Tackling Violence in South Africa: Concepts & Approaches

Tackling Violence in South Africa: Concepts & Approaches – Learn how

What is Violence?

For effective prevention of violence and crime, it is important to have a clear understanding of what violence is, and why it occurs. Most international organisations, as well as many South African organisations working to prevent violence and crime, have developed prevention strategies based on the definition of violence developed by the WHO, and published for the first time in 2002 as part of the “World Report on Violence and Health”, still a central reference document when talking about violence and crime prevention:

Violence is “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or real, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, mal-development or deprivation.”

In order to systemise the complex phenomenon of violence in its multiple forms, the WHO developed a “typology of violence”. For an overview of the typology, download this graphic.

The WHO differentiates between three main types of violence:

Self-directed violence

Self-directed violence, with suicide as its most severe form, can have an effect of interpersonal violence.

Interpersonal violence

Interpersonal violence is defined to include "violence between family members and intimate partners, and violence between acquaintances and strangers, that is not intended to further the aims of any formally defined group or cause. Self-directed violence, war, state-sponsored violence and other collective violence are specifically excluded from these definitions."

Collective violence

Collective violence is defined as "the intentional use of violence by people who identify themselves as members of a group – whether this group is transitory or has a more permanent identity – against another group or a set of individuals, in order to achieve political, economic or social objectives."

The approach described in this toolkit focuses on the reduction of interpersonal violence, independent of whether it is categorised as a crime or not. It does not tackle forms of collective violence.

Cross-cutting these three types of violence, the WHO differentiates between four general categories with regard to the nature of violence: physical, sexual and psychological violence and deprivation or neglect.

Interpersonal violence can by its nature be physical, sexual or psychological, or it can be deprivation or neglect. Very often several types of violence exist together; they often overlap, interact and reinforce each other. For example, the nature of the violent act can be physical (harm to the body), while the effects can be psychological.

Physical violence does not only lead to physical harm, but can also have severe psychological effects: e.g. if a child is frequently victim of physical violence at home, or if a person is victim of severe physical violence, they can suffer severe mental health problems, and be traumatised as a consequence of victimisation.

Sexual violence can lead to physical harm. In most cases though, it has serious psychological effects. According to the WHO, victims of sexual assault have an increased risk of:

  • depression;
  • post-traumatic stress disorder,
  • abusing alcohol,
  • abusing drugs,
  • being infected by HIV or
  • contemplating suicide.

Psychological violence can lead not only to mental health disorders, but also to severe physical afflictions, such as psychosomatic diseases.

Deprivation or neglect can lead to physical as well as psychological problems: under-nourishment or malnutrition, for example, has direct effects on the health of a child or older person.

Structural (indirect) violence

Another categorisation of violence is particularly relevant for violence and crime prevention in South Africa: the so-called structural (or indirect) violence.

This additional category was developed by Johan Galtung, principal founder of the discipline of peace and conflict studies. Galtung distinguishes between direct violence, where an actor or perpetrator can clearly be identified (direct violence) and violence where there is no direct actor (structural violence). All forms of self-directed violence and interpersonal violence, as well as many forms of collective violence, can therefore be defined as direct violence.

Redressing structural violence requires political changes and changes in society, as well as changes in the structures and patterns that govern people’s lives. Structural violence follows other dynamics:

“The violence is built into the structure, and shows up as unequal power – and consequently as unequal life chances. […] if people are starving when this is objectively avoidable, then (structural) violence is committed.”

“Indicators of structural violence (are) exploitation, conditioning, segmentation, and marginalization/exclusion.”

In deeper discussions and debates about violence, many controversial viewpoints arise. Not only is the question raised whether a certain act is violent at all, and if so, is it legal or not? The moral questions of whether it's right or wrong, and whether violence can be legitimised or not, also come to the fore.

