This is a Non-Profit Company with just over two years in existence. However, they are hitting the ground running. They are already working with local communities and their impact is felt.

By: Sihle Phungula 

 “We look beyond our lack of funding but partner with private sector, government and civic groups such DDP in our efforts to drive change. To date we have assisted unemployed youth secure learnership programs, skills training and continue to conduct job preparedness trainings and many other initiatives that seek to advance the lives of disadvantaged youth.”

In keeping with DDPs mission to strengthen democracy our organization has been committed to the realization of this goal through inspiring youth activism. This has seen us undertaking concerted community mobilization campaigns in effort raise political consciousness and inspire active citizenry.

Members of our organization now feature regularly on community forums such as Operation Sukuma Sakhe War rooms and clinic committee. In the OSS war room, we have come out strongly to criticize the dysfunctional and ineffective nature of this forum. We even went to the lengths of escalating these issues to relevant authorities within the municipality. Gradually, we are seeing changes in this forum and indeed the presence of youth is felt. Furthermore, members of the organization now sit in the Clinic committee, to give effect to the department of health’s initiative of promotion of youth friendly services.

Over the years NGOs continue to be charged hall hair fees when facilitating community upliftment programs. After examining municipal bylaws, we realized that this was a rather unfair practice and negotiated that there should be a waiver of these fees particularly for unfunded organizations. We continue to disseminate this information to other organizations within the DDP network partners.”. At the recent IDP Budget hearing hosted by the mayor we raised issues that relate to youth representation in both governance structures and administrative leadership, Skills development and need for ward councilors to support civic society instead of view them as detractors.

Our organization is committed to making government, policy makers and other local authorities realize that youth matter and should be a priority. ‘’ You cannot talk about us without us.’’ DDP continues to contribute immensely to capacity building of our organization through regular workshops and forums that increased are levels of civic education but also broaden our network.


The workshop focused on the art of leading people through processes towards agreed-upon objectives in a manner that encourages participation, ownership, and creativity from all involved.

By: Daniel Dunia and Sthabiso Mdledle


The Africa Solidarity Network (ASONET) recently hosted a training for social cohesion practitioners at Isipingo on the 12-14 January 2018.

The aim of the workshop was to train participants on how to demonstrate competency in community-based social cohesion as well as produce facilitators who will promote human rights and social integration messages in communities throughout KwaZulu Natal.

According to the organiser and facilitator Daniel Dunia who is also the main founder of ASONET, the workshop achieved a number of outcomes. These include enhanced understanding of human rights and importance of social cohesion as enabled the Constitution.


“The workshop ensured enhanced awareness among youth about the importance of active citizenship in contributing towards inclusive community development irrespective of their nationality, ethnicity, and social status,” said Dunia.


He said that this intervention has helped strengthened interactions between migrants and their hosts (South African) black and white in communities where they reside.  


“Demonstrated by an enhanced understanding of the importance of social cohesion and learning to work hand in hand in building a socially-cohesive community as partners”, said Dunia.

According to Dunia, a follow up workshop will be held towards the end of March 2018, as Train the Trainer workshop. 


A community library campaign to clean up the space where the municipality is going to place the park home library, this campaign was supported by the community and the municipality.

By: Sthabiso Mdledle and Melusi Mahlaba


Lindelani Youth Forum (LYF) in partnership with the Democracy Development Program (DDP) and Africa Unite (AU), conducted a community conflict mediation to assist the eThekwini municipality in building a library for the INK Creative Arts Centre earlier this year.

According to the founder and Chairperson of LYF, a youth development organization that is based in Ntuzuma at Lindelani Township Melusi Mahlaba, their organization planned this initiative where they had to clear a space for the municipality to build a temporary library whilst they prepare for a bigger library.

Mahlaba said that during their first meeting with the ward councillor, the community raised a number of issues.

“One of these was the absence of a library in the community, pupils had to travel to town for a library.

After the hard work and persistence of the LYF, ward Cllr. ward committee and members of the community, the municipality was forced to at least create a park home library for the community since the year 2018 has begun and the schools have opened.

Once again the students and learners will be in need of this facility”, said Mahlaba.

He added that the municipality has delivered the park-home library at the centre and that they are now waiting for the official launch of the library.


This article first appeared in the Good Governance Learning Network (GGLN) journal titled: Navigating Accountability and Collaboration in Local Governance (2017)



Accountability and collaboration in the civil society is potentially one of the more glaring cites for critique. Whilst people, and activists are impassioned by developmental needs in their communities, they are often not aware of or unwilling to engage current formations and groups with an aim to improve them by holding them accountable for their actions and commitments; they are more likely to establish their own organisations and attempt to advance their goal as an individual effort rather than collaborate and deepen impact of their interventions. More concerning, is the trend that even established organisations hardly venture into partnerships with one another. The justification relied upon is two-fold; first, is a question of values, and secondly one of resources. Values underpinning an organisation’s work and governance are sometimes to the exclusion of other modes and practices of other organisation.


