All posts by sapartners

What the U.S. can learn from South Africa’s Heritage Day

By JudyAnn Bigby

On September 24th, South Africa celebrated Heritage Day, a day in which all South Africans are encouraged to celebrate their cultural traditions while recognizing the diversity of cultures, beliefs, and traditions that together make up the whole of South Africa. Heritage Day is a recent holiday, having been established on the same day that KwaZulu-Natal had long celebrated Shaka’s Day, honoring the legendary King Shaka Zulu. The democratically elected government acknowledged that South Africa, with eleven official languages, is a country of many cultures and human experiences, and to move forward as a unified nation it was important to recognize and celebrate that diversity.

South Africa Partners staff in Johannesburg celebrating Heritage Day

Like South Africa, the United States is a country of great diversity reflecting the many different ways that different peoples came to live in the United States and the Native Americans (the first owners of America) who also have a rich diversity of cultures and experiences. The United States does not have a heritage day holiday, but given the current debate about immigrants in the U.S. perhaps it’s time to find a way to celebrate the many U.S. cultures and acknowledge this as a strength, rather than focusing on cultural divisions.

Celebrating the many cultural experiences of a society does not mean that the history and legacies of the many different aspects of culture should be ignored, but rather it provides an opportunity for acknowledging the intersections of various heritages and the mixed feelings they generate depending on different individuals’ perspectives.

Our staff in Johannesburg celebrating their cultures on Heritage Day!

In an address marking Heritage Day in 1996, former President Nelson Mandela stated “When our first democratically-elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation.” I read Nelson Mandela’s quote and it brings to mind the U.S. motto “Out of many, one.” Both the U.S. and South Africa are a tribute to the richness that comes from people and to individuals who bring their love of country, their passion for making things better, and their many resources together to make a contribution to everyone’s experience.

Happy Heritage Day, South Africa.

The Lasting Legacy of Symbols

By JudyAnn Bigby


As Americans wrestle with the significance of the death of a 32-year-old woman who was killed while walking across the street in Charlottesville, Virginia, allegedly by an Ohio man who embraced Nazism and white supremacy, I am struck once again by the parallel struggles facing the United States and South Africa. Those who organized the “Unite the Right Rally” chose Charlottesville because of the planned removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.

The U.S. and South Africa continue to struggle with the legacy of racism and the long overdue discussion about what it means to hold up as role models today, men who long ago promoted white supremacy. In 2015 students at the University of Cape Town in South Africa began a campaign to remove from campus the statue of Cecil Rhodes, a successful British businessman and politician in South Africa. According to historical documents, Rhodes was a brutal racist and imperialist. In 1887, Rhodes told the House of Assembly in Cape Town that “the native is to be treated as a child and denied the franchise”. For the protesters, the statue represented everything that Rhodes himself stood for: racism, colonialism, white supremacy, and the oppression of black people. A month after the protests began, university authorities removed it.

Before the Rhodes statue came down at the University of Cape Town. Photo Credit:
Before the Rhodes statue came down at the University of Cape Town. Photo Credit:

Before the Rhodes statue came down at the University of Cape Town. Photo Credit:

The demonstration in Charlottesville was in part precipitated by the city’s decision to remove the statue of General Robert E. Lee.  Lee, having married into a wealthy slave-holding family in Virginia, fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Both of his major offensives into Union territory ended in defeat. Monuments and statues of Lee were erected during a time when lynchings were rising, the Ku Klux Klan was rising, and Jim Crow segregation laws were adopted. Lee, like Rhodes, viewed people of African descent as incapable of being in charge of their own fate.  He believed that African Americans were “better off” in America than in Africa. Documents describe Lee as brutal, encouraging staff to severely beat slaves who were recaptured after trying to escape.

It is hard to imagine why men like Lee and Rhodes are held in such high esteem today given the brutal context in which they rose to power and influence.  At the heart of the struggle to hold on to these monuments, these symbols of white supremacy and colonialism, is the perceived loss of white power and authority versus the need for blacks and others who experience the effects of racism and other prejudice and disadvantage in their economic and social status, and those who deplore racism to see racism finally come to an end, to be rooted out from our everyday lives.

Protesters and counter protesters in Charlottesville. Photo Credit:

Protesters and counter protesters in Charlottesville. Photo Credit:

Some people believe America is past the hatred and violence that took the life of a young woman during the Charlottesville demonstrations and her death is an anomaly. But there are reminders every day that the past is not past. During an interview on National Public Radio, journalist Jelani Cobb explained his reaction to some Americans who shook their heads and responded to Charlottesville with the sentiment “This is not who we are.” He acknowledged that this [Charlottesville] is who we are and it is more accurate to say “This is not who we want to be.” We will never be what we want to be if we can’t let go of the past and admit the symbols of the past give voice to those who want to perpetuate the past. Rooting out racism requires acknowledgement that it exists. The Charlottesville experience was eye-opening for some and affirming for others about how much work there is ahead.