Even if the definitions of the different types of violence are quite concrete, different answers to such questions are given in differing social, cultural, religious and legal contexts. The following examples are selected for more clarity on the definitions:

Some examples of violence not considered to be violence
  • If parents or other caretakers do not comply with health-care recommendations for children, this is a form of neglect, and as such violent.
  • Many forms of so-called parental discipline behaviour are in fact a form of violence. In many cases, it constitutes severe violence, including where children are hit with an object, burnt, kicked or tied up.
  • Did you know that all forms of abuse are forms of violence, any form of child abuse, abuse of elderly persons or abuse among family members? Alcohol, drug or substance abuse can be considered forms of self-directed violence, even if the purpose might not be to harm oneself.
  • Any form of corporal punishment at home or in school is a form of violence, and violates the child's right to physical integrity (as stated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child):
  • Did you know that more than one in four children in South Africa experiences times in childhood when physical violence at home occurs daily or weekly? Sticks and belt are often used, and children are often injured.
  • Any form of verbal and psychological punishment is a form of violence, though not considered harmful. Examples include yelling and screaming at the child, calling the child names, cursing, refusing to speak to it, threatened abandonment, threatened evil spirits, etc.
  • Despite redistribution of land and restitution, "forced displacements" still happen, often without legal persecution, and thus unpunished in South Africa. These are forms of severe violence.
  • The misuse of power of a specific person can be a violent act, e.g., if one person with an official function misuses his/her power in order to make somebody do something. This is not a form of structural violence, because there are concrete and direct personal relationships involved. However, a society characterised by structural violence may make it more possible for these types of acts happen frequently and with impunity.

Who are the Victims, who are the Perpetrators?

Violence is complex and we can see this clearly when we analyse its causes and effects, and examine how these are related. Its multi-layered nature can also be seen when we analyse the "actors in the play", and it has different dimensions with regard to perpetrators as well as victims. Two important dimensions of violence are:

  • the age dimension
  • the gender dimension

The Age Dimension of Violence

Children, young people, adults and elderly people are affected by violence in different forms and to differing extents. If children are exposed to violence early in their lives, and if other risk factors are added as they grow up, there is a high statistical probability that they will exhibit violent behaviour themselves at a later stage.

Here are some aspects:

  • 5 out of 7 children are abused in South Africa. Rates of violence against children are among the highest in the world.
  • Abuse and neglect of the elderly is a widespread problem. Allegations of witchcraft in order to seize assets, or sexual violence for financial reasons, affect older women. Both are violent forms of abuse common in South African society.
  • In most countries the murder rate among young men aged between 15 and 17, in terms of both victims and perpetrators, is at least three times higher than for those between 10 and 14. Surprisingly, this abrupt increase can be observed irrespective of the general situation of violence in the country.
  • A study carried out by CSVR in six areas with high murder rates in South Africa showed that two- thirds of murder victims were youths with a similarly high percentage of youthful suspects. The red cone in the middle of the graphics in Figure 6, shows the cases in which victims and suspects belong to the age group of 15-34.

Therefore, specific attention has to be paid to youth violence. In South Africa, this includes the phenomenon of youth gangs.

Youth Violence

Drawing on the WHO definition of violence, youth violence can be identified in three major types: self-directed, interpersonal and collective violence.

Youth violence is physical or psychological harm done to people - either intentionally or as a result of neglect - which involves young people as perpetrators, victims or both, or which is a potential threat to the youth.

More information

For more detailed information about youth violence in South Africa, read our thematic page on "Youth Violence".

The fact that in many countries children and young people up to the age of 24 account for 50% or more of the total population, as is the case in South Africa, highlights the enormous relevance of the topic.

Young people can be victims of violence. They have fewer defences against violence than adults. The young face violence during a period in their lives closely connected with identity-building and personal development; at a time when they are assuming roles and adopting the values and attitudes that will do much to shape later behaviour patterns.

