When communities work together they can shift the environment, their wellbeing and break free of the cycle of poverty. Social and health issues are better addressed as a collective in order to effect the kind of change people want to see in their communities.
An example of such innovative collective action is Kwanda, which literally means “to grow” - the world’s first reality TV show on community transformation flighted on SABC1 in 2009. For 13 weeks, millions of people tuned in to SABC1 every Wednesday night to watch as teams from 5 locations across South Africa strived to make their communities look better, feel better and work better. Specific goals were to prevent new HIV infections, reduce alcohol abuse and the associated violence, care for orphans and vulnerable children and undertake initiatives to generate income or provide food for their families. Viewers’ comments were shown on a strap line during the show and community radio stations discussed each episode on the days following the show. In the final episode viewers’ votes determined the winning community – the one whose work had most inspired them.
Kwanda broke new ground in making community development the stuff of reality TV, and a topic of interest and inspiration to hundreds of thousands of households across the country. As a community development approach it enables large numbers of people to learn about organizing themselves to tackle the challenges of poverty and inequality. As a unique public-private-community partnership involving communities, government, non-profit organisations and the private sector it broke new ground to convey clear messages around the core social challenges of our time, and the ways to tackle them, in an entertaining way. Kwanda also demonstrated how mass media and other development communications can be powerful platforms for scaling up initiatives that work.
Kwanda aims to help communities look better, feel better and work better by focusing on four main community development areas:
- to engage in projects that strengthen livelihoods by generating income, growing food and other initiatives to improve the quality of life in communities
- to help prevent new HIV infections
- to address alcohol abuse, violence and crime
- to take care of vulnerable people in the community