Moving outside our comfort zone

Following the workshop, a trip to Ponte City and the Johannesburg CBD was organized to take us outside of our comfort zone. Ponte City, the highest residential building in South Africa, was once the height of opulence during the apartheid era with 54 floors comprising of triple story penthouses and saunas and Jacuzzis constructed for the white elite.

The neighborhood around Ponte was a designated whites-only area but was then labelled "grey area" where blacks and whites could mix. It then went through a period of deterioration when the government tried to stop the fraternization of different races in Johannesburg by cutting off services (power and water) to the CBD. As a result, people in the area eventually vacated, the property devalued over time and turned into a slum area overpopulated by immigrants, where gangsterism and drugs predominated. At that time, the building's core housed a pile of rubbish which rose 14 floors high.

Today after some determination and innovative community efforts, Ponte City has cleaned up and has become a residential complex for middle class families. Surrounding buildings and businesses are also making efforts to revive the inner city and change its image.

This was a good lesson for people to lean about the city history and see how a place can reinvent itself and change with the times. Peoples preconceived notions were dispelled, and there were lessons learnt about how the impossible can be done. ENGIE employees were split up in groups that visited different sites and businesses that explained how they began to tackle this mountain of a problem and turn things around with limited resources and government help.

Following this trip, the last event will ask teams to work together to assemble a model with a deadline but without instructions, thus enforcing the learnings from the previous 2 sessions. The goal of this whole series of events was for the employees to understand how they can similarly turn ENGIE into a creative and innovative company through team work.


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