I can’t help to believe that President Obama was acknowledging the parallel legacies of the U.S. and South Africa when, after Charlottesville, he tweeted Nelson Mandela’s quote about love being more natural than hate. Obama’s tweet set the record for the most retweeted and liked tweet suggesting that Mandela’s legacy continues to bring significant relief to the public.

A message from JudyAnn Bigby

Dear South Africa Partners Community,

With great excitement and joy, I began my tenure as the Executive Director of South Africa Partners on May 1, 2017. As South Africa Partners celebrates its 20th anniversary, I enthusiastically join you in your steadfast support of a just and democratic South Africa. I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity to continue to build on the strong foundation and incredible legacy that Mary Tiseo and all the partners have built.

I am no stranger to South Africa Partners, but since my appointment by the Board of Directors, I have come to appreciate at a deeper level, the importance of the work in South Africa in partnership with so many of you. South Africa Partners is a trusted and respected organization. The trust and respect has been earned over the years because of the commitment to listening to and working with people. I look forward to continuing in this tradition of “people to people” engagement. I have a lot to learn and know that I have a bevy of teachers both in South Africa and the U.S. ready to share their insights, knowledge, and expertise.

When I first traveled to South Africa in 1990, I was awe struck by the country’s beauty but I was even more in awe of the resilience of the people and the inspiration they gained from their beloved leaders.  What I have learned about South Africa over the years, inspires me and gives me great enthusiasm for actively engaging in the opportunities that lie ahead.

As I begin my tenure, it is impossible for me to adequately thank Mary Tiseo for her leadership and steady hand over the past 20 years, thus making it possible for me to start my new journey. In the more than 15 years that I have been involved with South Africa Partners I have learned so much from her love of South Africa and from her generosity, her concern for humanity, and her big heart.

To our partners, I look forward to continuing our work together to meet the challenges facing South Africa and the U.S. in these turbulent and often uncertain times. We will certainly continue the work in HIV/AIDs, health leader development, and early child education. In the months ahead I hope to find new ways of engaging to deepen our ties and continue efforts to strengthen health and education opportunities for all South Africans.

Over the coming months, as I listen and learn, I will share more about our plans and priorities. I appreciate the board’s support and their commitment to advancing the reach of our work by establishing a new fund to quickly pilot, evaluate, and sustain new concepts and, if successful, bring them to scale. As someone who has devoted much of my life to the well-being of women, I hope that we can explore ways to do more explicit gender-based work. Both the U.S. and South Africa face ongoing challenges due to social and economic inequalities and increasing divisiveness. We can continue to learn how to face these challenges together.

I hope that you share my great excitement about the journey ahead, one that is full of potential, of endless possibilities, and of great promise.




JudyAnn Bigby

We’re Hiring: Deputy Director

South Africa Partners (SA Partners), an international development organization based in Boston,seeks a collaborative, experienced manager for the position of Deputy Director. The Deputy Director is responsible for providing overall oversight of operations, contracting, financial accounting, external reporting, and compliance. The Deputy Director will report directly to the Executive Director. As a key member of the management team, the Deputy Director, will also work closely with program staff, partner organizations in the U.S. and in South Africa, and with the Board of Directors. SA Partners’ main office is in Boston, with program and administrative offices located in three South African cities – Johannesburg, East London, and Port Elizabeth. The fiscal year 2017 budget is more than $7 million.

South Africa Partners, established 20 years ago, builds mutually beneficial partnerships between the U. S.  and South Africa in the areas of health and education. We believe that universal access to quality healthcare and education are prerequisites for securing a just democracy, and that the shared experiences in South Africa and in the U.S. offer common ground from which to forge lasting and productive programs that bring us closer to this ideal. Serving as a catalyst of innovative approaches, SA Partners links people, strengthens communities, promotes social justice and fosters leadership in both countries. Our focus is to:

·   Facilitate meaningful partnerships that build the capacity of South Africa organizations

·  Nurture strategic collaborations and the sharing of best practices between the U.S. and South Africa

·   Strengthen people-to-people relationships between those living in South Africa and the U.S. to promote justice and democracy

SA Partners is a respected partner in South Africa, as evidenced by the wide support that comes from the diverse range of program funding. Funding comes from U.S. government entities, private foundations in the U.S. and South Africa, and from individual donors.