Young people can be perpetrators. Violent acts of young people range from the use of violence to “solve” conflicts among peers, to criminal behaviour in urban areas and forms of group violence used by youth gangs.

When we look at the causes of youth violence, it becomes apparent that young people who resort to violence have themselves often been the victims of violence, and they often live with a profound lack of prospects, as well as social marginalisation and poverty. Having been victimised, boys are more likely to develop disorders which find outward expression, in the form of aggression, for example. Girls tend to internalise disorders, such as anxiety and depression.

The Gender Dimension of Violence

Women and men, girls and boys are affected by violence in different ways. Two specific aspects deserve a closer look:

  1. Young men are disproportionately more often victims and perpetrators of violence than women and girls, specifically in case of murder and assault;
  2. A high rate of women and girls are victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

1. Boys and men as victims and perpetrators

Culturally-defined roles, patriarchal power structures and a construction of masculine identity that promotes violence all contribute to the fact that, in South Africa as in many other countries, young men make up a disproportionately high number of both victims and perpetrators of violence.

According to the National Crime Victimisation Survey from 2007, young males aged 16 – 24 are most prone to violent crime. According to UNODC data from 2000 – 2008, 81.5% of all victims of homicides in South Africa were male, with more than half of these were between the ages of 15 and 29.

The 2007 National Youth Offending and Resilience Study, conducted by CJCP, revealed that meeting gender “norms” was an important reason why young men committed crime. The possession of material goods impressed both females and other males. The findings of the CJCP study suggest that “renegotiating traditional male and female roles among young South Africans” is highly relevant to reducing violence and crime.

2. Gender-based Violence

Girls and women are especially vulnerable to violence, and very often this violence is inflicted on them by people they know. In this regard, the home and the community is often not a safe place for women.

This violence is rooted in patriarchy. Every four minutes someone is raped in South Africa. While gang rape is generally committed in public spaces, rape by only one perpetrator occurs mainly at home, and often by a family member or acquaintance.

According to the Gauteng Gender Violence Indicators Pilot Project, one in four women in the province has experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. According to the MRC, one in six of all reported sexual abuses over longer periods of time in South Africa affect a girl under the age of 12.

In many cases, the murder of women is the escalation of a years-long process of violence. In recent years cases of violence and crime against the LGBTI community have increased in number and brutality. Attitudes towards homosexuality are still extremely conservative. This happens although South Africa has some of the world’s most progressive legislation on homosexuality worldwide, including the legalisation of same-sex marriage and adoption rights for homosexuals.

Violence and Crime – What's the Difference?

When we talk about crime, in the majority of the cases, violence is involved. We fear violent crimes the most, or what in South Africa falls under “contact crimes”, namely murder, assault and rape.

What is the difference then between violence and crime?
Crime happens when law is violated.

Violence and crime belong to different categories, but do not exclude each other. This means they can go together, but need not. Some types of crime, like the contact crimes, are violent by definition. The same is true for armed crime operating with a weapon constitutes a threat of physical violence.

Other crimes can be violent or not, like shoplifting. In other words, not every case of violence is a crime, and not every crime is violent. But violence is involved in most cases of crime, while just a minority of crime cases go without violence.

Whether an act is classified as a crime or not depends on the laws of each country, which differ, and may change due to evolving political systems and social values.


“Beating a child” is a violent act, as per WHO definition. In some countries it is by now classified as a criminal act, because laws were enacted that prohibit beating a child. In many other countries beating a child is not a crime; it is seen as a necessary disciplinary measure, and justified.

In South Africa the following categories of crime are considered to be “serious crimes”:

  • Contact crime: like murder, attempted murder, sexual offences, assault and certain kinds of robbery
  • Contact-related crime, like malicious damage to property
  • Property-related crime, like residential housebreaking

The Ecological Model - Understanding complexity

The 2002 WHO World Report on Violence and Health indicates that violence is an extraordinarily complex phenomenon, which develops from the interaction of many individuals, and context-specific factors that affect the world of young people.

