Transformative change

It was James Taylor (then director of the CDRA, Cape Town) who introduced me to Anne Hope and Sally Timmel in person in 2003. We had gathered with around 25 practitioners from all over the world for a two weeks stay in the Grail Centre in Kleinmond, in a CDRA facilitated process (the so-called Facilitating Development Course) in order to reflect, learn and renew.

As a student of political science (at the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands) and activist, I had worked in the Netherlands with the method which Paulo Freire had developed in Brazil. The late Jan Rutgers, a Dutch priest who had worked with Freire in Brazil and who was expelled from the country, was our source of inspiration, guide and mentor for our work with young farmers and members of Dutch trade unions. We had learned and worked with the DELTA method which was developed by Anne Hope and Sally Timmel and later on the Training for Transformation (TfT) manuals became an important source of reference for us.

During that remarkable evening in 2003 both Anne Hope and Sally Timmel shared with us their journey with Paulo Freire’s approach to conscientization and organising, the emergence of the DELTA method and ultimately the Training for Transformation approach to change processes.

Almost a decade later I was back in Kleinmond. Sylvia Borren, the then director of Oxfam Novib in the Netherlands, had given a few years earlier another push to the theory and practice of what may be called ‘reverse development cooperation’: individuals, organisations and institutions in the global North learning from experiences in the South. Through Emotive exchange programmes between civil societies in North and South were being facilitated. Carin Boersma, the director of Emotive, motivated and enabled TfT and Context to organise an exchange programme.

In September 2011, Ntombi Nyati and Jude Clark from Training for Transformation visited us in Utrecht and shared with us in a number of workshops and meetings the experiences with the Paulo Freire method. In 2012, I brought, together with a colleague, a visit to Training for Transformation in Kleinmond. During their visit to the Netherlands both Ntombi and Jude became interested in our social entrepreneurial approach to change processes and wanted to explore possibilities to integrate such an approach in the certificate and diploma course of Training for Transformation.

This exploration became the beginning of an institutional relationship: during the past week I had the privilege to work with 30 participants of the TfT diploma course coming from eleven different countries on the concept of social business. We explored questions such as: Why social business? What is social business? How does it relate to transformative change? How to become a social business?

We paid ample attention to the fact that ‘A million social business entrepreneurs can show how things can be done in radically different ways but they cannot redistribute wealth or compel large businesses to take responsibility for the mess they make. Systemic changes require government action […]’ (Black and Nicholls, 2004). Inspired furthermore by a quote from Zunaid Molla (2014): ‘There is a case then to make made for community-based organisations to undertake alternative economic growth and development initiatives’. “[…] We must acknowledge that decisions regarding major macro-economic policy levers could never devolve to communities’, we made sure that the concept of social business was not being dealt with in an apolitical, instrumental traditional ‘Non-Governmental Development Organisation-like approach’, we explored deeply the concept of a social solidarity economy.

I came back from Kleinmond with a lot of inspiration and learnings. While other development organisations have often been co-opted and been ‘pacified’ by the traditional aid sector which has become more and more instrumentalised and subcontractors of government policies, TfT has kept the need for transformative change, change in power equations at all levels, high on the agenda; TfT is an international community of young and old people, people from North, East, South and West, which has gone far beyond the traditional ‘North – South’ divide. In the TfT community practitioners, policy makers, academics and (social) entrepreneurs meet, reflect, learn and renew. It is a remarkable institution that has to offer much in terms of reflection about the traditional development sector, for learning and renewal.

Fons van der Velden
Context, international cooperation
October 28, 2014
Utrecht, the Netherlands



No Comments Yet.

Leave a comment