The Beginning of an Era: How Youth Network uses collaborative youth efforts, to uplift young people in South Africa – By Zamayirha Peter
It took a village to realize the ACTIVATE! Change Drivers in Community (ACD-in Community) training where several stakeholders within the youth network of nearly 5000 young people across the country, came on board in the last week of March 2023, and hosted its first round of in-community weeklong workshops in Gauteng at KwaThema Family skills centre and in KwaZulu Natal at Kwa Muhle Museum.
The workshops are a part of the recruitment drive for the network’s new cohort of young people who have been given an opportunity to join the network of activators – a term used to describe members of the network upon completion of a year-long training – and become a part of the network that gives an opportunity for young people to commit to a common purpose toward personal and community development.
The ACD in community program is designed with the intention to upskill change drivers within their communities and support their community-driven initiatives in real-time.
Last week, the training saw the network’s essence being tested as the collaborative effort across the network played an integral role in its success. It took months of planning and partnerships with existing members of the network to manage the logistics that went into the training. From the travels to the catering, photography, training, and guest speakers, all comprised of individuals from the respective years of the network.
The training covered several spheres that pertain to the development of youth activists including but not limited to personal and group Identity, addressing whom a person regards themselves as versus whom their community relates to them as being. It also addressed, ‘Articulation’ – how activists articulate themselves, leadership and innovation as well as how to navigate the socio-political landscape and community development. The workshops ended with home tasks a continuation and a precursor to module two scheduled to take place within the rest of the year until the final module where participants upon completion will then be recognised as activators.
Voices at the training
Speaking at the gathering a vibrant Sandile Tsie encouraged the young people in the room to not create a culture of dependency in the network.
“Sometimes we tap into the Network and we forget about ourselves and the initiative you came with. We become too dependent on the organisation and expect catering and sponsorship from the network. The purpose of the network is to be assisted with gaining skills and knowledge to become assets in the community and run our initiatives with these skills.”
Trainer Mbulelo Ncevu who trained the amplifiers facilitating the session described the gathering as being a key milestone.
“It’s been a wonderful experience with lots of learning. The amplifiers came in with so much vigor, ours was to just be observers as they really owned the space. The activators in training really have demonstrated the potential in our country, we saw a diverse group of young people who have added a nice lift to the organisation, and they have fended a fire within all of us”.
Not missing a beat in the logistics was Sibongile Segobola informally referred to as Mam’Sbo.
“I loved the way the activators in training tackled the innovation session. I marvel at how they tackled it with ease. It has been a worthy cause and the possibilities are truly endless. My team really showed up and showed off, from the amplifiers to the efforts of the trainers, our speakers, and the organisation’s leadership, it truly took a village.”
A full circle moment was for Shoki Chuene and Bafana Nhlapho who were the amplifiers and conducted the training sessions in Gauteng.
Shoki describes how a pep talk with the trainers helped her deal with the nerves she had.
“It was extremely hectic, planning for this week, Mbulelo helped us through our nerves, Monday night I did not sleep I was extremely nervous, but we showed up and the activators in training also validated our efforts.”
Bafana reflects on how he was able to quickly apply what he learned during the training of the Amplifiers into the training session.
“My highlight of learning from this week was the value of being prepared and knowing your audience. It was also important to find someone smarter than you and leverage their lived experience. This helped to establish a robust moment of learning as it was not just us giving but taking and co-creating with the room”.
Responsible for the catering was a shy and nervous Simangele Zwane, who prepared all breakfast and lunch meals for the training.
“I am a 2019 activator and when I learned of the training I approached the amplifiers regarding an opportunity to pitch for the catering of the sessions. They were immediately receptive and I had to send through packages for them to consider. I was so grateful to God, this was my first time cooking for 25 people alone and I felt tested as from my training as an activator the standard is high and I almost doubted my capabilities until I got feedback from them after tasting my food. I really wish that this group will keep the network going as I find in certain moments we end up not plugging into the network as we could.”
