Meet the Graduate: Dr. Nomathemba Memela
Dr Nomathemba Memela is the first PhD graduate of the Centre. Prior to starting her doctorate journey, she holds a Masters in Development Finance along with a number of sought leadership programmes to her name. With over 25 years of professional experience in Information Technology, Nomathemba identified the opportunity to deeper understand and integrate sustainability as a development tool for corporate businesses.
Q: Your field of study and what inspired you to take this path
A: I developed an interest in Sustainable Development during my Masters studies in Development Finance. Upon pursuing my PhD, I wanted to investigate further the contribution of the corporate sector (of which I had been part) towards this global mission of sustainable development, from a perspective other than that of the companies involved.
My research undertook this through an interrogation of the practice of sustainability reporting as a proxy for sustainability performance, through the lens of the lived-in experiences of external stakeholders of the companies involved. It focused on the South African mining sector, by bringing forth the voice of community stakeholders, who are located in the mining villages concerned, and are immediately impacted by mine operations.
Q: How do you think your research will make an impact in the social investment space?
A: Sustainable development requires that as we develop, human life and society are positively impacted in a real and meaningful way, and not just as a compliance or tick-box exercise. Social investments are an important means through which this is achieved, whether implemented by the public, private or third sector. To ensure that such practices make the sustainable difference intended, they need to be interrogated deeply and holistically, in their various contexts, to evolve the knowledge, understanding, and thereby effectiveness – for all parties involved.
Q: What have you learnt or seen that has been vital for your career or that has stood out most for you?
A: Firstly, you can achieve anything that you set out to do, regardless of your background and personal circumstances. Secondly, that challenge alone may be insufficient – meaning and purpose are what brings more lasting fulfilment to a vocation, and life in general.