Our Workshop: a Living Lab
Growing a new model for an NPO by doing it together:
bridging contemporary, historically created divides in Cape Town
from 2011 census - Age and population of residents in 2 neighbouring suburbs - Pinelands and Langa
from the 2011 census - language and age of residents in neighbouring suburbs Pinelands and Langa in Cape Town
from 2011 census - no of child headed households in neighbouring suburbs Pinelands and Langa
From the 2011 census this shows average annual income and internet access in neighbouring suburbs of Pinelands and Langa
What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)
We work together in Cape Town, more specifically in Langa - the oldest township in the country.
Langa is, according to the 2011 census, home to 25875 people (now the population is much larger, though difficult to measure). Many of the original dwellers were forcibly removed from kwa-Ndabeni, near Maitland, following the removal of people of colour from now 'central' Cape Town in the 1920s - 1950's)
This forced removal and legalised brutality by the apartheid government was also spatially compounded by the design of the city, and Langa itself; one entrance/exit that could be easily militarised for total control of the relocated people of colour.
Control was maintained by a pass system; pass laws were designed to control the movement of black Africans under apartheid. These laws evolved from regulations imposed by the Dutch and British in the 18th and 19th-century slave economy of the Cape Colony. Beginning in 1923, pass regulations were constantly tightened and amended. Resistance to the Pass Law led to many thousands of arrests across South Africa from the 1920's onwards.
We work with a very small demographic of the population in Langa: creatives, or people who want to learn creatively. This however is a pilot to test how to integrate within a township, and we hope to be able to take what we're actively learning here and start similar spaces (a network) in other townships around Cape Town in the future.
This is for 2 reasons:
1 - township schools do not offer creative education
2 - the lack of access to the broader creative industries in Cape Town for Langa residents (and more broadly black people across the city) means that there's no entry point allowing for the industry to equalise or grow more fairly
Our solution to this enormous inequity in the city is to simply allow people of different racial and cultural backgrounds to be together in a shared, non-hierarchical space and to learn from one another - using upcycling as our methodology
Our Workshop - a place for connection and hope to be ignited by sharing time and space
basic tools + 'waste' materials + creativity + freedom + time together = Our Workshop
Plastic and other 'waste' is our raw material of choice. By sharing basic hand-skills and new ways of seeing the stuff that surrounds us in the streets, we are growing each others' capacity for change and growth.
Scissors and plastic 'waste' = potential
Post-consumer plastic waste becomes unique flowers at Our Workshop
Can tabs... are inexpensive raw materials, and they can make beautiful products...
The humble can tab in Ivy's hands becomes a thing of true beauty.
A very beautiful belt made by sis Ivy ----- using her existing skills as a crochet queen, and can tabs.
Athenkosie just started making these. He just did it, because he had access ro a space and free materials, tools and community.
Access to tools and materials for free is the basis of Our Workshop - allowing people to upskill themselves and learn from one another in a natural way.
Luvuyo is playing with the donated sewing machine we received --- here trying to sew Tetra Pak, a pretty incredible material....
Hand-stitched Tetra Pak becomes a useful, beautiful object through the alchemy of upcycling - by allowing people to play in a safe and free workshop space, new forms of creativity are enabled to emerge.
A bag - Tetra Pak!! Ta Gobi made it
Ta Sizwe is a designer of extraordinary skill. Upcycled EVERYTHING right here.
Ta Sizwe has found a way to use e-waste and a heat-gun and his own incredible macguyver-ness to fashion an amazing range of self-initiated products.
One of Sizwe's rings. You should see the jig he designed and made to manufacture these! I'll video it....
Geography of focus (500 characters)
We operate from a cultural centre called Guga S'thebe in Langa, the oldest township in Cape Town.
We have a regular membership of around 20 people.
Why here? There was an opportunity for Our Workshop to move from the city centre as a test in late 2017, so we did. Being in this location has organically created the entire body of our shared organisation. We've been battling out together how best we can all contribute positively to each others' lives through being together, sharing time.
Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)
We build bridges between people who were raised in an oppressive racist regime; and people who are currently being raised by people who lived under that system.
That history is defined by people on the move.
We were physically moved, and either upward or downward social movement was predestined for people of different colours and cultures.
What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)
... through solving very basic needs like hunger, economic ruin and a total lack of access to opportunities.
We co-wrote the following mission:
Our Workshop is a self-sustaining, free and supportive, collaborative workspace that provides economic and financial stability through learning, skills development and honesty.
We have a weekly meeting each Thursday which has led to a feeling of security and routine in the group.
We even went to AfrikaBurn together this year as a team (South African Burning Man offshoot). This was the most enormously successful thing - we bonded so much running a theme camp to fix and mend ripped clothes etc.
This sadly also led to a rift forming; those who chose to attend and those that didn't... We are now in a series of mediation sessions with a conflict resolution specialist to find the fracture.
Again this is the power of our methodology - literally figuring out how to solve emergent problems as they occur organicaly
What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)
We are already implementing this idea and it is having a solid, positive impact in the local community. Therefore it's not what will be different, but what is already happening at Our Workshop... Firstly what is happening is that there are more white people (from Cape Town) working in Langa, building links to the local community and also bringing their views and personalities in to the township. Most white Capetonians are scared to go into townships...