They entered the training space nervous and anxious but left it with a greater posture to do more.
“What I learned is that while we are all different we all have a core of wanting to be seen and heard. Several young people are passionate about their communities and want to drive change. I hope to acquire leadership skills, and facilitation tools and use these toward my community development initiatives”.
“I hope to improve the youth unemployment inactive culture of young people in my community. The first is to supply my community of young people with information. There is very little you can do uninformed you may shoot below or above your weight.”
Letsatsi “Sunshine” Kgaladi
“The programme has been so amazing, we found a productive environment. What I really liked was the base we all carried into the space, so we could use the real lived experience to build from. The sessions really validated our causes and backed them up with skills and information”.
In KwaZulu Natal
Nkosikhona Mpungose one of the amplifiers reflected on his role as a facilitator.
“Facilitation was exciting, knowing that the people in the room have an interest in learning something new, or ways of doing things. I learned a lot from them. It was good to see unity, yet they had met for a short time. This was caused by the session called River, which allowed them to connect at a personal level. The training room created a free space for all the participants to share their thoughts”.
Keeping the body energised and fed was Mr. Sanele Hadebe, a 2013 activator from KwaMashu who catered for the training and described his role as a full circle moment.
“It has been a great journey to be part of the ACTIVATE network, I have my own business that focuses on catering, facilitation, and consulting. It has been a great journey, at some stage I was a provincial facilitator, delivering the ACD program happening this week. It is a pleasure to offer my service to ACTIVATE this week, it is a great experience. I am excited about the 2023 activators, wishing them all the luck”.
The new 2023 ACD training model hopes to empower and reach more young people in the province. One of the ACTIVATE strategic pillars is to expand reach, going where young people are shifting the narrative. The program offers sessions such as an object card that unpack public innovation, the sessions encourage activators to
Voices from the Activators in Training
“The training has been so impactful. Our facilitators (Amplifiers) have created a safe space for us to use our values and ideas in an organized and collaborative way”.
“I look forward to applying the knowledge we have learned and taking it out there. It’s not enough to consume but one must share what they have learned as widely as possible”.
“I hope to bring change in my community and network with future leaders from different backgrounds. I believe we can all gather and solve issues that otherwise go unaddressed in our communities. It is time for young people to stand up.”
At the helm of the programme is Special Projects Manager Rammolotsi Sothoane who reflects on the milestone as being a personal victory of legacy and paying forward and the efforts of a team who support the vision.
“We are excited to welcome the new cohort of activators. This is the beginning of what promises to be a continuation of successful training throughout the country. As a network, we are excited to see the Amplifiers at work, with their new responsibility of training new members of the network to become activators.
“We also look forward to engaging the respective groups of young people throughout the country. We anticipate encountering different struggles tailored to each province and a marriage of realities that cut across Provinces and centres what it means and looks like to be youth in South Africa today. What has come from the room thus far has given us the confidence to keep going.”
Siphelele Chirwa, ACTIVATE! Change Drivers CEO was present at the KwaZulu Natal training on day one.
“I am excited to witness the genesis of a new cohort of young people to join our network. It has taken the collaborative efforts of the ACD team, to arrive at this point, having joined the training of the amplifiers last year and seeing them in practice this year one is assured that this work is worth it.”
“I have every bit of confidence that this network is in safe hands, our amplifiers have built a great rapport of confidence, and the young people coming into the space have displayed a relentless commitment to this country which otherwise is difficult to find given the climate we are in. We are in the business of taking care of the future today, and the young people in the training have chosen to own this moment”, Chirwa ends.
The ACD training is scheduled to continue as the training move from Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal into the remaining seven (7) provinces.
To partner with the network contact email@example.com to learn of the dates and places where you can catch the training, alternatively keep a watch on all ACTIVATE! Change Driver’s digital platforms www.activateleadership.co.za.
About the Author:
Zamayirha Peter is a Communications Practioner, Speaker, Journalist and Social entrepreneur.