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The importance of capacity building for non-profit board members

MandisaZithaBy Mandisa Zitha | Festival Director, Encounters Training And Development Institute

The Encounters Training and Development Institute organises the annual Encounters South African International Documentary Festival. Now in its 25th year, Encounters has an established reputation locally and globally, as well as the trust of distributors, filmmakers, and audiences. The Festival has built strong networks over the years and is the launchpad of African documentaries to the world.

The Festival is well-known for its expert curation of African and international documentaries and brings a selection of the best titles worldwide to local audiences every year. Encounters continues to play an integral role in building the documentary industry and documentary culture in Africa. The hundreds of documentaries screened at Encounters have challenged audiences and filmmakers alike. The Festival has also created a safe and important space for debate in our Democracy.

The Festival, co-founded by Steven Markovitz and Nodi Murphy, operated as a close corporation, with the idea to create a space with clear outcomes, productions, and work for the documentary community. The CC was not an ideal vehicle for the Festival, and legal advice was sought to develop a not-for-profit – Encounters Training and Development Institute, with a constitution and co-option of the first board, comprising a wide breadth of skills in film, academic and legal expertise. Through the NGO, the organisation’s mission encompassed the growth of the documentary space, expansion and diversity of audiences, and training and development for practitioners at all levels.

The Encounters Training and Development Institute recently approached Inyathelo to provide the organisation with governance training. The programme would be a precursor to the organisation’s upcoming strategic planning process, and was aimed at ensuring that the board members are aligned in the vision for the future. The governance training would provide the board with a framework of what needs to be discussed in the strategic planning workshop and capacitate them prior to the vision mapping journey.

Inyathelo designed a two-day programme, held virtually to accommodate all board members’ busy schedules, providing clarity on key governance concepts and responsibilities, and good practice in improving relationships between the governing body and executive leadership.

encounters numbersOver the years Encounters’ success has been limited by the challenges of financial sustainability due to a variety of reasons, including changes in the funding landscape and shortages in operational funding. The organisation has not maintained solid corporate governance, board roles were not defined, and there was a need to differentiate between policy and operations.

The governance training provided by Inyathelo provided capacity training in the following areas: The third sector landscape; the concept of governance; NPO organisational structures; roles and responsibilities, and standards of conduct for directors; board committee terms of reference and composition; codes of good practice and their relevance to each structure; board effectiveness; the chairperson's duties; the five phases of growth of an organisation; and key corporate governance roleplayers.

The resources gained were imperative in preparing the board for the strategic planning mission, which achieved the outcome of the development of a five-year plan. The training helped the individual board members to understand their roles within the organisation, based on their strengths and competencies, and to build a stronger vehicle for Encounters. This was a significant morale booster that energised both board members and the organisation’s team.

Encounters is now firmly placed to advance the current focus of the Encounters Training and Development Institute for the benefit of South African documentary practitioners. The board members and organisers of Encounters are committed to meeting the mandate of the organisation as stated in the constitution.

 This article was first published in Inyathelo's 2023 Annual Report.


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