Building Safer Communities through the Community Work Programme (CWP)

Building Safer Communities through the Community Work Programme (CWP) – Blog

Governmental programmes such as the Community Work Programme provide unemployed citizens with a job safety net and a monthly wage. How can these existing programmes be utilised for building safer communities? The pilot CWP Social Health Education Initiative aims to unlock the potential of the CWP in contributing towards community safety. A recent workshop presented key lessons learned and recommendations.

The Community Work Programme

The Community Work Programme (CWP) is a governmental programme managed by the Department of Cooperative Governance (DCoG) which provides useful work opportunities to unemployed and underemployed people over the age of 18 years.

The primary objective of the CWP is to provide an employment safety net to people by providing them with regular and predictable work, enabling them to earn a monthly wage. Implemented locally at a ‘site’, the programme is designed to employ a minimum of 1000 people per site for two days a week, or eight days a month, up to a maximum of 100 days in a year.

CWP – Key features

The CWP uses participation processes to inform and consult communities and local municipalities about the establishment of a site, and to identify useful work and local priorities.

Useful work is defined as an activity that contributes to the public good, community goods or social services. The work improves the area and the quality of life for the community, is generally multi-sectoral and responds to priorities set at local level.

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By the end of 2014/15, CWP had 185 sites in 159 municipalities covering 2302 wards. During the year April 2014 to March 2015 there were 202,599 participants working in CWP sites across South Africa.

The CWP intends to develop public assets and social services in disadvantaged communities, through a community-driven and -owned consultation process. It aims to strengthen community and economic development for people in poor areas, enhancing dignity, and promoting social and economic inclusion.

CWP participants do many different types of work, such as care work, support work at schools, early childhood development and looking after the local environment by cleaning and planting trees. Considering all the assets of the CWP including its large-scale outreach, the question is whether and how the CWP can contribute to building safer communities.

Utilising the CWP for violence prevention and community safety

In an attempt to practically unlock the potential and greater levels of participation of the CWP in the field of violence and crime prevention and community safety at local level, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH through its Inclusive Violence and Crime Prevention (VCP) Programme established the CWP Social-Health-Education Initiative as a pilot project in close partnership with Seriti Institute - a CWP implementing agent.

Video: CWP Social-Health-Education Initiative

‘Social Health’ speaks to a community’s state of health with regard to education, health care, peace, cohesion and the ability to deal with issues affecting the community. The objective was to strengthen the CWP activities within the social health and education sectors and to identify possible new useful work opportunities, based on local needs and aligned with other community interventions.

This focus was based on the common understanding that a functional social system of communities free from violence and crime is essential for local development and social cohesion.

Sustainable responses to violence and crime cannot be achieved overnight or by one actor alone. Violence is a multi-dimensional problem, with a multitude of risk factors influencing violent behaviour in people. Most effective prevention occurs when long-term efforts are made by actors across a wide range of sectors.

The CWP can be a very useful and unique tool, as it provides both a safety net to participants and a wide range of useful work opportunities across sectors. The CWP can contribute to building safer communities through its contribution to mitigating risk factors and strengthening protective factors.

CWP-SHE: Pilot Communities

The CWP S-H-E Initiative was implemented in four pilot sites across Gauteng

The CWP SHE Initiative was implemented at four CWP sites in Gauteng: Kagiso, Randfontein and Bekkersdal (West Rand District Municipality) and Erasmus Extension 11 (City of Tshwane).

The targeted communities are complex and live under extremely difficult conditions. They have limited resources and depend heavily on public services and public institutions. At the same time, public services are generally unreliable, unpredictable and erratic, and of low quality.

The public institutions offering these services tend to be perceived as weak and non-responsive to the communities’ basic needs. The purpose of the pilot project was to strengthen existing activities by drawing on local interventions and structures and the “manpower” of CWP.

