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Seeding the Future

Activation of youth to regenerate the Cape Flats through green enterprise: Refining the vision added.

Photo of Leigh Brown

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

The Cape Flats is an sprawling urban township outside of Cape Town. Built on seasonal wetlands and shifting sand dunes it is vulnerable to climate change in terms of water, temperature as well as sea level rises. The area was set up by the engineers of Apartheid as a dumping ground for people of color. The area is knows for its gang violence, drugs and poverty. There is high unemployment and hopelessness among Cape Flats youth (National average is 25% but stats say up to 80% in this area). This program activates and empowers youth as agents for transformation of their communities to a low carbon, regenerative future. The training is based in Permaculture and regenerative enterprises and equips youth with purpose to tranform the neighborhoods from within through growing regenerative enterprises that support a culture of resilient living practices from Rocklands Urban Abundance Centre. The Abundance Centre is a catalyst for lifestyle change in that it serves as a resource center and demonstration Hub. The program ensures exit strategies for participating youth through: Green Enterprises and Jobs and connects unemployed youth to the City of Cape Towns regeneration plan. To date we have facilitated five youth program trainings with 100 unemployed township youth and enjoyed a 70% take up into green jobs. We now seek to scale the work we are doing. Graduates from the training have already spawned a local home garden movement 200 strong and we have started 3 local enterprises.

WHO BENEFITS?

Beneficiaries are primarily unemployed township youth who are educated, empowered and equiped to tackle the climate change related problems affecting their communities. The positive action they are supported to take ripples out and affects whole communities from within.

HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF URBAN SLUMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE?

The program is based on five years of research in the field and deals directly with the problems we have identified and the positive actions in response to these. We have ignited a food gardening movement called Mitchells Plain Food Freedom - we have worked alongside them for three years and identified the climate related risks to this neighborhood - this is expressed in a Climate Adaption manifesto which outlines the actions at a household level. This program seeks to implement these as well as a neighborhood response which includes food and energy security as well as broad community education and inspiration through demonstration. The program also grows local resilience-based youth enterprises which provides regeneration-based work that employs local youth while it transforms the neighborhood towards providing for its own needs.

IN-COUNTRY EXPERIENCE

  • Yes, for two or more years

EXPERTISE

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for at least two years

GEOGRAPHIC FOCUS

  • Yes

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF

For the past 14 years, I have worked at growing Outdoor Classrooms in under resourced schools, this program went national in 2009. Our Youth program has graduated 100 youth over five years. We know this work is life-changing and important and seek support to grow impact and scale.

IS THIS A NEW OR RECENT IDEA FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION? HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM WHAT YOU ARE ALREADY DOING?

The Outdoor Classroom program originated in response to the dire situation that children found themselves in on a daily basis in township schools under Apartheid. The Program is comprehensive and has been developed with teachers and facilitated on a national level from 2009-2012. The youth program has grown out of direct requests from youth, where we facilitated the schools program. This proves that it is possible to transform whole neighborhoods through starting a culture of outdoor learning at schools. The eco-enterprise aspect has grown out of a real need for food and work and now needs dedicated focus to demonstrate potential and reach scale.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SIMILAR INITIATIVES? WHAT ARE YOU DOING DIFFERENTLY? WHAT UNIQUE ADVANTAGES DO YOU HAVE?

The idea is new in the following ways: • The idea is marked by its comprehensive and systemic nature and by its roots in the natural world as a nourishing source of prosperity. It seeks to work with the whole (eco)system in a community and to support what is needed to bring about radical change. • The idea is innovative because it systemically addresses both the social and ecological issues faced by communities, it also most specifically seeks to work with those that are the hardest to serve – un- and under-educated, under resourced schools and youth typically disenfranchised, demoralised and unemployable. • The idea seeks to build resilience and abundance in poor, disenfranchised, forgotten and under resourced communities and their members. It meets people where they are and grows them organically, enabling them to discover the means to support themselves. It connects people back to meaning and provides the pathways for positive future action. • While there are a number of enterprise incubators and business efforts within South Africa and across the globe that support the growth of social and environmental businesses, there is no green economy business incubator, certainly

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR IDEA?

We need to properly research the scope of the Green Economy for youth in the townships they live and also in the greater Cape Town so that we have a more substantial database of opportunities. We need to engage further with the City of Cape Town to see what the scope is for employment of graduates into their greening programs - with a view to building city resilience and food security. We need to research the market needs for green enterprise development.

WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?

The idea is a systemic model for transformation of whole communities, using a culture of outdoor learning in classrooms to reconnect to a sense of purpose and the promise of abundance, radiating outwards to all parts of the community system, re-igniting belief in a sustainable future. The idea is innovative in that It is systemic, starting from schools, growing the connection of tomorrow’s leaders to earth stewardship, growing young people to a sustainable green economy, supporting livelihoods abundance through enterprises. It builds resilience and abundance in the most under-resourced deprived communities. It meets people where they are and grows them and their means to support themselves.

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BASED ON FEEDBACK FROM YOUR COMMUNITY?

Through SEED’s work I have witnessed the positive impact that growing ecological literacy in young people has had not only for their personal lives but for growing more ecologically intelligent communities in general. This is on a national level. Through the Mitchells Plain model, I have witnessed a waking up of participating youth and a growth in hope and positive action - the testimony we have talks about the gratitude for the simple positive steps young people can make in their neighborhoods. There is obviously a growth of esteem and hope in those employed and a sense of being master of their destinies in those who are supported with enterprises. Through the schools program we have grown a Food Freedom movement which now supports 200 home gardeners in the area and is growing food resilience, social cohesion and changing the fibre of the community from within. “I sell plants, worm tea and greeting cards in the market, Seed staff thought me and showed how to build a worm farm. My worm farm now has hundreds and hundreds of worms. From the market I make some money that helps me to buy petrol, electricity, bread and milk. This is also a social space where are I interact with other people and share ideas and experiences.” Mr. Solomons MItchells Plain Food Freedom.

WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?

SEED’s plans and my focus in the immediate future are to grow the potential to act as a specific catalyst for disenfranchised, underskilled youth for whom we can seed and grow community eco-enterprises, directly addressing the dire need for connection to a productive, sustainable livelihood, one that produces a sense of meaning and personal purpose. We believe that we can demonstrate the potential of the SEED eco-enterprise model as a replicable scaleable solution across the country (and indeed the continent). If we can achieve scale and traction we could easily impact at least 100 youth per year per centre of activity; catalyzing between 5 and 10 enterprises based on graduate ability and

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Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Leigh,
Below are some questions from our experts. We look forward to your responses!

What support is offered to those who start new enterprises to ensure that these are successful? E.g. business/accounting training?

You outline that you are looking to scale, how do you propose to scale? What parts of the initiative would scale well? What is currently preventing you from scaling? What are the biggest challenges you have faced so far with the initiative and how have you overcome them? I'm really keen on your focus on youth.

Where specifically would you like to implement this idea? What have you done to better understand the needs of the community that you intend to serve? How have you incorporated that information into your idea?

Photo of Leigh Brown
Team

Hello dear experts thanks for your thoughtful questions.
Here are our answers:
1. Youth starting new enterprises are supported with developing business plans (incorporating market scans, planning, networking, branding, scheduling), they are supported with basic business training and are mentored for up to a year.
2. Our Accredited Youth Training is easy to scale. The training is trialed and tested (we have facilitated it five times with great results). To scale we need to: engage with identified national partners, develop and online assessment platform and then grow capacity in our national partners. To date our ability to scale has been inhibited by funding. Funders seem to want to fund individual people through the program more than the growth of the program - this has seem us stuck at this level of 20 young people in Cape Flats per year.


3. We seek to implement this program nationally - starting with a scaled up implementation in the Cape Flats.
The programme addresses
Poor educational outcomes, learning backlogs, a barren learning environment, lack of (green) skills, food insecurity (77% below food security level) and poor nutrition means young people in SA’s townships are growing up ill-equipped to engage or respect the world in which they live. There is a 40% unemployment rate in South Africa and a growing cohort of disenfranchised young people who are feeling increasingly more hopeless. 

The Youth Programme was requested by young people that had engaged with our schools programme, and so been exposed to the incredible opportunities of living and working with the natural world – this has immense psychological, health benefits. We have facilitated five youth trainings to date and established an alumni group that provides ongoing strategic and operational advice and support. This means the programme keeps meeting the actual needs of our beneficiaries.


We would dearly love to grow this program - the time is now - it changes individual lives and then the very fabric of the communities that need it most.

May the force be with us.
xx

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