Intersections - a learning and sharing event

Intersections is a learning and sharing event for Oxfam partners in South Africa taking place from 24-28 October in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. Literally, intersections are meeting points and decision making points. At these places we are able to connect with, meet and talk to other travellers and to share our experiences and learning from our individual journeys.

Using this new knowledge we can make decisions about where we go from here - do we continue on the path we have walked for a while or do we take a new direction? The Oxfam affiliates in South Africa support a large number of partners who work in diverse contexts and across diverse themes. It is not often that we have the opportunity to have many of our partners together at one intersection - in one space, at one time. It is even less often that we have the time and resources available to reflect on our diverse work together.

The aim of this event is to create the opportunity for Oxfam partners to come together and share learning with each other with a focus on the lessons emerging from practice.

The Intersections learning event will provide opportunity for participants to:
  • reflect on programmes and the challenges of delivery
  • share emerging learning with peers
  • develop, practice and share skills
  • showcase their work
The design of the Intersections program is a challenge to the participants to take control of, and responsibility for, the outcomes of the process. The themes are intended to:
  • challenge our own perceptions of the work we do and how we go about doing it;
  • ask us to reflect on what change we are trying to bring about in the lives of the people we work with; and, most importantly,
  • why we want to see that change?

The session are loosely organised and will require that individual participants make decisions about what it is they want to learn and share during this process and how they go about managing this over the course of the program.

Intersections is a moment in time during which we will be able to meet and talk and share and learn from and with each other. Take up the challenge and enjoy it!

Find out more about the themes:

Conference Sessions

Reflecting on the Digital Stories


OMG!! my brain is just sooooooooo heavy with all info from the interesting & educational sessions I attended. But I will only blog about my 1st morning session – Fitting THEM in….

Work with “sexual minorities” is often perceived as niche work; that can only be done by specialist originations. HIV prevention work is increasingly being informed by approaches that have a basis in understandings of sexuality. How are “mainstream” HIV and AIDS organizations responding to the need to incorporate sex and sexuality issues in their prevention work? How are these needs of marginal identities being incorporated into our programs?

Sally & Vanessa were our dynamic facilitators, along with Navin. It was a funfilled & informative session. For me personally, there were (are) some new issues which I got to reflect on. We hit the floor identifying our gender & sexual orientation. I might say it was a teeny-weeny awkward for some. I guess some people are “not comfortable” talking about ‘sexual orientation”. This is a challenge to those who are working within the issue of sexuality. Questions we need to ask ourselves. Are we ready to be open-minded & deal with different sexual orientations? Will we be able to respect one’s decisions regarding their sexual life? Are we able to give them their human rights?

Our facilitators asked us to close our eyes and think of when we last had sex!!! Some just did that. And then we discussed what erupted in our brain with our partner sitting next to us. We realized later in the open floor discussions that there was no mention of vagina, penis or condoms! The question was thrown out if “we” ourselves are uncomfortable to talk about our sex life what about those who come to our organizations to access services? This is where we need to seriously understand and be comfortable with gender identity, sexual orientation and other sexual issues. We just cannot assume (the key word for me (quite interesting & which I never really reflected on).

The questions was asked when we talk about “women and men” – who are we really talking about? Are we inclusive? What about LGBTI? What about the human rights violations they face? What are we doing as individuals, organizations and a community as a whole?

Digital stories were shown regarding Gender Dynamics to further illustrate the importance of understanding the sexuality issues in the community.

Reporting at Intersections

When I agreed to be a rapporteur I didn’t anticipate that it would be challenging. Besides, how difficult could it be to just report what I had heard? This was certainly not the case. At the outset it was fascinating to learn how partners were working with rights in their contexts and. It was clear that this was not easy especially when partners hit deadlock when they tried to address any violations. Following the sessions along the “beyond access” thematic area proved to be both informative, enlightening and in some instances challenging.

It was a difficult balancing act to listen to what others had to say about their experiences in working with rights. Sometimes we are selective about what information we choose to hear and process based on our own prejudices and biases. I had to remind myself that my role was to report what I heard and not my interpretation of what I heard. I guess this was the lesson I had learnt at the intersections conference. Perhaps this is a skill we need to master when we choose to be advocates for others.

