Projects are designed around ‘fulcrum points’: specific links in a causal chain where intervention can have disproportionate impact.
We are a ‘test center’ rather than an implementation agency, focusing on rapid on-the-ground activation. We operate as ‘open source’, in broad collaboration with the private sector, government, academia, communities, development agencies and the South African Police Service.
A NEW NORMAL
The essence of the ONE Community program (not all the specific activities) is replicable and customizable based on local infrastructure, social patterns and other relevant context. The core model also meets clearly identifiable needs in low income, violent communities facing systemic under-provision of coherent youth programming at times associated with exposure to violence and related challenges, and in particular the popular shebeen activities. ONE Community is a project based off Nyanga Yethu which was a pilot for what could be done in multiple locations in and around Cape Town through use of the Safety Lab’s intellectual property and relationships, creating a viable, fun alternative to current evening and weekend activities.
ONE Community is a product of a process of discernment for the Nyanga Yethu pilot that began with a diagnostic about violence in Nyanga surrounding Alcohol.
The Safety Lab began by asking a different question – What do the residents of Nyanga believe to be the cause of the violence. A consistent question was asked of use while investigating the possible link between alcohol and violence: What other options exist? The Lab sought an answer.
The essence of the ONE Community program (not all the specific activities) is replicable and customisable based on local infrastructure, social patterns and other relevant context. The core model also meets clearly identifiable needs in poor, violent communities facing systemic under-provision of coherent youth programming at times associated with exposure to violence and related challenges, and in particular the popular shebeen activities. ONE Community is a project based off Nyanga Yethu which was a pilot for what could be done in multiple locations in and around Cape Town through use of the Safety Lab’s intellectual property and relationships, creating a viable, fun alternative to current evening and weekend activities.
The Safety Lab believed that there would be programs that could be amplified through magnifying the communications platform to enable and empower the current service delivery for youth and young men. We knew that the times of violence were weekend evenings, and the demographic most affected by the violence as well as perpetrating the violence were young men. We sought to increase awareness of the pro-social options available in Nyanga. We heard about many programs and spent months advertising them via out popular MXIT platform and a weekly calendar of events on City Vision. In an effort to evaluate the success or failure of the communication we attended some of the events advertised to find that few of them were executed. Because of the lack of program implementation, we decided to start hosting some events ourselves to determine if we could get a weekend evening crowd without the use of alcohol. Although we failed to regularly get large numbers of young men, we got more children and youth than we could manage.
This inquiry yielded some unutilized assets in the Nyanga community. The greatest physical asset being the Zolani Center, acknowledged as a safe space for almost everyone in Nyanga with clear transport routes located in the center of Nyanga with many spaces and a fairly clean and large community recreation center. This seemed to be the best place to launch some activity, be it developmental or recreational.
We learned that movies and activities were not a significant draw for our demographic. We were instructed by our consultants at ISS and in the community to maintain our popularity with the children and youth that were interested in movies. We quickly grew too popular to allow everyone in, and had to turn many away. The children would not leave, however, and stood outside the gate asking for entry for hours. One afternoon, whilst standing at the gate of the Zolani Center, 10-15 shots were fired at the adjacent taxi rank, at which point we realized we needed to find a safe space for all those that come to the center on weekends. We began constructing what we call a ‘program agnostic’ approach to youth programming – meaning that we don’t mind what the activity is as long as it is safe and supports positive development and growth. In the meantime, we were testing different activities that might appeal to our target demographic and we found something an event that worked. Through a partnership with a local arts group – 7755 – we were able to initiate weekly Hip-Hop Open Mic Nights at the Zolani Center every Friday from 6-9pm. These events drew 180-200 youth every Friday night for over a year. Additionally, as a spin off, we initiated a youth lounge. The youth lounge maintained 50-100 youth between 5pm and 10pm.
Because we envisioned this project to be a social diversion from the norm, and not a security inspired activity, we branded it as such. The branding for Nyanga Yethu was done in consultation with a steering committee of youth ambassadors from Nyanga and professional graphic designers. The look, culture, and feel of the program was intended to
Upon understanding the degree to which Safety Lab would need to drive programming, and that we could not find partners on the ground or in government that could or would perform those roles in Nyanga or in the Zolani Center on weekends, we undertook to do so ourselves. We began building an operating system that would manage these events every weekend. The Safety Lab hired Chrysalis Interns and began interviewing and hiring community members from Nyanga to help drive and deliver programs for children, youth, and young adults. In a long process with significant trial and error the Safety Lab, in collaboration with our community steering committee and consultation with our staff, settled on Boxing, Soccer, Drama, Art, Dance, Movies, Skate Boarding & In-Line Skating as children and youth programs. Hip-Hop Open Mic and a Youth Lounge were tested and determined to be most effective use of evening time to attract young adults.
This development wasn’t without detraction and obstruction. All along, any new or consistent programming was resisted in several self-serving corners. In an effort to avoid specifics, a number of community, political, and governmental constructs are mired in negative, and not positive power. Thus, significant effort had to be put into removing unnecessary obstruction within and without of the Zolani Center in order to merely run programs. It bears mentioning that no individual or community NGO would have been able to get around some of these obstructions, which is likely a large part of the reason programs fail in the townships. At no point did anyone offer structural or actual support, but rather mobilized to prevent or claim propriety over spaces and wholesale activities.
Project development timeline
The Lab was asked to join a multi agency program in Nyanga, South Africa’s ‘murder capital’. We conducted a high level diagnostic of local pathways to violence combined with ethnographic video chronicles to help build an understanding of the complexities of local violence. Through this process we identified a clear need for credible and consistent programming for youth over weekends and evenings. This was the nucleus of the program now branded One Community.
One Community Pilot
Following the Nyanga Diagnostic and based on the inquirty's findings the One Community Pilot was implement. Then known as Nyanga Yethu it was setup to provide consistent pro-social programming for youth in the area in a safe space. The Safety Lab's involement in the pilot ended in September 2015 when the project was handed over to the Department of Community Safety. The experiance of creating and hosting the pilot was used to inform the One Community model.
One Community Blueprint
Blueprint presentented to the City of Cape Town summarising the development, implementation, evolution and effective deployment of One Community projects based on experiance from the Nyanga Yethu pilot. Thereby allowing for the implementation of similar at-risk youth diversion projects in high violence urban areas.
Prelimiary process to launch the first fully formed One Community project at the request of the City of Cape Town. Established links with key partners, investigated possible locations, and initated the process of area and context familarisation.
One Community Gugulethu
First established One Community project implemented in Gugulethu to provide pro-social youth diversion recreational activities.