A few nights ago a group of CEOs got together in Johannesburg for the 702 Sun International CEO Sleepout which took place in Sandton (absolutely no irony there).
As I am in America land at the moment, I only knew about it from the Twitterer and then was only able to get glimpses of what was happening from the same medium.
In some ways it seemed like a good idea – I heard about R24 million being raised for the homeless (but nothing about how it’s being planned to get it to them), but there were also a lot of aspects about it that started to make me a little wary.
And so at one point I tweeted this: “I love the idea of #CEOSleepOutZA but celebrity chef soup and all night coffee seems to be somewhat missing the point?”
My friend Megan, who lets me improv with her on occasion and who sometimes says really nice things about me online, responded to my tweet by asking: “What exactly do you like about the idea?”
And while I responded with a defensive attempt at an answer, I had to be more personally honest and admit to myself that I didn’t really know. Something inside me wanted it to be a really good idea somehow and yet so much inside me was really just alarm bells going off.
I just read part of this article now from Eyewitness News which is titled, “CEOs overwhelmed by experience” which contains such gems as this: “It grounds me when I have to experience what they experience every day.” (Attributed to ‘a business executive’ – this is cutting edge journalism here it seems).
So the one tweet showed me pictures of the all-night coffee stand. A second one alerted me to the celebrity chef who was on hand to make soup for the participants. I read a tweet which spoke of how the one lady arrived with a sleeping bag able to take temperatures of down to minus twenty degrees.
This article went to say how, “The country’s top decision makers braved the cold winter evening and swapped their beds for the concrete pavement along Gwen Lane.”
As @MrSmithMachine tweeted, “To truly complete the #CEOsleepoutZA experience, they should let homeless people sleep over at all the CEO’s Sandton mansions tonight”, which seemed a little more on the button.
This article did mention that the money raised was going to be going towards Boys and Girls Town which absolutely does sound like a great deal (especially if it happens before the celebrity chef or whoever designed the designer cardboard chair/sleeping bag combos gets their cut), but it mentioned that it was about raising “awareness about the plight of people living in poverty.”
I’m not so sure.
If you are not aware that there is widespread poverty in South Africa, then you really should book a consultation with your local proctologist to see about having your head removed. The plight of people living in poverty? Well, that seems like quite an easy one to figure out as well, especially to the extent that one would be sleeping in a warm sleeping bag, eating designer soup and drinking coffee in front of the press.
The cynic in me wonders how many of the people/companies involved did so for the press it generated, or to stick up a photo in the entrance hall, or add it to the company’s list of accomplishments come year end. The eternal optimist fights back saying that for some people it must have been a genuine experience, and hopefully it somehow opened eyes and will open wallets and hopefully even mindsets towards the huge disparity between rich and poor in South Africa.
I honestly am interested though. What are your thoughts on the event? Is this something that will make a positive difference to the poor in South Africa? I would love to know your thoughts on this one…
My heart says “Yes, Please”, but my gut is really screaming “No!”
Author: Brett “fish” Anderson