A First Introduction to SHERPA

I’ve been in some very tough meetings with farmers over the years. The most difficult ones were inevitably those where, in our wisdom, and in an attempt to be efficient in introducing a new concept or idea, we felt it best to convene a large group of farmers in one room; not always the best idea if what you are introducing is, even slightly, contentious: The first expression of hostility spreads like wild-fire to the whole group and the next thing you find yourself (and the idea being introduced) facing a withering “attack” across all fronts. Those sorts of meetings seldom ended well!

Those tough encounters, while rather unnerving and unpleasant at the time, forced us to think a lot harder about how one can and should approach the matter of effecting positive change at farm-level.  Some formative ideas emerged from these examinations:

  • Farmers hold the most important “keys” to sustainability for the whole supply-chain
  • Every farm is different
  • Every farmer develops site-specific knowledge and solutions
  • Real change comes from the inside-out

These insights showed us that our approach itself had to first undergo fundamental change. Over the past eight years, Blue North has developed, refined and evolved its approach, always endeavouring to give practical expression to these formative insights. This journey has now culminated in SHERPA, an online management system designed to support farmers in their strategic journeys to strengthen the long-term resilience and viability of their businesses.

Where did the name Sherpa come from? We were inspired by the renowned Himalayan guides who make it possible for mountaineers to prevail in the face of the most challenging conditions imaginable, and to succeed in conquering the highest and most dangerous mountains in the world. But Sherpas never climb the mountain for the climber, it’s always the climber’s own quest, the Sherpas just providing the guidance, council and support as needed to ensure success. This thinking has come together in the logo and strap-line that is shortly to be released on-line:

In short, SHERPA is designed as a “bottom-up” management system that provides expert support and guidance to a business on its journey of developing and implementing a sustainability program, such that it is fully “owned” by the business and is relevant, reflective of the business’s “reality” and effective in delivering true sustainability outcomes for the business (and the supply-chains of which it forms part).

SHERPA is a cloud-based system comprised of a number of components and processes, integrated into an end-to-end sustainability management system:

We are currently putting the finishing touches to SHERPA and have started the process of migrating all the data-sets from the excel-based tools (that have served as precursors to the on-line platform) onto the SHERPA database. We have begun engaging with current and prospective clients to reveal the inner workings of SHERPA, and if you are interested to have a demonstration please feel free to make contact with us via info@bluenorth.co.za.

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