The uprising

They jokingly call it the ‘Porterville Rebellion’. The research team hit an unexpected rumble-strip when the business people in the nearby town of Porterville decided they didn’t want to just be a comparative ‘control group’ for what to them sounded like the exciting work happening in Piketberg. What the uprising uncovered was the natural tension in ethical approaches and study methods in the different research disciplines and fields.

Leonie Joubert & Mandi Smallhorne

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The uprising

They jokingly call it the ‘Porterville Rebellion’. The research team hit an unexpected rumble-strip when the business people in the nearby town of Porterville decided they didn’t want to just be a comparative ‘control group’ for what to them sounded like the exciting work happening in Piketberg. What the uprising uncovered was the natural tension in ethical approaches and study methods in the different research disciplines and fields.

Leonie Joubert & Mandi Smallhorne

Sam Reinders

Top: Ian Schaffers presenting research results in the Bergrivier municipality council chambers

The uprising

They had called a community meeting in the Porterville library and they wanted everyone there: the auntie who bakes bread in her kitchen or makes clothes at home, the Rastas who sell herbs on the corner near the supermarket, the fruit peddlers, and those ladies who braai meat on the curb-side in the centre of town.

‘We wanted the visible businesses and the invisible ones,’ explains Ian Schaffers, FLOW co-ordinator for the Bergrivier crew. They wanted to explain to the entrepreneurs of Porterville why the FLOW team was wandering through their neighbourhood with clipboards and questions, plotting each business’s location on a map and asking about sometimes rather private business affairs.

It was the summer of 2015 and everything seemed to be going alright, Ian recalls. Until the audience heard about the BRAND.

When Ian explained that the purpose of their research in Porterville was to use its local economy as a comparison for Piketberg, 30km away, where they planned to roll out the experimental complementary currency, a few people in the room got restless.

At first there were just some questions about why the big businesses weren’t involved. ‘Surely you want big businesses in on this if you want it to work?’ one man quizzed.

Then another stood and declared, pretty categorically, that he thought the BRAND should be rolled out here in Porterville, too. Nope, he said, we don’t want to be your ‘control group’, we want to be phase two in your experiment.

It wasn’t long before he’d rustled up support amongst many others in the hall. Bring the BRAND here and let us trade with it too, they said. Bring us the BRAND!

Sitting over a steaming cappuccino at one of their regular coffee shops near the FLOW headquarters in Piketberg, Ian’s eyes crinkle as he laughs softly, recounting that day. It’s funny to remember it now, but at the time it threw the FLOW team into crisis. Almost overnight, they had to find another town with similar economic features and population size, and where they could get a big enough sample of participants to satisfy the needs of the behavioural economist on the team.

They settled on Velddrif, 65km on the other side of Piketberg, down on the coast.

For the researchers behind this work, it showed up the very real tensions between how, for instance, economists view the people under scrutiny in their research, compared with how geographers or anthropologists might view them.

In the Porterville Rebellion, the ‘data points’ who were just supposed to be observed and counted, stood up and said ‘No, we want to be part of this. We are active agents here, hear us speak.’

Pulling together

In a project like FLOW, which draws together different academic disciplines, and crosses the boundary between research and practice, some interesting fracture-lines appear. There’s the tension between the approaches of those doing qualitative research, and those engaged in quantitative research, but it’s also there between theory and practice, between thinking and doing.

As the team drew up the baseline surveys ahead of the fieldwork in Kokstad and Piketberg areas, discussions got heated.

‘I felt the tension between the qualitative and quantitative approaches here,’ says John Ziniades. ‘The economist, Professor Martine Visser, wanted – needed – the questions in the survey to elicit information that would be statistically relevant, and she wanted random sampling.’

But the part of the team that does the ‘practice’ of a development project like this, needed to get targeted information that would help them develop the currency model on the ground.

John says that, because of the demand for statistical relevance at a basic numbers (quantitative) level, a lot of the qualitative questions that relate to sustainability and resilience, for example, were sidelined in favour of the more tangible and fact-based ones

‘So the baseline survey became more of a ‘numbers game’, recalls John.