In order to explain violence, the WHO developed the ‘ecological model’. The model differentiates between the individual, relationship, community and societal levels, and factors specific for each level which influence young people, and affect their behaviour.

Each level produces mutually reinforcing factors of influence over an individual. For instance, a young man or woman with an aggressive disposition (risk factor on the individual level) is more likely to take a violent stance if he or she has previously experienced violence as an apparently legitimate means of conflict resolution at home (relationship level).

Likewise, consider the position of a young person living in an urban district with high levels of unemployment and crime, and a lack of leisure activities (risk factors on the community level). They have stronger forces drawing them to the use of violence violence compared with those who grow up in peaceful surroundings, with more varied and better opportunities.

The model therefore helps to differentiate between the many and varied influencing factors behind youth violence, and shows the relationships between young people and their complex environment. However, it also demonstrates that co-ordinated action is needed at several levels in order to find preventive answers to violent behaviour among young people.

The model offers perspective to our idea of the socialisation of young people: they start out having relationships with other individuals, but as they grow older, they increasingly interact at community and society levels.

The ecological model thus provides a helpful orientation for the planning of violence-prevention measures that take into account the environment in which young people grow up.

Risk and Protective Factors

Risk factors and protective factors play a crucial role in effective prevention of violence and crime. In fact, we assume that a reduction of risk factors and/or a strengthening of protective factors leads to the prevention of violence and crime.

Prevention is most effective if co-ordinated efforts are made in different sectors (e.g. early childhood development, education, family care, health care, youth work, social services), and at different levels of the ecological model.

Risk Factors

Risk Factors are "characteristics, variables, or hazards that, if present for a given individual, make it more likely that this individual, rather than someone selected from the general population, will develop a disorder."

The presence of risk factors increases the likelihood of an individual resorting to violent behaviour: the more risk factors, the higher the likelihood that someone resorts to violence.

The WHO uses the ecological model to relate risk factors to different environments or “levels”– individual, relationship, community and societal. We can find specific risk factors on each level.

Examples of risk factors

At the individual level, biological dispositions and the factors of personal development are identified.

The relationship level refers to close relationships, e.g., between family members, friends, partners, fellow pupils and colleagues. It elaborates on to what extent these relationships increase the risk of violent behaviour.

At relationship level, parents and other family members have a direct, strong influence on a child. A child or adolescent who experiences violence at home is more likely to resort to violent behaviour than a child who grows up in a family without violence.

The importance of the family wanes during puberty, and is replaced by friends and the peer group (friends of the same age and sex). If friends consume drugs or alcohol, a young person is likely to copy this behaviour. And drug or excessive alcohol consumption is a strong risk factor for violent behaviour.

The community level refers to the immediate social environment, such as school, the neighbourhood and the workplace. In general it can be said that young people in urban areas get caught up in violence more easily than those in rural areas, because they are exposed to more risk factors.

Specifically related to the school environment, risk factors include weak educational skills of teachers, poor school management, truancy, and forced suspension from school.

The societal level focuses on overarching factors affecting the whole of society, which contribute to a climate of violence. Some examples of risk factors on societal level are: situations of armed conflict now or in the past, violence experienced by the whole of society, and marginalisation or exclusion of certain age groups or sections of the population (ethnic or religious groups, impoverished groups, inhabitants of particular regions, etc.).

More information

The CJCP has conducted two nationally representative victimisation and lifestyle surveys among young people aged between 12 and 24, two national studies on violence in schools, and quantitative research amongst young offenders and on cyber-bullying. Find out more on their website.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) has conducted studies on risk behaviour amongst secondary learners. The results of these studies provide important, country specific information, that support the ecological model. Find more here.

In real terms, this means that economic inequity, a lack of participation and the unequal distribution of opportunities and prospects all restrict young people’s potential for development, and are strong risk factors.

