This article will provide a summary of the successful workshop titled “Cross-Pollination event: A knowledge exchange that is shared amongst communities” that was organised by the Community Intervention team with the support from the Knowledge and Learning team. The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) hosted the workshop in October 2017 and the purpose of this article is to (a) define cross pollination and discuss principles of the approach, (b) situate the cross pollination approach within a context and (c) describe how this approach was used to explore the issue of community healing and violence prevention.
Cross-pollination is CSVR’s three day annual event. The workshop brought together about 65 participants including in Marikana (12), Kagiso (7), Diepsloot (8), Inner City, Johannesburg (11) and Ekangala (9). The purpose of the workshop was to provide a platform for change agents from different communities to share ideas, practices, challenges, achievements, learnings and experience in working with victims of torture and violence, and to inform better practice through a critical and analytical reflection.
Additionally, it is a space for different community groups to discuss project sustainability. However, the cross-pollination approach is not without special challenges relating to time-frames and CSVRs budgetary constraints.
The exchange learning is aimed at bringing together all the change agents across all communities to work towards reciprocal learnings on understanding and addressing the causes and consequences of violence at a community level to avoid conflict and dysfunctional society.
Context of cross-pollination
It is well documented that communities that are socio-economically distressed experience poorer service delivery, social cohesion and inclusion than do the rest of the population. In 2015, CSVR took a bold approach to this long-standing and unacceptable inequity by introducing the Community Intervention work, an initiative that set out to engage directly with victims of conflict and violence. This is critical as it gives victims their dignity and voices back. This team operates in a dynamic environment, in which each community is unique even though they may be affected by similar types of violence. It is for this reason that the CSVR approaches each community differently and appropriately, as well as ensures a strong community involvement that can result in a resilient and less violent community.
CSVR’s Community Intervention work, with its emphasis on partnering with communities, provides an alternative to traditional community work approaches that assume a phenomenon may be separated from its context for purposes of study and work. In contrast, CSVR recognizes the importance of involving members of a community population as active and equal participants, in all phases of its work. This will lead to sustainability, which is necessary if the work is to be a means of facilitating change. Change agents concurred that this shows promise as an approach that can be used to work toward violence prevention and healing. There is a need to move beyond community-level research and towards longer-term community-based work with communities to bring about healing and prevent other forms of violence. Change agents appreciated the information, especially with regards to holistic approaches to family and community violence prevention.
CSVR is a knowledge-based organisation where the commitment to constantly learn from our work and share knowledge with partners and the public are essential elements of our institutional identity. As such learning, monitoring and evaluation (LM&E) and knowledge management (KM) are fundamental aspects of our work. This has proven to be an innovative and important system for CSVR for ensuring that we provide the best services possible to clients, learn from the work that we are doing, and improve the work on an ongoing basis.
Cross-pollination as a method of learning exchange
The uniqueness of utilising this approach is that it allows varying views; meaning that each group has differing views regarding the evolution of violence emanating in their communities and different solutions with regards to resolving it. Secondly, the analysis of the Intervention Process Notes (IPN’s) contributes to the development of the evidence-based practice while also strengthening other interventions like advocacy at the local, national and regional levels. Also, the workshop provided opportunities for participants to discuss how best to inform and contribute to the development of evidence-based practice and culturally-sensitive research.
What was learned in the process?
- Socio-economic status is a major concern and impedes on the quality of life.
- The poor and marginalised in communities are the most vulnerable, with personal safety continuing to be a daily challenge.
- The lack of access to employment and housing has often resulted in social stigma and exclusion
- Most prevalent in communities are sexual and gender-based violence and youth violence.
- Change agents have been able to provide support, treatment and preventative psychosocial services within their communities.
- They remain an important complement to professional health care providers.
- Healing from trauma that has resulted from witnessing or experiencing horrific events is possible.
Achievement of the workshop
The exchange learning brought all the change agents from across all communities. It worked towards reciprocal learnings on understanding and addressing the causes and consequences of violence at a community level to avoid conflict. The space allowed varying views as each group had varying views regarding the evolution of violence emanating in their communities and different solutions in terms of resolving it. The IPN analysis contributed to the development of the evidence-based practice while also strengthening other interventions like advocacy. The space provided an opportunity for participants to discuss how best to inform and contribute to the development of evidence-based practise and culturally-sensitive research.
In interpreting the results of this study, a number of limitations must be kept in mind. Chief among these is the subjective interpretation of qualitative data. It should be acknowledged that these findings are not representative of the communities but rather speaks to the realities of clients and change agents. Missing data influenced the analysis and interpretation of the results.
CSVR hopes that other organisations working on related thematic areas will be able to utilise this method when working in communities in South Africa.