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The GRCF is pleased to announce two recent major developments – one within our own offices, and other in the Mathopestat community (our ABCD pilot) — which will surely push the boundaries of development even further in the greater Rustenburg area.

Corne Theunissen, Resource and Development Manager

The first major development is the partnership of UNISA with the Canadian based Coady Institute and the GRCF in starting a brand new PhD program around community foundations and innovative paradigms of development.  This is sure to put the Rustenburg region even more on the international development map, and provide more chances for collaboration and knowledge sharing to ensure that we are always at the cutting edge of helping our communities help themselves. GRCF’s own Corne Theunissen, the current Resource and Development Manager, will be the first student in this unique research program.

Corne is a highly qualified development professional with advanced degrees in Political Science, International Relations and Development and Management.  She has almost two decades of international and local experience including in community development, research, consulting, numerous conferences and workshops, and being a University lecturer.  When asked why she chose to dedicate the last 10 years of her life to a community foundation Corne responds, “Because I like to drive my Jeep into the bush,” she then continues more seriously, “there are few jobs where you can get your hands dirty doing the real work down on the ground, and also deal with the policy level issues with governments and donors.  You get the academic end and the practical end together and can work both up and down.  At the end of the day you are working with people and the environment to make your community a great place for everyone, so what’s not to love?”.

We at the GRCF are proud to support Corne as she embarks on this groundbreaking journey in helping the Rustenburg community take great leaps forward in the development sphere.

Mathopestat ABCD participants.

The second update we are happy to announce is from our ABCD pilot community in Mathopestat.  As mentioned previously, the ABCD (Asset Based Community Driven) paradigm is meant to show a community that it is richer than it thinks and that if individuals pool their assets then they can drive their own development.  For this reason, although the GRCF is a community grantmaker, we do not provide the ABCD communities with grants in the initial stages of ABCD (our grants are meant for already establish NPOs/NGOs). Instead we see how well they progress after 6 months and if they can show that the projects they have generated are effective and sustainable, then we help them further by providing grants for scaling up as well as additional capacity support.

Checking in frequently over the 6 months after we had facilitated the first ABCD workshop in Mathopestat, we saw repeatedly that the changes had been dramatic.   Several projects have been started up and are still going strong and the Community Forum that was started by some participants provides a wonderful support network to community members and helps in the pooling of assets.

Given that the members of Mathopestat have proven that they have the dedication and strength to help themselves, and have shown they can create sustainable projects, the GRCF recently presented the community with a grant of R 10, 000 at the UNISA conference in Pretoria. This grant will help the projects scale-up.  In addition to this grant, the GRCF has also promised another match grant of R 5000 once the community has raised that same amount through their projects.  The GRCF will of course continue its capacity support of Mathopestat as well as other Rustenburg communities through helping organizations set up constitutions and obtain legal status, as well as through other kinds of training as needed.  We hope that all ABCD communities will be as successful as Mathopestat has been and look forward to finding ways to make sure that this happens. Innovation, community involvement, passion.  We at the GRCF are continually looking for ways to make Rustenburg the place we love to call home.

Representatives from the Coady, GRCF, and Comart discuss ABCD

Representatives from the Coady and GRCF discuss ABCD.

With last week’s conference in Pretoria now behind us, the GRCF is happy to report that the event was a very successful one with a lot of useful information exchanged and engaging dialogue stimulated.  It was great to see representatives from varying backgrounds — inlucding the non-profit, government and private sectors — interacting with the aim of real constructive cross-sector solutions to poverty in South Africa.  We wish to thank UNISA for hosting this event, co-hosted by the Coady Institute and GRCF.  Below is a summary of the conference from the UNISA website.

Geography – the human element

Can rural communities in South Africa better themselves without large sums of money? The answer is “yes” and the Mathopestat community in the North West province is proof thereof.

Using the theme “Back to the ABCDs: creating an enabling environment for sustainable socioeconomic development at grassroots level through community driven initiatives” as a basis, the story of Mathopestat was shared this week at a symposium held by the Department of Geography in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES).