It also refers to the way people talk about violence and how they look at it. At societal level, we analyse the circumstances under which the use of violence is legitimised.

Any political conditions and norms that encourage violence in the young also develop on the societal level. Youth, economic, education, security and social policies can all work to reduce the inequalities of society, and thus reduce risk on the societal level.

It is important to note that risk factors do not cause violence. They only increase the likelihood of violent behaviour. For example, poverty is one risk factor for violence. But most people living in poverty do not resort to violence. However, they are definitely more vulnerable to violence, for a multitude of reasons: e.g. they have less means to protect themselves and avoid dangerous places and situations.

Protective Factors

"Protective factors shield young people from the risks of becoming violent."

"[Resilience] may be defined as the ‘process of, capacity for, or outcome of, successful adaptation, despite challenging or threatening circumstances’ – as health despite adversity."

Protective factors strengthen the capacity of children and young people to refrain from violent behaviour. They reduce the likelihood that young people will develop a willingness to use violence, or indulge in delinquent behaviour later on. Constant and reliable relationships with figures of authority, positive experiences, supportive environments and positive individual characteristics are protective factors.

Examples of protective factors

Until now, little research has been done into resilience and the impact of protective factors. Nevertheless, there are scientific findings to suggest that the presence of just a few protective factors can minimise risk factors. Like the risk factors, protective factors can also be listed according to the levels of the ecological model.

  • A caring environment at home, parents who look after their children, as well as teachers who have a positive influence on their students, through communicating positive values, can be protective at relationship level
  • A community which offers opportunities for youth to get involved in community activities or service, the existence of good role models in the village or ward, as well as strict prohibition of selling alcohol to under-age youth, can strongly protect individuals at community level
  • Laws limiting access to firearms, or TV shows communicating positive values and avoiding violence can be protective factors at the level of society.

Violence and Crime Prevention – Some Definitions

Strategies for the prevention of violence operate at different levels to reduce the risk factors promoting violence, or strengthen protective factors that prevent violence; they aim to discourage the emergence of violence and to confront existing violence.

Measures to prevent violence are categorised in a number of ways. Depending on the stage at which prevention begins (before, during or after violent behaviour), we can distinguish between primary, secondary and tertiary prevention approaches.

Primary violence prevention is directed at people who have not yet experienced or used violence.

"[It] refers to aspects that will address risk factors in the general population known to be associated with criminal trends, such as youth unemployment or lack of economic opportunities for women. It is aimed at strengthening and building capacity and self-reliance in a child within the family by providing public education and awareness campaigns, strengthening community-based responses and family preservation, and ensuring that children remain in school."

Secondary violence prevention measures support young people heavily exposed to risk factors encouraging violence, or who have already demonstrated violent behaviour.

"[This[ refers to aspects that target situations where people or neighbourhoods are particularly at risk, such as helping youth at risk, or providing extra public health nurses for teenage mothers in disorganized communities. Services delivered at this level make use of developmental and therapeutic programmes to ensure that children who have been identified as being at risk are assisted before they require statutory services."

"[This] refers to strategies that prevent recidivism by assisting with the social reintegration of offenders, and other preventive mechanisms (reintegration programmes)."

Tertiary violence prevention can be:

  • perpetrator-oriented, with the objective of facilitating their reintegration into society, and preventing them from entering the spiral of violence.
  • victim-oriented, with the objective of helping overcome the trauma of victimization.

The following types of preventive action correspond to the cause of violence. In this context, one can distinguish between situational, social or institutional prevention measures:

“[This] refers to the physical and spatial environment, e.g. to the recovery of public spaces through participatory urban planning and provision of infrastructure; with the objective to reduce opportunities for crime and
violence arising from environmental factors.” In South Africa it is also called Crime Prevention Through Environmental Planning (CPTEP).

The Department for Social Development defines social crime prevention as "a way of strengthening social cohesion and social fabric, by encouraging and empowering individuals, families and communities to
participate in their development and decision-making".

