deconstructing organisational complexity with ahisanang sechaba, youth development

Between April and September 2018, I worked with Ahisanang Sechaba on their organisational, financial, marketing and strategic development, through workshops, consultations, reviews and different forms of community exchanges. Besides the support on these operations, I was able to conduct multiple dialogues and deconstruction exercises with this group which gave us insight into the complexity surrounding the development of the organisation.

The challenges were not only within the funding side – what was originally expressed to be the main problem – but encompassed the lack of supervision, accountability and initiative of staff, the need for skills development, for infrastructure and medium to long-term planning, as well as the commitment to both structure and action/time-plans.

We recognised that in order to build a system that would work for the team in the long-term, it would require a deeper acknowledgement of individual responsibilities, internalisation

of each other’s concerns and contexts, a collective expression and agreement on direction of organisational growth, as well as a process of developing meaningful structures that they had ownership of.

Over those weeks I was therefore able to spend time engaging on the many parts and layers that would hinder the sustainable growth of this non-profit, grassroots, self-organised group lead by a high energy, passionate gogo (grandmother) in her sixties.

“We are really trying to do our best to occupy our boys as much as possible to keep them off the streets and equip them with skills that will benefit them as people and be law abiding citizens.”

I had met the group at a conference called YouthSpeak Forum where they had shared the challenges they faced so I agreed to meet with them independently. They are a youth development NPO in their sixth year, based in Katlehong, a township of Johannesburg, with a focus on supporting over 200 boys within the community through a football intervention. Their work allowed the children to practice their skills six-days a week, engage in teamwork, and expose themselves to opportunities within matches and the greater football league.

Despite the focus being on youth development, once there was an opportunity for the community to voice their perspectives on the challenges of the organisation, many further concerns were brought up, and individuals were eager to engage in heated debates.

From directly related issues, such as unemployment, poor education systems and financial circumstances of families, to those that were broader and less salient, including religion (African v Western, as well as African churches v Western / modern churches), the disregard of traditions, loss of African identity, aspirations towards ‘Western lifestyles’ and the influence of consumerism, patriarchy, gender roles, intergenerational relations and dependency on grandparents (financially as well as to raise children).

In order for the community members to not just dialogue, but go through a process of more objective deconstruction, I would give a rough framework using which they would map out and visualise aspects of the community context (images from session 1 of 15 below).

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