ABCD is an Asset Based Community Driven (ABCD) approach to development. It espouses the belief that communities

Melanie Nicolau of UNISA chairs the ABCD session.

can take the lead in identifying their own problems and the solutions to those same problems. ABCD is community based development, based on the principle that each community already has a tremendous number of assets and, if properly accessed and channelled, will ensure success in sustainable development.

The Mathopestat community has been selected as the pilot project of the ABCD approach in South Africa. While Unisa began their involvement with the project in February this year, the project was initiated in October 2009 by the Greater Rustenburg Community Foundation (GRCF), a pioneering grassroots grant maker in South Africa which has supported the activities of community based organisations across Rustenburg. Unisa’s Department of Geography joined forces with the GRCF as part of their community engagement initiative.

Mathopestat community members at the conference.

The ABCD approach was introduced to the GRCF after the Chairman of its Board, Sebastian Mathews, attended a workshop at the Coady International Institute at the St Xavier University in Canada. The Coady Institute is one of the world research leaders in community driven development, conducting action research pilots across the world and two large-scale pilots in Africa, specifically Ethiopia and Kenya.

Intrigued by the possibility of using this approach in Rustenburg, the GRCF knew that ABCD would be a natural fit and therefore adapted the approach for the North West context to change the way of thinking so that communities can begin intentionally looking at their assets first. In six months, as a result of ABCD, the Mathopestat community has realised the many assets and potential they have to better themselves.

In her opening address, Dr Maggi Linington, Executive Dean of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, said the theme of the symposium was close to Unisa and the college, as it coincided with the university’s vision to be the African university in the service of humanity. She said Unisa chose not to be a university that was viewed as an ivory tower, but rather one that was relevant and responded to the needs of society. She also indicated that environmental sciences were very important in ensuring sustainability in communities and the environment itself.

Chair of the Geography Department, Melanie Nicolau, said it was an honour for Unisa’s Geography Department to

Candles are lit for women living with HIV/Aids.

partner with the Coady Institute and the GRCF to work with the Mathopestat community. She said the symposium marked the launch of a very exciting community engagement project for the Department of Geography, and they hoped the project would grow in strength and ensure that their work as academics in the discipline of Geography is relevant to the communities they live in.

The symposium comprised four sessions. Session one introduced the fundamentals of ABCD. Gord Cunningham and Dr Alison Mathie from the Coady Institute – who have been instrumental in developing the Institute’s ABCD area – illustrated how conventional approaches to community development have inadvertently undermined people’s capacity to take action. The session then centred on the premise of focusing on assets and helping people to recognise the skills, strengths and resources they could use to take action and transform the way in which they interact with others. There were also examples of cases from the around the world, as well as Kenya and Ethiopia, where citizen-led or community driven developments have had a significant impact. Cunningham also commended Unisa on the wonderful work they have done in collaboration with the GRCF.

There is not a dry eye in the house as Sanah finishes her moving story.

Session two focused on building community capital. It was argued that aid is dead and that it has made the poor poorer and growth slower. However, aid remains a centrepiece of today’s development policies and one of the “biggest ideas of our time”. Although aid might be dead, it is only as dead as the community spirit and capital where it is dumped. Building community capital from the inside out sets the stage for effective aid to come alive. The session was concluded with an HIV/Aids candle lighting ceremony honouring those who, despite their disease, remain active drivers in the development of their communities’ assets. Some of the speakers in this session included Christine Delport, COO of GRCF; Sana Nhlapo a Mathopestat community member; and David Martin, a board member of the COMART Foundation in Canada.

Session three discussed strategic corporate social investment and the business case for real community development initiatives. Session four centred on micro franchising and examined how it can enhance the fight against poverty.

Mathews thanked Unisa and stressed how wonderful Unisa staff are. He said it was amazing to see academics work hand-in-hand with the community and gave the example of Melanie Nicolau working in the gardens in Mathopestat. “This is truly a proudly South African institution. The technical and intellectual capacity of the Department of Geography has been very impressive, but more so than that what has really struck us it how forward thinking and visionary they are as a Department.” He also said as a result of the partnership, there would be higher quality action research to inform policy makers and practitioners about what actually works, for the betterment of South Africans.