Whilst the issues confronting government in their engagement with young people are not limited or specific to any demographic, there does seem to be a perception that being accountable is not a priority. For instance, institutions such as the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) and the South African Youth Council (SAYC), it is notable that whilst these organisations are mandated to, and purport to represent all young people, the nature of the accountable is unsatisfactory, evidenced by little evidence of feedback to young people about their work. This article discusses the DDP Youth Desk to exemplify the concepts of accountability and collaboration.


The DDP Youth Desk 2016

It was the feeling of DDP that, whilst youth may not be pursued as a core ‘stand-alone’ project, it is worthwhile investing time and energy into ensuring that the youth demographic is consciously kept within the DDP’s field of influence through its recognition within our community of practice. This was undertaken through investing time in investigating and connecting with the needs of youth formations in the communities in which we have the strongest presence. This assisted in finding capable youth organisations, and investigating what capacity gaps they had and how DDP can assist in building the relevant capacity. Further, DDP moved from being the direct implementing body of youth-related projects and would rather act as mentor to younger organisations whose core work is youth work and accompanying them.


The way in which DDP went about its intervention in 2016 was the steady recruitment of youth-based and youth-led organisations. The notions of accountability and collaboration underpinned the intervention right from the onset and have continued all along to date.


Re-Thinking Collaboration: Realities of Working together as Partners


Central to the success of the various partnerships was both the formal and informal opportunities for engagement that were made available; which included allocated time for networking and reflection on work done.

The focus on building the capacity of youth organisations, and not being direct implementers of projects in community seems to have worked well for the limited staffing at DDP. Given the nature of DDP’s oversight and accompanying role, younger and newer organisations were given an opportunity to thrive in the work that they can do in community, with the opportunity to be able to seek logistic and design assistance from DDP when they were unable to complete a planned action for whatever circumstance. In this way, accountability was enforced as agreements were kept by all partners and monitored through continuous engagements.


Critically, the work appears to have shifted the way in which individuals see their work in communities, and the way in which the organisations themselves collaborate and negotiate agreements amongst themselves. This is vital in ensuring that no one organisation has executive powers to influence any direction of the relationships in the network.


An emerging mode of intervention

It is important that when interacting with new/potential partner, there is a deliberate attempt to create an environment of trust through:

a)                  Transparency:

This is more than just about saying who you are, why you’re there, and where you come from as an organisation; it also relates to the individual stories of the people at the face of the intervention. Knowing, or at the very least, feeling like you know the person’s motivations and intentions creates a situation of less resistance.


b)                  Responsibility:

Having an organizational culture that emphasises accountability through mechanism and policy that show clear lines of communication, responsibility and decision-making is likely to ease the anxiety of new partners and collaborators. There needs to be adherence to a set of consequences when responsibility is flouted. This way, accountability amongst collaborators is enforced and respected.


c)                  Shared learning

As a developing community of practice, significant time needs to be built in and encouraged as part of the design of the intervention, that will allow reflection about the nature of the unfolding intervention. This reflection doesn’t stop at just looking at the potential indicators as part of the monitoring and evaluation plan, but also looks distinctly at the way the working relationship between the partner organisations is going.


Challenges with working with youth-led/youth focused NGO’s

Some of the issues that are often unique to working with youth organizations (especially at community level, present themselves only as the intervention unfolds- it is difficult to plan for, except to say that there needs to be a degree of time invested into incorporating buffers into the implementation timelines and so forth.


Some of the challenges include:

- Energy and priorities of young people are vast and varied. Which is to say, one cannot assume, even within the same community, that young people will be similarly engaged in the different interventions, regardless of how interesting a process design and implementation may have been.

- The push and pull nature of accountability- because of the intention of keeping deadlines and deliverables intact, partnerships can receive strain. There needs to be an understanding of what it is that is negotiable and non-negotiable.

- If there are no core common values, the cost of building the relationship is too extreme, to the detriment of the intervention: If organisations intend to form meaningful partnerships, the entry point should generally be around a shared/common vision. Any other consideration needs to be secondary as this may tarnish future engagements.