Quantitative research of this nature also calls for the use of a specific kind of language: ‘control’ and ‘treatment’ group; ‘subjects’; ‘sample size’; ‘phenomena’. These kinds of words place a distance between the researchers and the people being studied, ‘othering’ them, and are an uneasy fit with a project that embraces seeing people wholly and fully.

Wherever they sit on the spectrum between on-the-ground practice and pure academia, all of the FLOW team members know that these practices can remove autonomy and agency from the people or groups that become their ‘subjects’, seeing them as passive data points rather than individuals in their own right, with agency and independence. They understand clearly how the language surfaces the values in the research, and shapes how meaning is made.

All the researchers – qualitative and quantitative, alike – were sensitive to the subtleties, and were conscious of the need to work ethically, and not be ‘extractive’ in their research process, Anna asserts.

‘We saw the need for both of these research methods to work side by side.’

The ‘Porterville Rebellion’ shows what happens when the ‘data points’ demonstrate their autonomy and challenge the language and methods of numbers-based quantitative research.

In practice

‘With hindsight, it’s almost like we asked the wrong questions [in the surveys],’ says John. Later in the process, the FLOW Ambassadors in Kokstad developed a map of business transactions in the town and immediate surrounds, which showed the flow of business-to-business transactions. ‘The Kokstad map showed that there were not a lot of lateral transactions, that business was being done in a very hierarchically structured fashion. This suggested that we should have leveraged some of the big anchoring businesses like Pick ‘n Pay and Link Pharmacy … this kind of research would have been more useful to us from a design perspective than what was revealed in the baseline survey.’

Both quantitative and qualitative research often does not feed back its findings or conclusions into the groups studied; in the FLOW programme, however, the practitioners were aiming to do just that to generate insight and new consciousness. ‘Making visible’ hidden or unappreciated facets of community experience (such as connections to resources like water and food) was a key part of creating transformative shifts within individuals and communities.

FLOW attempted not only to marry quantitative and qualitative research, but also to have several disciplines working alongside each other: economists, human geographers, and scholar practitioners. ‘Trans-disciplinary research requires people who are really well grounded in their root discipline to step above it, to say I’m informed by my discipline, but I’m not constrained by it,’ says John. It requires researchers who can say, ‘I’m interested in doing research that rises above, that integrates with other perspectives…’ It was an interesting, if not fully realised, attempt to achieve trans-disciplinary research, he feels, and to combine it with on-the-ground action.

‘The action research aspect of this was the most interesting part of FLOW,’ he adds. ‘It couldn’t have been done in any other way – it had to be grounded in a real project.’

Moving to the coast

Moving the control survey to Velddrif disrupted the research team’s plans. It was double the distance. For the Porterville work, they’d been able to use municipal transport, and do the research on day trips. For Velddrif, they had to arrange their own transport, and had to stay in the town from Monday to Friday, which pushed field work costs through the roof.

‘It was disruptive. Some of the ambassadors have kids, so it was hard for them to come. I had my patat to look after,’ recounts the farmer-cum-FLOW co-ordinator, Ian Schaffers.

The research needed a decent sample size to satisfy the rigours of the economist’s methods, but the local businesses just weren’t interested. Some of them were suspicious of people from that university in Cape Town where students were tearing down monuments to Cecil John Rhodes. Others found the questions intrusive.

‘I started to get impatient,’ says Ian. And then the innovative young farmer discovered that the town had its own smartphone app that listed all the local businesses. He got it onto his phone pronto, and started down the list, cold calling one business after another. Eventually, after hours of wooing people over the phone, the FLOW Ambassadors got all their questionnaires filled out, from dozens of businesses, and the experiment had its control group data.

Dan Goodman

FLOW Ambassadors Nthabi Jafta, Thando Duku and Lindiwe Ntaka learn about framing

Five facets

The primary focus of FLOW was to ‘foster local wellbeing’, to figure out how communities – specifically those in smaller towns like Kokstad and Piketberg – could encourage and grow resilience and the ability to thrive in the teeth of challenges ranging from economics to climate change.