Working conditions and compensation:

·  Full-time employment with benefits

·  Based in Boston office with some travel required in the U.S. and South Africa (estimated 30 percent effort)

·  Some evening and weekend work required

·  Direct reports include members of the finance team (2 in Boston and 2 in South Africa)



General responsibilities:

Serve as Deputy Director and chief operating officer, reporting to the Executive Director, to ensure successful operation of South Africa Partners’ financial and operational systems. Collaborate with the Executive Director to assure effective implementation of program activities within the context of organizational, financial, contractual and operating systems, contract/cooperative agreement requirements, and government and other donor regulations.

Specific Responsibilities


·       Ensure that effective and efficient financial and operational systems are in place to support organization’s activities. Ensure that the organizations financial systems are in compliance with local laws and grant requirements. Stay up to date on government and country financial compliance laws. Ensure that the all corporate papers and registrations are filed with the appropriate governmental agencies.

·       Ensure that the organization’s operational systems are in compliance with local laws and grant requirements. Oversee the day-to-day running of all offices. Review and update organizational operational systems as needed. Ensure that the organization’s technology and infrastructure support the growth of specific programs and the organization overall.

·       Monitor risk management and make recommendations when issues areas are identified.

·       Maintain an in-depth understanding of financial needs and project output targets for all program activities. Provide oversight and support to financial and reporting systems, and data needs. Work with staff to develop, track and maintain project budgets. Develop and manage the annual organizational budget.

·       Maintain a detailed understanding of the organizational financial system, annual budget and project budgets. For government grants, complete quarterly financial reports (Financial Status Reports, annual, semiannual, pipelines, carry overs, realignments, inventory, and other reports as requested/ required). For foundation and other grants complete financial reports as required.

·       Oversee and manage annual and program audits.

·       Work with the Board of Directors Finance Committee to keep members up to date on the financial position of the organization, forecast budgets, and prepare reports for the Board of Directors.


·       Contribute to the formulation of long-term, as well as annual budget strategies. Provide technical expertise to the development of systems and tools for budget activities. Oversee budgeting processes as required, including the flow of budgetary information between staff and budget systems. Manage the development of cost proposals.

·       Collaborate with staff to ensure that workplans and budgets are adequately developed to support activities, and are in compliance with organizational standards and donor requirements. Integrity check all final budgets and proposals, and provide financial sign-off on all budgets to be presented externally.

·       Coordinate and monitor the development of financial aspects of grant and contracts proposal submissions.


·       Supervise U.S. and South Africa Financial Managers’ work products and accounting.

·       Oversee the payment of bills. Manage the cash flow for the organization.

·       Assist in the analysis of trends and issues in organization and project spending and budget performance, and in forecasting projections. Serve as a resource to staff in interpreting reports, and using data to manage projects.

·       Oversee and review field accounting systems and expenses. Investigate and resolve issues, assuring timely completion for monthly accounting close.

·       Manage program and organizational spending, ensuring that spending is in line with approved funder and organizational budgets.


·       Ensure that program administrative procedures and practices for procurement consistently meet organization, cooperative agreement, and donor standards. Ensure that program activities are supported by efficient systems/procedures.

·       Oversee purchase request processes. Authorize program spending for the procurement of equipment, goods, and commercial services within approved budgets. Manage and improve tracking system to ensure compliance with contract/cooperative agreement requirements.


·       Provide first-line management presence for staff; bridge national and regional operations and support an open-door policy among all staff.

·       Manage the organization’s HR polices and systems. Ensure that the organizational HR policies are up-to-date and are enforced. Work with staff to resolve HR issues.

·       Ensure staff members receive timely and appropriate training and development. Oversee development and provision of orientation and on-going in-service training for staff in areas of: donor regulations and organization policies/procedures related to procurement of equipment, goods and commercial services; processes and tools used in work planning, budgeting, and expenditure monitoring; and analysis of financial reports. Provide training and support in organization protocols for home and field office-based staff, including travel to field offices as needed


·       Collaborate with staff on the development and implementation of programs.

·       Work with staff to ensure that all program goals and deliverables are met; investigate and resolve programmatic issues as needed.

·       Work with staff on the management of consultants and subcontractors including the development and oversight of all project sub-agreements.

·       Serve as the key staff support for the Board Program Committee.


·       Maintain a broad knowledge of organization and project activities and serve as a key resource to staff.

·       Prepare analyses and reports for internal information and management needs as necessary. Assist in developing reports for the organization, projects and donors.

·       Develop and maintain documentation regarding finance/operations systems, policies, procedures, and processes.

·       Other duties as assigned to facilitate administration and operations.


The successful candidate will bring many of the following qualifications, skills, experience, and personal qualities:

·       Bachelor’s degree required; Master’s degree a plus.