Luvuyo - a natural designer - says: "people know where to go now. Where they can go and empower their craft, and also get access to materials. The magic that they find at OW is that the materials offered are just rubbish. We're also learning to solve problems better."
Athenkosi, a recent graphic design graduate says, "My life has changed because I get new experiences of working with new materials and working with a team. It gives me a chance to earn money so I can buy any material and fix my computer with the money I make."
What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)
The inspiration behind the idea comes from work that Heath has done over the past few years in Zambia - working with local craftspeople, making things from waste together. There was no instruction given, just the opportunity and time for a group of people to spend a month together under trees, making things. People's perception of waste changed in the course of this project.
The crazy thing was that because of the racial insanity in Cape Town, Heath had never considered doing this same work in his home town...
Also, Heath the Our Workshop founder grew up in Pinelands, the neighbouring suburb to Langa (the 2 neighbourhoods are shown in census comparisons in the beginning of this proposal), but he never came here till he was in his 30's.
The whole point of the work is that its not prescriptive, but is allowing people to co-create in a non-judgemental and open environment.
We don't want to inculcate emerging black talent, but rather to foster new objects and real relationships.
Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)
The dynamics of the community in Langa, and more specifically at the cultural centre we operate from are extremely complex and difficult to navigate - especially as a white man, obviously.
OW member Ivy Nhlapo wasn't born here and she states: "this community is very difficult to work in - politics, jealousy. We don't want to encourage each other to grow - no unity at all. Stagnant for these reasons."
Luvuyo Mpoza, another of our members says: "being a member of OW is good and bad at the same time. Good - mind gets opened to new things (we go to exhibitions etc with other community members). Disadvantage part is its hard for the community to understand art. They only understand theatre and African dancing and singing."
We have access to a group of 15 - 20 committed members to gather more information like this, and really get deep and accurate information from (I've looked at the community research guide) but I haven't been able to get the feedback in time for this evaluation round.
a large public sculpture in the beginning
on site at the Waterfront - the sculpture was a temporary bin for plastic waste
The bottles we invited people to cut with us.
Our members busy setting up our maker-space for the evening.
Luvuyo in front of our huge public light sculpture
Anathi - our comedian...
A live MAKING event we were contracted to make for museum night - we invited people to cut bottles and attach them to a large lampshade form.
How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)
Our Workshop (our idea - already in action) leverages the strength of Xhosa culture as a uniting force. Xhosa culture is rooted in the idea of ubuntu (the capacity in African culture to express compassion, reciprocity, dignity, harmony and humanity in the interests of building and maintaining community with justice and mutual caring.) This is the definition of a bonding network created within a homogenous group.
Due to the historical situation of forced removal and exclusion in Cape Town, history and very effective propaganda and urban planning has led to a great divide between black and white people with each group being very homogenous.
Our Workshop is creating opportunities for all it's members (black and white) to grow, by creating a bridging network which brings people from different groups together. Research suggests that such networks can reduce crime and unemployment and, by enhancing community voices, improve the quality of government.
AfrikaBurn 2019 - we made huge patchworks using offcut sail fabric
AfrikaBurn 2019 - a sunset walk going to our first burn.
Nqobile in the entrance to our Theme Camp at AfrikaBurn 2019.
AfrikaBurn 2019 Athenkosi in the wild desert
AfrikaBurn 2019 - Anathi Gqirana live and loud
What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)
1 The most important key partners are the 'beneficiaries' - in this I include myself, the founder.
2 The cultural centre where we're based - Guga S'thebe.
3 Oasis (an organisation working with people with intellectual disabilities) where we buy our 'waste'.
4 Social impact airbnb experiences we host, which have helped sustain us all while finding other ways to collectively generate income for ourselves.
5 AfrikaBurn has been a very welcoming a partner. Our vision working with them is to help make their annual festival even more inclusive. We all look forward to next year!
6 We've started a Pty(Ltd) called Our Workshop Projects, where members can earn while they learn. Using this new company, we have begun to make large scale interior features and sculptural objects for public space using plastic waste. We are currently working on enormous xmas decor for the V&A Waterfront for example. This new for-profit company will be the backbone of the NPO Our Workshop.
What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing
Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing
Technology-enabled: Existing approach is more effective or scalable with the addition of technology
Idea Proposal Stage
Pilot: We have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users. The feasibility of an innovation is tested in a small-scale and real world application (i.e. 3-15% of the target population)
Group or Organization Name
Our Workshop 182-070 NPO + Our Workshop Projects Pty(Ltd)
Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)
I’m Heath Nash (a white man) and my whole life I’ve had access because of my whiteness - access to creative spaces and to endless encouragement to be creative. This is not the case for most people in Cape Town, for example in Langa.
This is why I started Our Workshop and Our Workshop Projects, sister companies that exist to sustain each other.
At Our Workshop Projects Pty(Ltd) we work as a team using post-consumer plastic ‘waste’ to construct large scale interior and sculptural work. This in turn creates wealth to support the social and environmental work we do at the nonprofit Our Workshop - a physical space focused on supporting and training emerging black designers using the design thinking process and “other people’s rubbish”.
We are using the design thinking process to teach product design while simultaneously using product design to share the design thinking process. Heath is using a systems thinking approach: disconnection to interconnectedness; silos to emergence.
Type of submitter
We are a registered Non-Profit Organization
Organization Headquarters: Country
Organization Headquarters: City / State