The idea was not to do an ‘intervention’ – mechanisms which are parachuted in from outside seldom take over the long-term, as they struggle to generate a sense of ownership amongst those they are designed to help – but to ‘fertilise’ those strengths that already exist within the communities.

It was important to use methods that were as respectful and mindful of the assets and features of each community, the FLOW team stresses.


Systems thinking and ‘making visible’

Knitting everything together was an overarching systems approach, an understanding of both the complexity and the fragility of any system, combined with the idea of making things ‘visible’.

A system can be described as an ‘inter-related set of elements that act over time in relationship to each other,’ FLOW’s Anna Cowen explains. All too often, when peo-ple in development work set out to solve problems, they offer what could be called ‘point solutions’ that solve a particular problem, without regard for the impact on other parts of a system. So, for example, if the problem is reduced soil fertility, we may try to solve it by adding fertiliser to the soil. This in turn leaches into the waterways, overdosing them with nutrients that result in algal blooms, which reduce available oxygen and kill off aquatic life like fish and molluscs.

‘Systems theory is a very useful way to think about change,’ says Anna. Instead of finding point solutions which would have the potential for triggering unintended consequences, the FLOW design tried to find leverage points (such as the complementary currencies), which would nudge many points simultaneously, in a creative and healthy way.

To see the system fully, you must be able to see elements in the system that are often ‘invisible’ to people. For many people, when they turn on the tap, water comes out; they haven’t learned to look and see the complex, but also fragile, water reticulation system that collects the water in a mountain catchment, cleans it, channels it into the town and to that tap.

‘It’s about shining a light on things that seem obvious, of paying attention to the backdrop of our lives,’ says Anna. ‘It’s a mindfulness of one’s context, rediscovering a sense of wonder about the most basic things, such as where our water comes from. As we begin to understand these things that support us, we begin to care about them, to experience a kind of awe and reverence… It could be described as falling in love with the ordinary.’

What we are able to see and value becomes part of what we treat with care, leading to a respectful and protective understanding of the life-support systems that cradle communities.

The communities of Kokstad, Bergrivier and Piketberg are human and natural worlds of subtle and abundant complexity; encouraging a move towards greater resilience and adaptability demanded that they be approached with a kind of reverence.


Appreciative inquiry: ‘What’s working?’

‘This approach – developed by David Cooper-Rider – asks the question, ‘What’s working?’ first, as opposed to asking, ‘What’s wrong?’,’ says Anna. A number of the project’s different approaches are informed by this idea. ‘A part of it is about reframing wealth, seeing wealth as not about financial wealth but as [community assets like] clean air, or strong relationships… It’s a way of beginning to understand a place and each other, a way of looking at what is good and what we can build on. It’s looking through the eyes of possibility, as opposed to lack.’


Learning by doing

Learning by doing thinking emerges both from entrepreneurial thinking and living systems, and takes its cues from the natural world.

‘Complex adaptive systems work on feedback; they’re constantly in a state of reinvention,’ says Anna. ‘Sentient beings learn by continuously probing, finding out what works as you go along – computer gamers also work this way. You do not plot every step of the way; you just know where your destination is. It’s the exact opposite of command-and-control – it’s about being agile.’

The FLOW team developed acute agility, an ability to respond with flexibility to messages beamed back by the shifting responses from the ambassadors and the communities.


Co-creation, co-production, participatory design

‘People support what they create and resist what they are excluded from,’ says Anna, referencing Margaret Wheatley.

An ideal approach therefore provides support and structure – such as the training component of FLOW – but also challenges people to make their own choices, and to be part of the production. An example, Anna says, would be the launch events for both the K’Mali and the BRAND.

‘We didn’t say, ‘Here’s the formula for a launch’. The FAs made their own decisions about what the entertainment and refreshments would be, as well as the order and planning of the event; we were there to support their capacity.’

