Founder, Ntshulisa Foundation

“I want to be part of the solution,” Karissa explains, while speaking passionately about youth unemployment in South Africa. And being part of the solution for Karissa means disrupting business-as-usual. “How is a hungry, uneducated child going to benefit from a pretty wall?”

Companies in South Africa in particular love painting schools and planting unsustainable fruit gardens with no plan, no strategy, and an illusion that a four by four spinach garden is going to feed a school of 400 kids.”

Karissa is on a mission to expand the field of social impact by showing companies they can use their resources better and smarter by actually doing good, specifically for unemployed youth. According to the Black Economic Empowerment Act, South African companies are obliged to contribute to the empowerment of black citizens. Her organization, The Ntshulisa Foundation, helps companies live up to their legal obligation in a meaningful way.

The quest has not always been easy, but with tenacity Karissa has won many critics over since starting TNF in 1998. “Chief Financial Officers across the land did not like my face,” she recalls. While companies were used to doing the bare minimum to meet their obligations, she insisted they increase their ambition – for their own and their community’s sake. “We have to integrate sustainability strategies. We can’t just think of the bottom line as a standard return on investments – we must think of a social return on investments as well.”

It is a question of making a social change alongside economic returns. The crime, hopelessness, and societal fragmentation resulting from youth without prospects has direct consequences for businesses – not to speak of the untapped potential of thousands of young people who have never had the chance to prove themselves. “Youth unemployment and education is not just a poor kid problem. It’s an everyone problem,” the South African opportunity leader concludes.

To seek opportunities for change, Karissa reaches out to both the disempowered and the empowered: “I love to find a disenfranchised, exceptionally talented young person and then just blast them with opportunities and watch them blossom. On the other end of the spectrum, I love dealing with a visionary business leader and blast them with information and convince them why they should change.” Over nearly two decades, the Ntshulisa Foundation has gained many long-term corporate partners and seen countless young people grow up to live fulfilling lives as active members of society. Karissa’s method is working.

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