Developing a framework for collective community-level economic solutions that result in sustainable livelihoods for young people and their households in Makhanda 

This study demonstrated the value of multi-stakeholder and contextually-responsive action in addressing the challenges of youth unemployment in Makhanda. Geared towards finding practical and co-created solutions to building youth agency, the research team sought to explore pathways to sustainable livelihoods for young people in the region. All partners in the research effort were equally concerned by the rising rates of unemployment affecting the very young people that they support through school, with the motivation that improving academic outcomes would lead to gainful employment. The question then revolved around what needed to be improved or introduced for education to lead to sustainable livelihoods.

For this purpose, a multi-stakeholder platform (in the form of a Change Laboratory) was set up, consisting of various after school programmes, government departments, the local municipality, an institution of higher learning and unemployed youth. In promotion of collaboration, the project team used community based participatory research principles to uncover challenges related to youth unemployment, explore ways of supporting youth agency and then develop a framework through which after school programmes and other stakeholders can begin to take collective action to address the challenge.

Practice-based Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) was used to guide the process of developing an engaged framework for analysing factors contributing to youth unemployment while also exploring opportunities for leveraging collective strengths and resources. The Change Laboratory provided a space for inter-generational and inter-sectoral conversations, with consideration for collective moral responsibility, and allowed for honest engagement and deep reflection. In this way, the project team was able to identify contradictions and emerging mutual learning opportunities that arose from these engagements as well as to leverage partner capacities in developing a framework for intervention by the various partners.

The resulting framework has been developed with three clear objectives:

1) to strengthen accountable leadership for deliberate, transparent and inclusive action from those in positions of power, whose responsibility is to ensure effective service delivery and appropriate channeling of resources for youth development programmes;

2) to prioritise local economic development through youth consultation, empowerment and involvement in community-building initiatives and the development of the township economy;

3) to cultivate youth agency and explore meaningful ways in which young people can be active participants in their own change processes.

Through this study, social partners have found common ground and built a solid foundation for actioning a shared vision of improved pathways to diverse and sustainable livelihoods for the youth of Makhanda. 

Key Themes:
Sustainable Livelihoods
Location: south africa
Principal Investigator: Sibongile Khumalo
Co-Investigators: Garry Rosenberg, Monica Canca, Zoe Mann, Ludwig Chanyau
Host Organisation: The Learning Trust
Duration: 12 months

If you’d like to know more, you can contact the project Principal Investigator here.