April 30, 2015

A Tale of Two Livity’s


On the eve of Livity’s 14th birthday Sam Conniff, Livity Chairman, shares an update on  the wonderful work of our South African offices.

I arrived in Johannesburg after a whirlwind week to link up with Gavin Weale, MD of Livity Africa, and meet our new Digify Apprentices. Originally the first ‘creative’ at Livity as a copywriter, Gavin grew into the MD of LiveMagUK our flagship youth engagement platform. In 2010 he became the pioneer of Livity’s long held international ambitions as he left the UK for SA, and single handedly started up LiveMagSA which in time evolved into Livity Africa.

I arrived and the office and after a some time saying hello to all the kids, my next few days ran along the same lines they normally would. However there was one clear highlight: a graduation ceremony for one of our flagship youth training programs, the Google backed Digify, delivering digital skills to young people from township backgrounds.

Livity Africa’s Digify has an outstanding record, over three cohorts that have worked with only young people from the townships there’s been a consistent 100% success rate at completing the program AND a 100% success rate at young people going into digital marketing positions, our partners at Google estimate Digifiers now make up 1% of the agency population and our plans over the next three years take that to 10%, our shared ambition is to change the industry for good.

The head of Google South Africa, Luke Mckend, was the opening speaker at the graduation and called our co created digital skills incubator the ‘most inspiring work Google is doing in the country”. Nice for me to hear, but most rewarding for the young people who’d just completed three intense months, they deserved the sincere congratulations Luke gave them.

The congratulations turned to celebrations and the Digifiers led the team onto the dancefloor, soon followed by two of the Livity hothoused and mentored young entreprenuers we look after on behalf of Red Bull’s local Social Enterprise program Amaphiko, who’d both received news of successful investment bids that week, both for truly transformational amounts to their early stage social ventures, they all partied deservingly hard. This is just one of many more exciting success stories.

When I was 14, Nelson Mandela was released after a lifetime in prison. I did not know who he was as a man, or anything of his land. He was a celebrated figure in my house growing up; I even had a Free Nelson Mandela badge, so I knew he was important but I didn’t really know why. I bunked off school and thanks to a friends mum who worked for an MP, I was in the address Madiba made to then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, her cabinet, the opposition and every major politician of the day.

I can’t remember much of what he said, nor did I understand its significance, but I know one topic kept coming up, he kept talking to us about the children that would be. No longer lost in the crowd and he saw me there. He raised his eyebrow and asked me quietly ‘boy, why aren’t you in school?’…. frozen to the spot and in need of a good response, I replied “I thought I might learn more here today” he leant forward and asked “so what have you learned?”

Many years later, on Freedom Day, in the townships and in the office of Livity Africa, I realised what I had learned. I realised I was lucky to have met the children he was telling the world about, the children who’d be called born free, and aren’t, yet, but who do hold the key to a truly free South Africa, if they can step up take those keys as they inherit power and use them to open all the doors they deserve.

With two Livity’s achieving similar success in two very different parts of the world, it’s evidence to suggest the business model works, sustainable social change, for underserved young people, through a marketing services model engaging brands, businesses and governments alike. Two Livity’s who still have a lot to learn from each other, a lot to give and a lot more to do. But with this much achieved, the next question is where next?

With massive respect to the inspirational Gavin Weale, who’s made Livity Africa what it is, from scratch, who leads the team like a true pioneer, is a radical force for change against a backdrop of uncertainty and who proudly states that true success will be one day handing over the controls of our company to be run by the same young black South Africans that Mr Mandela once told me are the future of that wonderful country.

Woza Woza Livity Africa!

Sam Conniff, Livity Chairman, 30.04.2015

  • Mayush

    Where next? In Poland of course! ;) Truly inspirational, as always. Good luck with more! Mayush x