Unisa 2010

Download a copy of the opening address by Dr. MJ Linington: Opening address – ABCD Symposium

GRCF goes to the Mining Indaba in Cape Town.

Two weeks ago the GRCF had our annual strategy retreat at Hartebeespoort Dam.  Over two days of meetings and workshops the entire staff came away with a clearer sense of purpose and renewed excitement for the year ahead.  We are expanding and developing our ABCD programs and hope to engage the local community on a much w

ider level.  We expect that soon everyone in Rustenburg will know exactly what we are doing and will want to be a part of the real change the GRCF is aiming to achieve in the Bojanala region.

As part of our efforts to get the big mining houses in the area involved in our high impact development strategies, a GRCF representative also attended last week’s Mining Indaba in Cape Town.  It would seem that the mining community is starting to realize the need for real, strategic CSI (Corporate Social Investment/Responsibility) initiatives and opportunities for partnerships are starting to materialize.

One of the panel session at the Indaba.

We know that those mines and other corporations that choose to partner with the GRCF will experience a very clear benefit to their own operations as well as have the chance to make a real positive impact on the communities in which they operate.

In March, the GRCF will also be a part of a conference hosted by UNISA on ABCD (Asset-Based Community Driven) programs, which will bring in experts from diverse fields and backgrounds from all over the world to discuss this exciting paradigm.  Watch this space for more information on dates and program details.  Indeed, the year ahead is shaping up to be an exciting one, and we hope it will be the tipping point that pushes the Bojanala region into the spotlight as a beacon of community driven change.

“We were rich, we just weren’t aware of it!”
Tom, Mathopestat community member

Taking the First Steps in Mathopestat

Given our background in CAMP program implementation, last October the GRCF decided to start its first pilot ABCD study in the Mathopestat community.  Over 4 days we ran workshops designed to show the community that they were in fact much richer than they think — a realization community members came to on their own as they sat in groups identifying physical, social, skill-based, and intellectual assets that they possessed.  Even over the short span of 4 days the transformation in thinking with the use of ABCD methodology was extraordinary.  Watching neighbours, who had known each other for years and yet did not know that one was actually a skilled dressmaker while the other was an apt mechanic, gasp in surprise and delight at what those around them could do was in itself a very powerful effect.

The excercise with the most impact however, seemed to be the “Leaky Bucket”.  This excercise shows a community just how much money comes in to the community from wages, benefits, and the like and how much then “leaks” out of the community again when members travel outside of town to obtain goods and services that could easily be provided and obtained within their own communities. In the case of Mathopestat, the community was very surprised to find that most of their money was leaving the community, but that a lot of the loss could be prevented with a little entrepreneurial spirit.

At the end of the 4 days several of the more entrepreneurial members of Mathopestat realized that they not only had more assets than they had thought, but also that they could grow this asset base if they pooled their resources and started to work together.  When we left, there was talk of several projects ranging from the social (home care service) to the economic and agricultural (poultry farming).  We promised to return in mid-January to track their progress and see what else was needed.  If some projects survived and thrived we would help them with whatever capacity problems they might need assistance with, as well as prepare them for the GRCF grant application procedure.

The Positive Change Endures

On Wednesday, January 20th, a team of GRCF staff along with some visitors from the Geography Department of UNISA made their way to Mathopestat for a meeting with the ABCD group leaders.  Although more than two months had passed since the ABCD workshop, a small subset of the community made up of the more entrepreneurial members, was still very much passionate about all the potential that they now saw in their communities. Several projects had been running and were doing well, while others were still in the beginning stages and needed help with business planning and other practical types of assistance. The mood was very positive however, and many members expressed how grateful they felt that the GRCF had approached them on equal terms as partners and had really put in the time to listen to them in order to help them unlock their own potential.

The next step now will be to follow up in a few weeks with a structured session for business planning and other types of needed capacity building assistance.  However, the most important learning has clearly already taken place — when a community takes a look at what it has and starts from a premise of its assets rather than its needs, the seeds for real, sustainable and empowered changed are planted, and need very little else to grow.