Monthly meetings with the Bergrivier Municipality invited the municipal officials to co-create with the FLOW team where possible. ‘For example, they suggested FLOW make movies around some of their big infrastructure projects, such as a sewerage project. Taking an approach of co-creation opened up space for us to do things together.’

It also ensured that the municipality had some sort of emotional investment in the programme.

‘The only way we are going to get out of the trouble we find ourselves in as a species is if we act together, if we shift from passive to active, from observer to participant,’ reflects Anna.


‘Whole person’ development

‘I see you, all of you, fully and without judgment,’ the humanist psychologist Carl Rogers once said. This is a key principle of the whole FLOW programme: seeing the people involved with unconditional positive regard.

‘We’re not only interested in part of a person, but in their whole potential,’ says Anna. Even the rough edges, the bruises, the failures are part of the potential of each whole human being, she explains.

This whole person approach was crucial to building both a sense of personal power and interpersonal bonds.

‘The thing I feel most proud of is the way the ambassadors have changed the way they see themselves,’ says Jo Lees, FLOW core team member and Kokstad programme manager, ‘that they can be agents for change in their world.’


All of me

Somehow the rumour grew that Nthabi was a champion of traditional stick-fighting, and her presence makes it easy to believe: tall and lithe, she moves with athletic elegance. When it emerged that she’s actually a champion at a board game, Morabaraba, it added to the mystique.

But she’s not without her insecurities. The young lady from Pakkies Farm read the little snorts of laughter from one of her fellow ambassadors as contempt for her ‘bad English’, and was hurt and angered.

One of the tools built into FLOW aimed at allowing the team to discover more of each other than they might do on an average project: the morning ‘check-in’, where the FAs come together and are given a space to share how they really felt on some or other issue.

For Nthabi, the tension burst open when she told Piet about her feelings. The next morning, when Nthabi had to be absent from ‘check-in’, he raised the issue with the rest of the group. The ambassador who had laughed at the previous meeting was horrified; she had no idea her chuckles were causing such intense feelings. She apologised as soon as she saw Nthabi again.

This space allowed Nthabi to show that she is a complex person, with raw places that could hurt, and not just the self-confident character that most saw. She was, perhaps, more approachable to the others when they saw her this way. The other ambassadors had learnt an important lesson: what you say and how you act can hurt other people, whose whole selves may not have been made known to you.

‘When you are with people you learn a lot of things, you understand the characters of the other people, and you learn how to communicate,’ says Pumeza Mbedu, for whom the experience was particularly enlightening as she’d been raised as an only child by her grandmother.

‘Every day, in the morning, you’d share how your day has been, your work. It’s very important for you to know how your colleagues are doing. It makes it easy to interact with them, and be sympathetic, and to get to know your colleagues,’ says Amaza Jara. ‘You get to share a lot of things, a lot of experiences you are facing at home, you become more like a family when you share things.’

Other tools within the FLOW programme worked to teach unconditional regard: doing the survey meant going to places that the youngsters may never have been before, allowing them to see how other people live, and to do so in a neutral fashion, without judgment or admiration. It allowed them to see what was there, gathering cameos together to create a whole picture of their town.

‘The experience changed all of us,’ says Jo. ‘Perhaps it changed us – Anna, John and me – more than the FAs.’

Max Bastard

Nthabi Jafta learned how to resolve difficult interpersonal issues while working with the team

A new kind of scholarship

Winner of South Africa’s 2015 Distinguished Woman in Science Award, Gina Ziervogel is a new breed of academic, one who sees the need for evidence-based research, that’s founded on strong theoretical thinking, and nevertheless digs its roots deep into the ground and connects with people in real-world contexts.

‘Science done in isolation won’t help us,’ says the associate professor with the University of Cape Town’s Department of Environmental and Geographical Science, ‘and (when it comes to development work) often policy is designed in isolation.’

The solution, she argues, is to work with many different partners – different levels of government functions, civil society organisations, researchers – and communities on the ground, to ‘co-produce’ and test ideas.

