top of page
  • Léon Arthur Beckx

Organizing for Social Change


In this accessible publication Beckx and Schram chart the fascinating journey of discovery as Dutch practitioners interacted with their African colleagues in seeking to learn from the methodology that underpinned the Kwanda reality TV show on community transformation. While the Organization Workshop methodology as used in South Africa could not be easily applied in Dutch conditions, it became clear that there was merit in looking at the Activity Theory principles on which it is based. This book shows how these principles were then applied in a completely new way in a three-month process leading to an Action Week involving scores of residents of Amsterdam Nieuw West. One joyful outcome is that the new insights gained from the Action Week experience can feed new practice in the global south…


Kwanda was an innovative South African reality TV show on community transformation. Kwanda literally means ‘to grow’ and in 2009 the show ran on late-night SABC1, South Africa’s main television channel, attracting over a million viewers. In 13 episodes viewers saw communities grow and learn and were inspired to do the same. The ‘community makeover’ reality TV show was the fist of its kind and centred around fie deprived communities that were challenged to make their areas ´look better, feel better and work better'. This meant improving the quality of life by tackling issues such as HIV prevention, alcohol abuse, crime, and care for orphans. At the same time the communities were challenged to develop initiatives that generated income and encouraged the growing of food, rejuvenating their localities both socially and economically.

The Soul City Institute (2015) describes how Kwanda broke new ground in making community development the stuf of reality TV. Viewers’ comments were shown on a strap line during the show and community radio stations discussed each episode on the days following the show (Soul City, 2015). In the final episode the viewers’ votes determined which was the most successful and inspiring community. This interactive reality TV format was backed up by a thorough community development program that gave participating communities the necessary tools for making change. Roughly speaking Kwanda has an outward and an inward focus, which is reflected in the two socially driven organisations that brought the program to life: the Soul City Institute and the Seriti Institute. Soul City contributing with its expertise on the use of edutainment and mass media in promoting social change, and Seriti with its know-how on community organisation methodologies that enable large numbers of people to learn about organizing themselves to tackle the challenges of poverty and inequality.

Around the same time that Kwanda gained momentum in South Africa, community work in the Netherlands entered a turbulent transition phase. In September 2009 a new government program was launched, called ‘New Style Social Work’ (Welzijn Nieuwe Stijl). This program was preceded by the Social Support Act (WMO) in 2007, which is the fist tangible initiative on the part of the government to transform the welfare/care state into a participation state (Kluft, 2012). Government wants citizens to take more control of their own lives and their communities. Consequently ‘new style social work’ professionals should support this process by focusing on, amongst other aspects, citizens’ strengths; collective facilities, instead of individual; and by working pro-actively and in an integrated way.

In practice this meant new policies, new priorities and budget cuts. Furthermore, in 2010 a big nationwide community development program (Wijkaanpak) was shut down prematurely after a new government came into power. This nationwide program allocated large amounts of funding to the most deprived areas in the Netherlands. All these changes created turmoil in communities and amongst professionals. Organisations competed for the dwindling funds and residents and professionals struggled to forge new relationships. However the changes also created space for new approaches, and citizens and professionals looked for inspiring examples of how ‘to help communities help themselves.’ For more: read the publication you can download here.

32 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page