Read more about community driven development and our South African partner, the GRCF.

The Greater Rustenburg Community Foundation is a grass roots grantmaker and proponent of community driven development initiatives in the Bojanala mining region of South Africa.  Their pioneering use of the Asset Based Community Driven (ABCD) paradigm developed by the Coady Institute in Canada has had great success. Read below for an excerpt of their experiences from the pilot ABCD project. Please see the GRCF blog for more stories and media: www.grcf.wordpress.co.za

“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 exercise with the most impact however, seemed to be the “Leaky Bucket”.  This exercise 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.

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