This allows science to be grounded in context, and can draw on local knowledge.

‘The University of Cape Town is pushing this approach more and more,’ she says, ‘because it sees the university’s role in terms of fostering engagement and finding solutions that can make a difference in practice.’

Not without its challenges, this kind of trans-disciplinary ‘co-production’ is ‘hard work’, says the geographer who has worked in the field of adaptation and vulnerability to global environmental change for over a decade.

‘This kind of work takes longer, and takes more resources. And academics are measured by their outputs, which isn’t the primary goal of this sort of research.’


The connector

If you ask Penny Price what she’s good at, she’ll say it’s that she connects people, which might be why she’s ideal for a project like FLOW, bringing together so many different groups, institutions, and people. She acts as a ‘bridge’ in the Bergrivier team, leaving John and Anna to do the strategic thinking and higher-level project management, and supporting Ian Schaffers with the local co-ordination.

Penny was the lead on the Western Cape’s climate change adaptation work which, at a provincial level, gave her an appreciation of the scope which that level of government gives one to work across a wide geographic region, and across many different sectors. Penny argues that she can make the implementation of climate responses more effective. But nevertheless, it’s this implementation that’s sorely lacking in many tiers of government, both in terms of the content of these sorts of development plans, as well as the pace of rollout.

This role allowed her to connect researchers, government, and people working in the development field who were thinking about climate change adaptation for the Bergrivier area, something which ultimately created the fertile soil in which FLOW was later able to grow.

‘What I bring to the team is the ability to spot potential in others,’ she smiles over the phone, ‘it’s about being open to novel ideas, and innovation.’

‘I was in the right position in provincial government, and it gave me access to a whole lot of people who were innovating in this particular field. That’s what the trans-disciplinary approach helps to facilitate.’

Now that FLOW in its current form is wrapping up in Bergrivier, Penny and Ian are setting up a regional FLOW hub that will cover a broader geographic area, the West Coast District, and work with a wider number of partners.

‘For instance, we’ll also work with the province’s Department of Agriculture, because agriculture is so important for the regional economy and for food security here. The area is arid, and there is a climate change plan for agriculture here, so there are opportunities here to work on rural development, land care, clearing aliens, and so on.’

‘The drive is about transformation.’

‘If I were asked to …summarize my reading of centuries of wise reflection on what is required of an environment for it to facilitate the growth of its members, I would say this: people grow best where they continuously experience an ingenious blend of support and challenge, the rest is commentary. Environments that are weighted too heavily in the direction of challenge without adequate support are toxic; they promote defensiveness and constriction. Those weighted too heavily towards support without adequate challenge are ultimately boring; they promote devitalization. Both kinds of imbalance lead to withdrawal or dissociation from the context. In contrast, the balance of support and challenge leads to vital engagement.’

Dr Robert Kegan

In over our heads: the mental demands of modern life

Harvard University Press 1994

Research: more than just crunching the numbers

If you’re a researcher wanting to measure how healthy a community is, or how vibrant the economy that they work in, you’ll often go to secondary sources of information. You’ll look at the national census, for instance, and do the basic number crunching sitting at your university desk, far from the community about which the data speaks.

When FLOW went into the Bergrivier area to get a measure of the state of things – the baseline survey against which they could later measure any change that might result from the programme – they did three things that were unusual for this kind of social science research.

One: they did their own primary research, in that they drew up a survey that was custom-made to ‘take the temperature’ of this community, in terms of things like how strong the economy is, and to gauge the community’s basic wellbeing and ability to handle change, and deal with environmental or social shocks.

Two: the researchers were deeply rooted in the community. The FLOW Ambassadors went door-to-door across many households and businesses, in four different towns: Piketberg, Porterville, Goedverwacht, and Velddrif. This meant that the people gathering the primary data already had a sense of connection with the community, and insider knowledge. It also meant that these youngsters were given a job that allowed considerable personal growth: for many of them they were really intimidated by having to walk door-to-door, introduce themselves to strangers, explain the research, and convince them to participate.

