The core work of the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s research and archive function is to generate an integrated and dynamic information resource on the life and times of Nelson Mandela, and to undertake the research and analysis required to support all Nelson Mandela Foundation functions.
Unlike most conventional archives, the Foundation is not defined by the custody of physical collections (although it has substantial and growing collections).
The Mandela Archive is infinite, fragmented and scattered, both geographically and institutionally. It is neither the intention of the Foundation, nor its mandate, to bring all these materials into a single physical collection.
The imperative is to document this vast resource, facilitate access to it, and promote its preservation and use. The most important tool in achieving this objective is web-based technology.
The Foundation has conceptualised a multilayered virtual archive (portal) accessible through the Foundation’s website – www.nelsonmandela.org.
The following key design elements define the portal’s shape – a surface layer of stories and information; databases providing dense description of materials; linkages to actual materials, to other sites and to different layers within the site; digitised materials, from hard copy to moving images; and a social media webbing around it.
The Foundation aims to continue developing the portal, staying abreast of new technologies, and ensuring that the portal becomes the best used and most highly trusted online resource on the life and times of Nelson Mandela.
The Foundation routinely fields several thousand enquiries a year about Mr Mandela, about archival sources, access to materials, and use of Mr Mandela’s intellectual property. The Foundation constitutes a one-stop shop for all such enquiries, whatever their origin.
In addition to routine research on the life and times of Mr Mandela, the Foundation undertakes both continuing robust scoping of the broader social environments in which the organisation operates and a range of special research projects.
Dialogue is fundamental to the legacy of Mr Mandela and to South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation seeks to contribute to a just society by promoting the vision and work of its Founder and convening dialogue around critical social issues.
Our Founder, the late Mr Nelson Mandela, based his entire life on the principle of dialogue and the art of listening and speaking to others; and the art of getting others to listen and speak to one another.
Drawing on the contribution that he, his colleagues and his comrades made towards creating our fledgling democracy, the Foundation encourages people to enter into dialogue – often about difficult subjects – to address the challenges we face today.
The objective of the Dialogue for Justice is to develop and sustain a dialogue platform promoting the Founder’s legacy. The Foundation aims to use the history, experience, values, vision and leadership of its Founder to provide a non-partisan platform for public discourse on important social issues, and in doing so, to contribute to policy decision-making.
South Africa occupies a unique space in Africa and globally as an example of a country that emerged from the morass of deeply rooted racial, cultural and political divides – primarily because of timely dialogue between all its stakeholders. Yet, the country continues to face a range of complex challenges.
It is the Foundation’s view that the original spirit of inclusive and open dialogue that broke the political deadlock needs reinvigoration.
Therefore, the Foundation intends bringing about meaningful conversations among all relevant stakeholders. Drawing on the rich traditions of transformative dialogue, problem-solving and social renewal that made South Africa’s remarkable transition possible, we hope to facilitate greater understanding and awareness about the problems faced by people, particularly in South Africa and Africa, and the possible solutions available to them.
Dialogue is at once a vital instrument for addressing critical social issues and the most effective vehicle for sharing memory, for growing it, and for engaging it in the promotion of justice and social cohesion. The objective of the Dialogue for Justice programme is to create relevant platforms and find sustainable solutions to critical social issues.
The Foundation, through its research and archive work:
Nelson Mandela followed three rules throughout his life, which he did at great personal sacrifice: Free yourself. Free others. Serve every day. It was not just his mantra; it was his way of life.
The message behind the Nelson Mandela International Day campaign is simple – that each individual has the ability and responsibility to make an impact through public service. It is the activation of our Founder’s ethos and demonstrates that his vision has indeed inspired a global movement for good. The call to action is clear: Take action, inspire change and make every day a Mandela Day.
Mandela Day will continue to become an even more vital means of honouring and activating his legacy. It joins government, civil society, industry and the general public in a common purpose.
If the legacy of Nelson Mandela’s life and work is to be dynamic, it must be "owned" by current and future generations; it must be accessible to everyone, and applied in constantly changing contexts of time and place.
The Mandela Day campaign was inaugurated as a vehicle to achieve this. Its objective is to inspire individuals to take action to help change the world for the better, and in doing so, to build a global movement for good. Ultimately, it seeks to empower communities everywhere.
Individuals and organisations are free to participate in making every day a Mandela Day. We do, however, urge them to find inspiration for their contribution in the legacy of Nelson Mandela and to adhere to the ethical framework of "service to one’s fellow humans" every day.