"These are all areas that contribute to a safer society through improving individual attitudes and actions, based on respect for the rule of law and shared core values, commitment to strong social fabric, and
a healthy, caring and peaceful lifestyle for individual, family and communities. In other words, social crime prevention means interventions designed to modify the risk factors among individuals or groups of individuals
(as opposed to situations or places) by using psychological, sociological or community-oriented measures."

Different categories of violence prevention

Community Safety – The South African Concept

The National Planning Commission, responsible for the National Development Plan - Vision for 2030 (NDP), refers to safety as a core human right:

"In 2030, people in South Africa feel safe and have no fear of crime […] at home, at school, at work and they enjoy active community life free of fear. […] Safety and security are directly related to socioeconomic development and equity, affecting the development objectives of economic growth and transformation, employment creation, improved education and health outcomes, and strengthened social cohesion."

Following the NDP, safety is not merely the absence of crime. The concept of safety in South Africa includes physical security, but additionally it comprises other important social dimensions. Barbara Holtmann describes the opposite, unsafety, as:

"an agglomeration of vulnerabilities, of which crime and violence, neglect and abuse are only some”, with further characteristics being “a lack of social support, low opportunity for education, poor access to health care, inadequate delivery of services, and inequitable criminal justice."

Closely connected is the concept of community safety.

Community Safety in South Africa is group-oriented rather than focused on the individual only. It embraces a broad range of social, cultural, economic and political aspects, and promotes a multi-stakeholder approach driven by an analysis of local needs. Community safety speaks to the community as a whole in two ways:

  1. the community with its different stakeholders as important actors in violence and crime prevention, with responsibilities to contribute to the security and safety of every individual, and;
  2. the community as a social system with its inner dynamics and social cohesion, which needs to be protected or restored in order to protect and ensure security and safety of its members – in other words: a “sound community” as a condition for security and safety of its members.

South African approaches to addressing community safety in an integrated way chime with other international experiences:

"Emerging evidence from low- and middle-income countries suggests that the best chances of success come from comprehensive public safety and community security programmes that broadly address the political, economic and social drivers of violence, and have both national and local support and ownership." (UNDP)

Several South African cities, like Johannesburg and Durban, participate in the UN Habitat´s “Safer Cities Programme”. The Safer Cities approach addresses crime and violence, acknowledging that law enforcement and crime control alone cannot cope with increasing urban violence and crime. It considers safety as a condition for poverty reduction. It attributes a key role to local governments in co-ordinating community-wide prevention strategies and activities, in which safety and security are issues of good governance.

UN Habitat`s Global Network on Safer Cities has three pillars:

  1. Social prevention actions aimed at groups at risk: e.g., develop integrated municipal youth policies;
  2. Law enforcement, including e.g., community mediation and conflict resolution;
  3. Urban Design, Planning and Management, e.g., community management of public spaces.

The Systemic Approach of Violence Prevention

The causes of violence and specifically youth violence are multi-layered and complex. Taking steps to prevent it requires a specific approach when analysing the problems, causes and risk factors of violence, and when planning measures for its prevention – in this case, the systemic approach as promoted by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is used.

The systemic cube (c) GIZ

The systemic approach is derived from the so-called systems theory. When we look with a “systemic lens” on violence and crime, violent perpetrators as well as their victims are elements of a social system with complex interactions. We all are elements of such a social system. Perpetrators and victims are participants, and react to the actions of others in this system.

This social system is multi-layered. The ecological model provides a helpful structure to make it more easily understood. We can identify multiple interactions and different interdependencies between the elements of the system, the actors, within a level and between the levels. These social interactions have different direct and indirect effects on role-players in the system and on the people living in it.

In the analysis phase, we have a closer look at these interactions and their causes and effects on relationships, in order to better understand why we face the problem of violence at all. And we do this from various perspectives and through the participation of different stakeholders, including young people, who play a crucial role in violence-prevention efforts.