Three: once the Masters-level researcher Jaime Davidson, with UCT Environmental and Geographic Sciences, had done her analysis of the results of the baseline survey, in particular the community’s ability to adapt to social, economic, or environmental changes, she went back to the community, and discussed the findings with the ambassadors. She asked them what they thought of some of the findings, and then integrated their ideas into her final briefing notes, adding a ‘qualitative’ dimension to what might normally be a ‘quantitative’, numbers-only way of understanding a com-munity’s state of wellbeing. This give-and-take approach to their research was an attempt to offset the sometimes extractive nature of some research, which might take, but give little back to a community that has opened itself up for scrutiny and helped open doors to get information.

And yet research that starts with a baseline survey needs to wrap up with an end-line survey in order to test what’s changed or not. After much discussion, the FLOW team decided to postpone this end-line survey until the community currencies have had more time to become properly bedded in their contexts.

‘The baseline survey was particularly focused on the local economy with only busi-nesses being surveyed,’ states Anna. ‘The FLOW team felt that undertaking an end-line survey at project close in 2016, would be premature and not yield a meaningful comparison to the base-line survey.’


No fear of failing

Jonas Salk, the acclaimed American virologist who developed the polio vaccine, famously said that there is no such thing as a failed experiment, because finding out what doesn’t work ‘is a necessary step to learning what does’, according to a 2014 Time Magazine article.

The scientific process actually sees failure as a vital and important part of inquiry, where ‘failed’ results need to be reported and published just as much as successful results are.

‘There’s no such thing as failure,’ argues Anna, ‘It’s feedback.’

Yet academics and people doing development work often fear a ‘null result’ in research.

One really unusual and positive thing about this project was the funder’s attitude towards unexpected results. The funder was prepared to accept outcomes that didn’t match to specific line items on a fixed budget, allowed the team to be flexible. If feedback taught them something about the project, they could build that ‘learning curve’ into the next stage of implementation, allowing them to change direction from the original plan. This kind of flexibility is critical in complex research where many of the approaches haven’t been tried before.

‘Everything hasn’t worked out the way we planned,’ says FLOW’s John Ziniades. But he reckons that what they’ve learned from this will help them and others in the field.

Their experiences gained through running the FLOW programme will be available to the donors, to people working in similar fields, and to the people of Kokstad and Piketberg.

Without the willingness of the funder to see ‘failure’, or unexpected results, as feedback, and as a building block rather than a disappointment, there would not have been freedom to learn on the fly, to tweak elements of the programme as they learned, and to observe without the pressure for a ‘result’.


‘In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.’

Baba Dioum, Senegalese ecologist quoted in Fundamentals of Conservation Biology, Malcolm L Hunter Jr, James P Gibbs, Wiley 2006

‘Ring the bells that still can ring,

Forget your perfect offering,

There is a crack in everything,

That’s how the light gets in.’

Leonard Cohen, Anthem

Quality-of-life research

The objectivity of numbers-focused, quantitative research demands a certain approach. The FLOW baseline survey was designed to get information in a specific form, which could be revisited and mined for analysis once the ‘intervention’ – here, the currencies – was done. This kind of research classifies, categorises, counts and constructs statistical models.

Qualitative research explores through observation, and tries to capture a more complex description of human experience. This approach looks for many different qualities of a person, or community. It might try to capture the opinions, perspectives and feelings of participants. The information gathering might be in the form of semi-structured one-on-one interviews and questionnaires, or diary accounts. In this project, much qualitative information was gathered in discussions and interviews with business people, community members and municipality officials, for example. The ambassadors became citizen scientists, the ‘researchers’ gathering the ‘data’.

Both types of research matter. Done well, both can shine credible, detailed light on the subject matter. But they are uneasy companions when working side by side, as they did in the FLOW programme.

There is a lot of mixed methods research that works well. The baseline survey tends to be more extractive and deductive, and the qualitative tends to be more emergent and inductive. MS

Funding innovative work

‘How do you fund early-stage, high-risk, cutting-edge innovation on a shoe-string budget for projects that primarily have social and environmental impacts, rather than profitability at their heart?’ ask FLOW’s Anna Cowen and John Ziniades, as they reflect on the funding of the project, which was not without its occasional hitches.

