A new research report drafted by Penny Parenzee from our partners in the Justice and Violence Prevention Program at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS Pretoria) offers insightful case studies of three different community initiatives in South Africa which have each been pursued for many years:
The Seven Passes Initiative (SPI) started in Touwsranten in 2008 (www.sevenpasses.org.za/)
Net vir Pret [Just for fun] (NvP) was initiated in Barrydale in 2002 (www.netvirpret.co.za/)
The Hantam Community Education Trust (HCET) started in Colesberg in 1989 (http://hantam-trust.org.za/)
The very accessible, encouraging report draws on practical experience gained in the diverse, collaborative projects. It is also based on recent interviews and focus group discussions with people actively involved in the initiatives.
Illustrated with photographs from the communities and enriched by very specific examples, the report also contains a concise executive summary with key insights and recommendations.
The many practical initiatives described include after care offers for school children, innovative art, music and craft projects, positive parenting programs and a variety of skills development opportunities.
The research paints a vivid picture of challenging structural conditions and their specific manifestations in the communities' lives and everyday situations. The new report manages to capture the interplay of the larger societal context in South Africa (explaining its historical roots as well) with the specific community circumstances.
At the same time, it emphasizes the agency of the communities, individual roleplayers and institutions. It describes which practical steps they managed to take over the years together, initiatives they were able to create, and encouraging stories of individual and community successes. They include growing trust, support and social cohesion, as well as young people succeeding with further education and finding productive, meaningful employment.
The qualitative research presents valuable experience of practical initiatives developed over time, which also proves the potential of achieving long-term success in important areas.
Moreover, the analysis also captures organisational culture aspects of the projects, sharing the reflections of participants on experience with internal and external power dynamics and deliberate approaches they developed in dealing with them as well.
While emphasizing the specific circumstances of each project and how the participants responded to them to make desired changes happen, the report also distills out apects of their approach that should be considered in other projects.
At the same time, the research report gives key recommendations to facilitate "scaling up best practice models", aiming to make a difference in many more communities.
Find the full report here