- Resource scarcity as impediment towards relationship building for sustainable network functioning without dependence on lead agency: Due to the nature of funding, particularly in South Africa, there is a need to know the organisation that has more resources or access to funding, is likely to carry the burden for the most part of the intervention. This is harmful for the building of meaningful partnerships as it ends up being a non-equal partnership where the partner with all the resources can impose ideas that would not have been as readily accepted if it were not for the dependence on funding.


Emerging lessons:

The following are some of the lessons that are unfolding as the intervention continues:

d)                  Managing power effectively through effective communication, for successful collaboration;

During our work, we have realised that unless communication is transparent among all parties involved in a network, collaboration is hampered. Effective communication promotes collaboration in the following ways:

  • Inter and intra-organisational relationships must be guarded and nurtured to ensure lines of communication remain open all the time;
  • Connected to the above point, is that through effective communication trust is strengthened among partners, especially as it relates to decision making and building consensus;
  • Effective communication fosters teamwork especially in governance matters where leadership is collective rather than individual-centred, thereby fostering accountability among partners.

e)                  Building on shared values to ensure long-term commitment to process and change;


Building on shared values to ensure long term commitment is a process and happens over time through increased interaction and information exchange as trust is built among partners. As partners identify with the values that bind them together in a network, the more they become amenable to the partnership. Shared values have in them inherent benefits that promote collaboration and accountability among partners in a network such as:

  • Influencing collective behaviour of partners in the network – partners are sensitive to each other and mind their actions thereby creating a shared culture that defines the network;
  • Shared values have potential of deepening trust among partners, which is fundamental for creating a cohesive network culture;
  • Connected to the above point, deepened trust as result of shared values, potentially increases the capacity of a network to outperform themselves due to their collective capacities to do their work as collaborators.



The DDP is persuaded that in enhancing youth development in the context of building engagement in communities, there is a need to think about new modes of collaboration that strengthen partnerships and promote accountability. This is a desirable approach recommended for civil society organisations seeking to deepen the impact of their interventions towards sustainable community development.


Changing Our Country One Conversation at a Time

Nonkululeko Hlongwane


It’s quite interesting how everyone, especially Community developers, spend their days talking about change without an understanding of what it means to communicate. This was also an error I suffered from prior to attending the “Connecting Communities” workshop run by Dr Rama. The biggest misconception about communicating in general is that all it requires is the ability for you to articulate yourself very well. When you’re pitching a business idea this works very well however when your engaging a group of people about real life issues with the hope of being able to plant a seed of change, this wouldn’t be very ideal.

A number of lessons stuck out for me during the workshop such as the importance of transparency and equal power, the art of listening and asking questions but most importantly I learnt the power of  allowing people to arrive at their own solutions without imposing them. The 2 and a half days was a major test for me as I specialise in delivering trainings which generally require me to prepare content to deliver. It’s not as engaging as dialogues are. However I’ve been wondering on how workshops and trainings would look like if they were delivered using the art of conversation techniques. How a workshop looking at digital active citizenship would be laid out and how effective it would be. With all these learnings one generally has to put it play in order to get better at having open, honest conversations. The true test is being able put theory in practice and watch the learnings unfold.


For me this opportunity came quicker than expected when I was asked to host a Civil Society Engagement on the Violence against women and children. Not having hosted a workshop before in my life but having attended many, I worried about a number of factors. Will I be able to shut up and listen? Will I be boring? Will the participants be encouraged beyond the conversation? Will I get the art of conversation terribly wrong?

You see these thoughts were the least of my problems. On the morning of the dialogue the participants started walking in, a rather “mature” group of individuals, more mature than the crowd I’m use to facilitating to. Automatically I started thinking of all the possible sicknesses I could make up on the spot to get out of doing the dialogue. Quite frankly I was wasting my own time, there was no getting out of it. As the room filled up I saw people who had probably run their organisations for years and years and here I was about to make them guinea pigs of my new found information.

I opened up with a joke and by no means was it to make them feel welcome but rather for me to laugh and actually get some oxygen to my heart J The day went by, we went in and out of group discussion in very intimate smaller circles. A dissent came up in the room which almost saw the women get up with their pitch folks but instead the dissent was amplified and spoken about. I had people coming up to during tea and commending me on how the dialogue was done and how great I am. This gave me the right amount of confidence to soldier through. We concluded the dialogue and seemingly by the smiles in the room. Everybody was pleased with the amount of work done.


We take the simplest things for granted, such as talking and listening and for me the most important thing I took away from facilitating was that we mustn’t over complicate things, the content is useless if the process is not right. I took away a new found respect for communication as a whole but most importantly I walked away and was thankful for all the gifts I received. I’m grateful for DDP creating both those spaces for me to further grow and I look forward to the many more lessons I am yet to learn and teach.