Key CWP-SHE pilot activities included:

  • workshop on systemic violence prevention,
  • geographical information systems (GIS) safety mapping and safety audits,
  • the Football4Youth programme, and
  • the Youth Mentorship programme.
Building Safer Communities through the Community Work Programme: Sharing experiences of the CWP Social Health and Education Initiative (SHE)

The booklet shares key experiences from the CWP Social Health and Education (SHE) Initiative piloted over a two-year period (May 2013–May 2015). It provides key background information on the approach and the objectives of the initiative. It also contains insights concerning the new forms of CWP useful work being offered and key lessons learnt during the pilot project. Download here

Recommendations and lessons-learned

During the pilot project the following factors became crucial for strengthening the CWP activities at the pilot sites and identifying possible new useful work opportunities in the field of violence prevention:

Multi-stakeholder engagement and collaboration

Consultation with a broad range of stakeholders ensures that the CWP work benefits the community and is based on local needs. The CWP work is multi-sectoral, making cooperation and collaboration across sectors important, especially with those not directly associated with the CWP.

Use of organisational structures and community processes

Making more effective use of organisational structures helps to align activities and strengthen cooperation between the CWP and relevant local stakeholders. This multi-sectoral approach requires strong coordination. The CWP Local Reference Committees (LRC) plays a key role in supporting the CWP.

The LRC is an advisory committee at ward level that supports CWP implementation. Members should ideally include representatives from civil society and relevant sector departments in the municipality, as well as the ward committee, the Implementing Agent, community development workers, traditional leaders, and the site manager.

Ideally, the CWP could be represented in the local Community Safety Forum (CSF) and it is equally important to strengthen the alignment to the Integrated Development Plan (IDP).

Training and capacitation

Capacitating and supporting the CWP participants, site managers, provincial managers and local stakeholders enables a range of (new) useful work to be organised and implemented.

Providing meaningful, qualitative useful work requires special skills, and so targeted training, tools and materials were offered in pilot sites. CWP provides the infrastructure, which benefits other departments and stakeholders. To optimise those benefits, other stakeholders should ideally make complementary investments in (for example) training and capacitation.


Strengthening the monitoring and evaluation system further enhances accountability. The CWP Management Information System (MIS) needs to integrate both quantitative and qualitative methods that measure the actual impact of services provided.

The impact may be on the CWP participants themselves but also on their beneficiaries and the community as a whole. Analysing the M&E data can inform future CWP projects and enable more evidence-based planning of activities. Overall, measuring impact supports learning and quality improvement.

Practice to policy – Research & Workshop

Complementing the practical experiences gained by the CWP SHE Initiative, research by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) showed evidence of the CWP's potential in contributing to violence prevention building safer communities.

The CSVR has been involved in research on the CWP and its impact on violence and crime prevention since 2013. One of the first observations from this research was that there is a lot of variation between different CWP sites. Some sites are much more dynamic than others. Site that are functioning better are. Site that are functioning better are also the sites that are likely to make the biggest contribution to community development, and violence and crime prevention.

Deputy Minister Andries Nel, Department of Cooperative Governance, at the workshop
To create a platform of sharing practical experiences and research on CWP, DCoG in partnership with the CSVR and the GIZ VCP programme conducted a multi-stakeholder workshop on the role and utilisation of the CWP in the field of violence and crime prevention in October 2015.

In his key note speech, DCoG Deputy Minister Andries Nel emphasised the need for a holistic approach towards violence and crime prevention which addresses its root causes. He clearly outlined the potential of utilizing CWP to building safer communities and set an inspiring frame for the discussions throughout the day.

Group discussions during the workshop
After the input presentation from David Bruce (CSVR) on the research findings on the CWP as a tool for preventing violence and building safer communities a vivid panel discussion followed. The four panel members shared their individual learning and experiences always through the lens of the potential of CWP contributing to violence prevention.

All these inputs provided a strong foundation to discuss possible ways of utilizing CWP for violence prevention the future.

The afternoon session was dedicated to the topic of utilizing the findings and experiences in the future and develop first ideas of the way forward. The workshop kicked off a consultative process which will be taken forward and lessons will be integrated in the CWP system.

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