Last Saturday we had our first workshop in the Kya Sands community, in Jo’burg. Kya Sands is quite a cramped settlement that acts as a melting pot for people all over the continent and South Africa, trying to create a better life for themselves.
For many reasons this community would be a great area to introduce Grassroot. The community is moderately mobilised containing many diverse organisations with the most instrumental and influential being “the committee”, followed by the Women’s League and then the Community Policing Forum. Through these groups the community was fighting issues such as illegal allocation of housing and unavailability of basic infrastructure; at the forefront of that being, electricity. Just that morning, the leaders of the various groups were gathering people to attend the working session, and were tired from running around and quite low on airtime from the numerous calls they had to make.
The session itself took place in a dilapidated classroom in the main crèche for the community. The main groups that the attendees belonged to were the Women’s League, Committee and Community policing forum. I spoke to them about Grassroot and how it could make communication easier; especially in terms of notifying people about last minute events or meetings, as I noticed our anchor struggling to organise people to attend.
They all agreed that essentially this app was a necessary and welcome form of alternative communication. More than being cost effective, the app could be crucial in informing people about last minute events, such as the one they had planned to attend straight after our session. During the period we created the three groups on the USSD and a fourth group for the general population of the community. For each group, joining codes were noted and asked to be passed around to relevant members and general community.
As importantly, from my bit of experience conducting workshops in the last couple of months, I’ve now developed methods that would ensure the continued use of the app past our time there. That’s going to be more and more important as I shift focus, in communities like Kya Sands, from introducing people to Grassroot to building a community that uses it over and over again to self-organize and mobilize.