On the 7th of April 2014, the Sustainability Research Unit (SRU), NMMU, George Campus, hosted its first Sustainability Café for 2014, based on the World Café model. The Sustainability Café is a workshop method designed to stimulate discussion, build relationships and develop a mutual understandings around a common concern. 

Stakeholders from SANParks, Eden District Municipality and Western Cape Government Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning discussing the 'Silo Effect'.On this day it was used to discuss the ‘silo effect’ within public-sector organisations with environmental mandates. The ‘silo effect’ is a mentality that is present in many organisations where certain individuals, divisions or departments resist sharing valuable information either within the same organisation or between organisations (Stone, 2004). This mentality leads to a breakdown of trust between employees, affecting the company culture, reducing organisational efficiency and above all compromising organisational learning.

The participants in the Sustainability Café represented upper and middle level managers from SANParks, Eden District Municipality, George Municipality and the Western Cape Government Department of Environment Affairs and Development Planning.

The Sustainability Café was a great success. The overall take away messages that participants left with were 1) We are not alone and most public-sector organisations face the same issue, 2) silos can be broken down through relationship and trust building, and by communicating both vertically and horizontally, 3) through collaboration and pooling of resources we can work better and 4) it is important to share our success stories. The information that emerged will form a valuable contribution to a Masters project, by Samantha Mc Culloch, that is assessing environmentally mandated public-sector organisations and how they value, incorporate and disseminate new information.

This method of creating discussion will be used again by the SRU, to gather deeper understandings of issues and concerns of stakeholders in the Garden Route, as a means to identify and drive research that is relevant and significant for the area.


Stone, F., 2004. Deconstructing silos and supporting collaboration. Employment Relations Today, 31 (1), pp. 11-18.