An organisation that gets down and dirty
When we started the initiative with the Witzenberg Justice Coalition (WJC), based in Ceres, I realised as the Project Lead that we would be entering a new engagement space. Witzenberg Justice Coalition (WJC) is a community-based activist organisation, with a real intent to drive change in their community. I have heard voice notes and read WhatsApp messages of community members notifying the WJC of an issue they experienced at a particular service delivery point. It could be a public health facility or a service disruption in the street, but when there’s a problem the community come to the WJC
It became clear to me that implementing the Citizen Engagement Programme in Witzenberg would yield an opportunity to support the WJC to better engage with the three spheres of government, the community and build skills in some areas of their work. When we hosted the first Data and Digital Literacy workshop in early March 2022, a total of 32 youth attended, with 5 WJC staff members there. I should have known, based on these numbers, that the organisation, coupled with the youth, meant serious business. They wanted to build their capacity to use data and available digital resources. Of the 32 participants, 24 of them were under the age of 21. This trend continued into our most recent 2-day workshop on the 17th & 18th June 2022.
We went back to Witzenberg and added an additional day!
Following the workshop in March 2022, OpenUp continued to engage the WJC through formal and informal discussions, ultimately bringing together many ideas, concepts and opportunities. One such opportunity was to find a way to support the WJC in collecting data in their area of work. They mentioned that when they often took a complaint forward of a community member or a group of community members forward, those in charge would ask, “where is the data to support this?” WJC is very responsive to community complaints and requests, sometimes even forgoing the idea of collecting the data linked to the complaint or issue.
I guess it is a testament to their drive and passion for assisting their community. Therefore, we decided to return to Witzenberg and offer two Data Public Participation and Data Literacy workshops on 17 and 18 June. Upon our arrival, we were welcomed by 14 youth of a very similar age demographic as the first workshop.
The 14% illustrated in the above graph (2 people) were likely Adrian Kearns from OpenUp and Mvuleni Shasha from WJC (that's an age joke, get it?). On day one, Adrian Kearns focused on the critical aspects of Local Government. Dedicating one day to this ensured that the youth understood how local government works, what processes they could participate in, and what documents they needed to gather in order to have the necessary information to engage their municipality.
The data doesn't lie
What we were expecting and what transpired were the same in that the youth were not really familiar with concepts like the Integrated Development Plan (IDP), Service Delivery and Budget Implementation Plan (SDBIP) and Municipal Budget, but when asked who the mayor was, someone in the group screamed “Oom Hennie.”
The IDP is a planning instrument of a municipality. Through the drafting process, municipalities must ensure that community participation happens. But for community participation to even occur, communities need to be aware of that need or its existence, for that matter. Above, we can see that nearly two-thirds of the youth were unfamiliar with the IDP process.
Based on the above, we can see the remarkable difference between when the youth completed the survey on day one and when they met it on day two at the end of the workshop. The youth now understood the role of the Municipal IDP. In fact, youth could download the IDP, search for data related to Youth Development, and present it to their peers in the workshop.
Definitely, facilitating a process of the youth conducting surveys in their communities of Witzenberg. We are keen to support WJC and its youth through this process of data collection, analysis and storytelling. Be on the lookout for the next phase shortly! Expect youth to actively engage the community members to collect data on critical service delivery matters.