·       6+ years of experience in operations/ finance role with progressive responsibilities; previous management experience required.

·       Demonstrated understanding of the synergy between the programmatic, operational and financial components of an organization.

·       Demonstrated experience with international NGO reporting, financial management, procurement, logistics and project management and procedures including demonstrated ability to develop and monitor budgets, and collaboratively manage operational activities of complex programs including sub-grant management

·       Knowledge of U.S. government regulatory rules and regulations and relevant Office of Management and Budget circulars.

·       Demonstrated proficiency in building and applying management processes and tools.

·       Demonstrated success as a mentor, manager, role model and team player with the ability to set and exceed high performance standards, and garner the same from staff.

·       Ability to prioritize, and set and meet deadlines and interface with all levels of management

·       Excellent verbal and written communication skills.

·       Excellent interpersonal skills.

Other Attributes              

·       Demonstrated interest in South Africa and social justice issues

·       Strategic thinker

·       Extremely well organized and strong multi-tasking skills

·       Team player with sense of humor

·       Professional and mature demeanor

·       Flexible work style

·       Ability to operate with limited resources and manage against a budget

·       Absolute honesty and integrity

·       Ability to maintain strict confidentiality

To apply, please send cover letter and resume to 

South Africa Partners names JudyAnn Bigby, M.D. as Executive Director

Boston, MA, Monday, May 8, 2017 – The Board of Directors of South Africa Partners chose JudyAnn Bigby, M.D. as the organization’s new Executive Director, replacing Mary Tiseo who stepped down after 20 years of service.

South Africa Partners ( builds mutually beneficial partnerships between the United States and South Africa in the areas of health and education. Serving as a catalyst of innovative approaches, South Africa Partners links people, strengthens communities, promotes social justice and fosters leadership in both countries.

Dr. Bigby is a nationally recognized health policy expert who brings over 30 years’ experience in health care delivery systems reforms, community health program implementation and evaluation, and strategies to achieve health equity. She has been involved with South Africa Partners as a member of the board of advisors and the board of directors for more than 15 years. She has also provided consultation on South Africa Partners’ programs, including the Albertina Sisula Executive Leadership Programme in Health.

Appointed by Governor Deval Patrick, Dr. Bigby served as Secretary of Health and Human Services for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from 2007 to 2012. Prior to her appointment as Secretary, Dr. Bigby served as the Director of Community Health Programs at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston working with community-based organizations, providers, public health departments to improve population health and address disparities in health with a focus on low-income and minority women.  In 2011, President Obama appointed her as one of the inaugural members of the advisory group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health of the National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council. She holds a B.A. from Wellesley College and a M.D. from Harvard Medical School.

“We are delighted to announce that JudyAnn Bigby will assume the role of Executive Director,” said Ilana Hurwitz, Board President of South Africa Partners. “We believe we have found the ideal person to lead the organization going forward and we are confident that, under Dr. Bigby’s leadership, we will deepen our impact on health and education in South Africa.”

“I am very excited to start work with South Africa Partners in my new role,” said Dr. Bigby. “South Africa Partners is committed to advancing health and education opportunities for all South Africans as the path to achieving true equality. I look forward to working with the board and all our partners in the U.S. and South Africa.”

The international search and executive transition process for South Africa Partners was led by Third Sector New England ( and Patricia Duarte. Third Sector New England is a nonprofit organization providing consulting, training and management services to help nonprofits better meet their mission, and deepen their community impact.

About South Africa Partners

 South Africa Partners launched in 1997 emerging from the U.S. anti-apartheid movement. South Africa Partners was established to channel that passion and commitment to social justice by bringing together the skills, talent and resources needed to help build the new South Africa.

South Africa Partners facilitates relationships between individuals and institutions in the U.S. and South Africa. These partnerships have developed programs that make life better in the hard corners of South Africa and are helping build the next generation of leaders in education, health care, and community service delivery.

About Third Sector New England, Inc.

Since its founding in 1959, Third Sector New England has focused on building the knowledge, power and effectiveness of nonprofits, so they can better help communities leverage resources, solve problems, identify opportunities – and thrive. Today, we are using new tools and strategies in our work to support our clients and partners, and the many others committed to social justice. TSNE serves as an effective capacity builder, fiscal sponsor, convener, trainer, consultant, and grant maker to hundreds of nonprofits throughout the region.

Pictured Above: JudyAnn Bigby (center) with Board President Ilana Hurwitz (left) and outgoing Executive Director, Mary Tiseo (right) at South Africa Partners’ 20th Anniversary Celebration       

For More Information: Rebecca Leclerc,