‘How do you fund this kind of work when there is no clear short-term way to generate cash flows to sustain the project beyond the initial funding?’

‘And how do you spread the funding burden through partnerships, to participants who are best-suited to ascertain and manage the risks?’ they ask, rhetorically. ‘These were key guiding questions for our FLOW team.’

The bulk of the funding came through the Technical and Management Support (TMS) Programme (managed by the South African National Treasury), which is part of the Development Cooperation Agenda between the governments of South Africa and Belgian Flanders. National Treasury contracted with the University of Cape Town (UCT), and UCT subcontracted the project implementation to Meshfield, John and Anna’s consulting entity.

From the outset, John and Anna intended co-funding the project.

‘John had just sold a business,’ explains Anna, ‘so we had some money, and we wanted to invest it in new ways of working. We had had enough experience of working within agendas set by others to know that we needed to come up with new ways.’

By the end of the project, Meshfield had co-funded about a third of the total project budget. And while Anna and John could inject the cash to keep the project floating through a funding crunch-time that nearly jeopardised it at one point, the rest of the team contributed with time and skills, working beyond their allocated hours because they believed so strongly in the initiative.

While it was risky for everyone involved, in hindsight, they now realise that this approach allowed the project to thrive in the face of uncertainty, be flexible enough to allow for innovation, and absorb cash flow delays when line functions in the up-stream bureaucratic institutions failed unexpectedly.

These funding delays exhausted the cash flow buffer that Meshfield had provided to the team and almost killed the project. Almost four months of not receiving funding that had been contractually committed to the team resulted in low morale, and stretched Anna and John’s investment commitment beyond what was initially planned.

‘It pushed us all into a kind of vital organ support mode. The cash flow crunch came just months after launching the local currencies in both towns, which meant we had minimal capacity to implement really important parts of the project at a time when it was at a vital and vulnerable point.’

In addition to the above funding, though, further support came from the buy-in of the Bergrivier municipality, who funded the ambassadors’ roles. This first came out of a national development budget, and then from the municipality’s own tighter operational budget. It took a real champion of the project – former strategic manager Tracey Stone – to sell the value of FLOW to her colleagues in the municipality. When the council came to vote on this budget item and the broader inclusion of the FLOW project into the Bergrivier Municipality’s youth and local economic development plans, the vote was unanimous.

‘This was one of the few non-partisan moments between the usually combative councillors,’ recalls John.

This funding covered the ambassadors’ monthly stipend, as well as extras, such as their ambassador clothing, printing, transport, catering, and the cost of venue hire.

In Kokstad, the municipality didn’t show the same level of buy-in, though. But local business stepped in with the local food retailer, SPAR, donating office space for the FLOW Ambassadors.

This shared funding, the team now reflects, became an ‘adventure of interesting partnerships’.

Flow Ambassador Vox Pops


Ian Schaffers

FA co-ordinator

‘I learned that we are lucky to have so many natural resources here in our area, and that we’re so dependent on them, but also that we’re very vulnerable. We have to look after these, because without them, we won’t be able to live here in this area.’

William van der Byl, 25

‘The skills I’ve learned at FLOW have definitely helped get me where I am today. (The experience) has helped me with my current job. And I’ve learned things about myself that I didn’t know before.’

Chevonne Cornelius, 22

‘I’d like to see the FLOW Ambassadors get more involved with the teenagers out there, and share the knowledge they’ve learned on this programme with the children, youth and teenagers out there.’

Loritha Majerrie, 35

‘Now I can speak to all types of people, from different walks of life. Down-to-earth people, and high-brow professionals. I’d like to be a motivational speaker, and work in the prison, like those people who run programmes on forgiveness.’

Marlin Swartz, 20

‘I learned that the wetlands here need to be protected, because they collect water, and clean it, and prevent water-borne diseases.’