The planning phase involves bringing together different actors from different sectors, and with different backgrounds and skillsets, like governmental and civil society actors, in order to plan and bring about changes that promise to have sustainable effects identified as most relevant in the analysis phase.

The systemic approach encourages networking and active cross-sectoral co-operation among key contributors, from the local to the national, working together to tackle the different problem areas.

A central characteristic of the approach described in this toolkit is that it focuses on young people. Their situation is analysed, having a closer look at the immediate direct and indirect environment.

The approach supports the shift of one's perspective from the youth as “evil” perpetrator to the youth who need support from the beginning, so that he/she can develop positive values and social skills needed for the development of a personality resistant to violence and crime.

Reducing violence through Behaviour Change

We want to achieve a behaviour change in young people who resort to crime and violence, or who are at risk of doing so. An important aspect of behaviour and “behaviour change” is the experiences of young people in their community, in the family, among friends, and in school. This local experience has a direct impact on the attitudes of young people.

"Local experience, what is felt and seen and understood of the way other people in the immediate environment do things, shapes one´s own view of what is “normal”, “routine” and “everyday”. This then provides the framework for the development of self-identity, and understanding of what is required to “connect” or “fit” or “achieve” in the “normal” environment. It is in this way that a “culture” develops and is replicated."

It needs opportunities, positive role models, alternative ways of dealing with conflicts, among others, to create a positive framework and value system to which young people can relate. If we change the "local experience", we can have influence on the attitudes, the mind-set and value system of young people. We can support and encourage a behaviour change towards non-violent behaviour.

Central premise

The behaviour change of young people at risk of resorting to violence requires the behaviour change of others. These are key actors, for instance parents and teachers, or decision makers in the community and outside, with direct or indirect influence on the environment, in which children and young people grow up.

Boundary partners

We select some of those “influential” key actors, which we call boundary partners. These belong to the direct target group of a project. They are individuals, groups, organisations and/or institutions with which the project/measure interacts directly in order to effect
a behaviour change on their part, and in co-operation with them.

It is assumed that their behaviour change will prompt behaviour changes in others, up to and including behaviour changes among the youth. These behaviour changes will have mitigating or preventive effects on the phenomenon of violence, specifically youth violence.

Boundary partners are inside the circle of those role players that a project can directly influence. But if boundary partners change their behaviour, they can in turn influence behaviour change among others. A boundary partner is closer to the project. But boundary partners help to reach actors and processes further away, influencing positive change with them.

We might have one boundary partner to start with, for instance an actor on the level of community, like the school director with the ability to influence the teachers´ behaviour, and thus reach the students. We might have two or three partners on different levels. This depends on our access to identified partners, and their willingness and capacity to co-operate.

Behaviour change stands at the end of a learning process and, in a best-case scenario, it will emerge  as the result of a project intervention. In general terms, this can be expressed as follows:

"Outcomes are defined as changes in the behaviour, relationships, activities, or actions of people, groups, and organisations with whom a programme works directly."


Based on the approach which aims to change the behaviour of identified key actors, our general project logic is as follows:

In our example below we have selected school teachers as boundary partners. Thus the impact chain, depicted in the figure below through the four dark green boxes, is shortened, since teachers already belong to the immediate environment of young people.

  1. If project activities are realised (example: training on non-violent conflict management, and other activities for teachers) then;
  2. a certain output will be produced or delivered (example: 25 teachers trained on …).
  3. We assume that the boundary partner will use this output.
  4. If so, the boundary partners (the teachers) change their behaviour, which is the outcome of the intervention (example: they manage conflicts in school in a non-violent way, and teach their students how to do so).
  5. Ideally, teachers are now skilled and motivated enough to teach their students in a very effective way and;
  6. the students can integrate this acquired knowledge into their lives and change their behaviour.


For a full list of references, please refer to this page.

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