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Nelson Mandela’s Archive: a Case Study in Research-driven Institutional Change Management


The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory Project was launched by the former President Mandela in 2004 as a special project of the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF). In 2006, the Foundation’s Board of Trustees decided to adopt the Centre as the Foundation’s core operational function, a decision to be implemented in terms of a 5-year transition plan. In February 2012, the latter ended with a public announcement of the organisation’s new mandate to work in the memory–dialogue nexus and intention to unveil the Centre as a public facility in 2013. This fundamental organisational transition (with many subsidiary change management processes) was informed by four dedicated research interventions, all conducted within an overarching action research framing: an investigation of the ›memory for justice‹ tradition in South Africa and its possible institutional application by the NMF; a global benchmarking study of cognate institutions; a study of dialogue as an element of Mandela’s legacy in relation to the memory–dialogue nexus; and a marketing and branding survey. Verne Harris and Shadrack Katuu provide an account of these interventions, highlighting in each case the research designs and subsidiary research and analysis techniques. The article begins with a tracing of relevant historical and archival contexts and concludes with an assessment of the organisation’s change management process and the efficacy of the organisational research agenda.

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