Lelani Cunningham, 28

‘I think FLOW should target matriculants who have just come out of school because it’s a good platform for them. It will give them skills training, especially for those who aren’t planning to study further.’

Christeline Dietrich, 22

(later a mentor) ‘The BRAND launch (was a highlight), and when we graduated in the municipality, where we got certificates and had a ceremony. I’d like to be a human resources manager, and just be happy.’

Kirwan Klaase, 26

(later a mentor) ‘Now I understand where our water comes from, what it goes through so that we have clean water to drink, and bath with, and water for gardens and grass. Also what happens with our waste water, that it’s saved, recycled, and used for irrigation.’

Jonnelle Bailey, 35

‘The skills I learned have helped me to get new work. In the same way that we had to introduce the BRAND currency to the community, now in the work that I do with the Independent Electoral Commission, I am educating people about the (local government) election, and where they can register.’

Lizel Vollenhoven Jansen, 25

‘My ‘wow’ moment was when I could sit in the Chamber at the District of West Coast. I never thought I could sit in there.’

Shalton Cornelius, 19

‘My highlight was when I did my first movie, it was my best one. I’d like to be a policeman.’

Mckyllin Donkerman, 22

‘My highlight was when we went to the wind farm in Hopefield and stood under the wind turbines. What I learned is that you can do anything if you put your mind to it. For my future, I really want to be a teacher.’

Phagon Heyns, 25

‘When we came together as a team and got to know each other, that was my ‘wow’ moment.’

Ilicia Cloete, 19

‘For me, the highlight was when we sat in a circle and got to know each other.’

Nicole Le Fleur, 20

‘I enjoyed it when we first got to know each other, and the events… that made each other stronger and become leaders. I would like to study journalism at the University of the Western Cape.’

Ashlene Goliath, 21

‘My WOW moment was when I got to speak on Mooiloop (a television programme) and when we went to a council meeting in the municipal Council Chambers. It was interesting to see how the council operates in the Chambers, very professional and respectful.’

Victor Benjamin, 22

‘My ‘wow’ moment was when we got to know each other as a team.’


Piet Bosman 32

FA co-ordinator

‘Some things and some people we engage with have a profound influence on the way we begin to ask new questions about ourselves and the circumstances we find ourselves in. We open up to how ‘I’ or ‘it might be different. The answers unfold in a unique manner and through an imperceptible process empower us to be better and become instrumental in co-creating a more desirable world around us. Being involved with FLOW has been such an experience.

Aphinda (AP) Ndlobeni 24

‘I think [joining FLOW] was one of the best decisions I’ve made. It gave me a sense of responsibil-ity, and it gave me motivation… I was learning something every day.’

Unathi Hams 32

‘Kokstad [is like] a little child that needs to be nurtured, a person that needs to be guided, a person that you can talk to. It’s not really difficult to live in Kokstad… If you can just be gentle to Kokstad, it will be gentle to you.’

Pumeza Mbedu 37

‘I really enjoyed the currency evenings; we were like a family, we were working as a team, organising the event together. I still miss them.’

Amaza Jara 26

‘I learned from FLOW that in order for you to see a change, you’ve got to be the change you want to see.’

Mlungisi (Mlu) Dlamini 27

‘I’m so proud of the guys who are still continuing with the K’Mali. To give what you never had, what you were never given, to the community, you feel so proud of yourself.’

Nthabeleng (Nthabi) Jafta 26

‘The best thing I learnt [from FLOW] was to be open, to talk with anyone; firstly I was not comforta-ble to talk to anyone. And to work with each other even if you don’t know them.’

Thandokazi (Thando) Duku 31

‘In life you have to stand up and do things for yourself, don’t wait for anybody to do things for you, go out there and hustle, bra.’

Lindiwe (Lindi) Ntaka 32

‘[FLOW] training opened my mind that I could start my own business and stop relying on other people.’

Marvin Mngweba 28

‘We learnt a lot about the environment and these resources that cannot be renewed … it opened another chapter in my head.’