I’m Handing Over My Keys – Not My Supporters’ Card

By Pieter Twine, General Manager: MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet

Pieter Twine, GM at MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet, will be retiring on 29 February. On his parting, he has put together an opinion piece about the impact of the MySchool program since its inception in 1997 (including having raised over R1 billion for more than 8,500 schools and NGO beneficiaries in South Africa).

As I prepare to retire from my role as General Manager of the MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet program, the genesis of which is in a program that was established in 1997, I can’t help but be amazed at the impact we as a team have been able to make in everyday South Africans’ lives over the last 27 years.

MySchool was started as a solution to help parents raise funds more easily and sustainably for schools and such was its positive impact that it evolved to the point where it was rolled out nationally in Woolworths stores in September 2003 to benefit thousands of other schools across South Africa. When we established the MyVillage and MyPlanet pillars in 2008, we became the first fully integrated strategic Corporate Social Investment in Loyalty program in SA – and possibly the world. The MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet program has developed into a fully-fledged community loyalty program which has raised over R1 billion for more than 8 500 schools and NGO beneficiaries in South Africa.

The magic behind the success of the program thus far is that it is solely focused on doing good at no cost to our Supporters, instead being supported by our Partners through Supporters’ loyalty card swipes whenever they shop. This constant stream of donations help meet the urgent needs of our Beneficiaries, who touch the lives of hundreds of thousands of South Africans in myriad important ways, every day.

This has seen the MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet program team and all our Supporters help many organisations to break the poverty cycle. The reach and impact across our three pillars have been significant, from building Early Childhood Development classrooms to teacher bursaries, from providing water in schools to food gardens to support communities, from helping the youth to build skills required to funding specialised training and development of our Beneficiaries to be more effective in the workplace and country. We’ve also helped wildlife and environmental organisations to reduce the impact of poaching of our South African heritage. We have helped change the lives of children, families and communities when doing restorative surgeries with Operation Smile.

We became the first South African brand to win awards at the International Loyalty Awards – and onwards to 18 more national and international nods for ‘Leading Loyalty and Strategic Corporate Investment’ linked to customer loyalty programs – we knew we were doing it right. When other programs across the world tried to replicate the program in some shape or form – many of which have succeeded and done great work across the world – we were validated in our approach.

But the ultimate validation comes from living our Purpose of making a difference in the lives of South African people, animals and the environment – and seeing tangible evidence of that in the positive changes people experience in their lives. Our Mission of making giving back easy and trusted, helped steer our program. Our ultimate vision that we could help fuel a sustained positive impact which would give hope and courage to millions of South Africans – that every swipe counts and makes a significant difference – are being realised.

For more than 20 years, I have been privileged to see the impact: the smile after surgery; a first hearing aid for a child; a new classroom to replace a mud hut in rural areas; acknowledging our teachers; our people looking after animals and the environment – all because the funds generated by the swipes of Supporters and the generosity of our Partners enabled them to truly make a difference.

My journey with the MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet as General Manager comes to an end on 29 February 2024. It’s a journey that has been life-changing for me and, as I hand the baton over to our Supporters and the MySchool team to continue making a difference, every day, I’m proud to leave the organisation on a sustainable upward trajectory.

I always tell the team members and colleagues who have worked on the MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet program when they move on, they can leave the program, but the program never leaves them. I will continue to ‘Make Every Swipe Count’ in the spirit of Ubuntu – and hope that more and more Supporters will join the millions who already help drive conscious social change in South Africa, to continue to change the country for the better.