By Urvarshi Rajcoomar

Akona’s First Experience as a Rappoteur

This was my first experience to be involved in such challenging duty. I am used to be in conferences as a participants having to articulates and be involved in discussions. In saying that for me, this was a new experience having to document or capture discussions let alone of such big event.

Seating and listing to all the different reports on what each organisation is doing and also capturing the discussions having to summarise all that to give report back was quit challenging yet good Learning. It was challenging because I was never had such opportunity.

The documentation of sessions and listening was challenging because I am not good in listening and writing at the same time and I found my self wanting to contribute when there are burning discussions.  I want to thank Oxfam for giving such opportunity.

Development Approaches

Many organisations are guided by welfare approach while providing their services. During the session: 'when is it welfare and when is it development'; it was interesting that there were arguments that organisations need to move from welfare approach towards development approach. However, we learnt a lesson that there is nothing wrong with welfare approach. 

This is sometimes needed in order to make our future sustainable. For example, while providing child support grant, we are contributing towards a sustainable future. Indeed, we need to be able to identify where each approach should be appropriate: welfare or development.

My Personal Experience as a Rapporteur at the Oxfam Learning and Sharing Event

Rapparteur: Dumisani Malwane

Organisation: Maputaland Development and Information Centre (MDIC)

First time rapparteuring for a conference of this magnitude whereby one interacts with people from different disciplines, backgrounds, organisations and countries is always scarring, intimidative and shocking. In this exercise one has interacted with people who speak the language with accent and excellent diction, people who generate great ideas and articulate them eloquently. In the final analysis it was an honour and privilege to be me who was chosen to take up the rapparteuring job. I am humble by this opportunity offered to me.

On the first day I could not figure out what to take down and what to leave out because all information was so vital. Another challenging part was to listen, synthesize and write and when the debate heated up I simply got lost in action.  However, I found it is ease to work with Joseph Francis because we had the opportunity to discuss the structure of his thematic sessions before engaging participants and for the fact that I have worked with him before in the community development agenda.

The second day was bit hectic as I had to attend three sessions facilitated by different facilitators. I found issues emerging from these sessions to be interrelated. It gradually became ease to pick up emerging lessons and trends. For instance listening from what participants are pointing out I realized that there is a shift in the discourse of domination; it has been Poverty then HIV/AIDS now is HIV and Food Security and the Climate Change is now emerging to be a Buzz concept to dominate the centre stage in the development agenda.

Weaving Threads

Coming to this event was quite a journey; I left home before sunrise on Sunday morning to get to the Port Elizabeth airport and finally arrived in Pietermaritzburg around midday. While in motion for all those hours, I kept wondering what it would be like to enter a space and process that was both strange and familiar. I have not worked with Oxfam before, but have been involved in the NGO sector for more years than I care to own up to.

Would I know people? Would I be able to ease my way into the process and fulfil the role of listener and holder of questions that I had been asked to play? How would the programme be? Arriving at the venue felt like a homecoming. I did know some people (thank goodness) and others whom I didn’t know were warm, open and welcoming. The way the programme had been put together with the intention of weaving wisdom through a combination of input, listening and dialogue excited me. I took a deep breath, worked my tense shoulders loose and opened my heart and mind for what was to come.


I really enjoyed being asked just to listen. I am so often in a position of leading or facilitating processes. Here, my job has been to listen to what is being said, but also what is not being said. To honour the wisdom and experience of people present and to invite that which is not being acknowledged or spoken. To highlight ideas or ways of working that may be in the process of birthing.

My role has been to sit in on sessions that explore the issue of sustainability. Two of the sessions were about practical issues – networking and base line studies – while the other two were about the less practical and overt issues of leadership and reflection. I also thoroughly enjoyed a session looking at the ways in which linking welfare and development approaches could enable sustainability. In the opening address, the Oxfam Australia CEO spoke about being “practical visionaries” in this work – holding onto the passion and vision that generates and drives what we do, but also being thorough, rigorous and practical in the way we do it.

That has been a thread that has woven its way through all the sessions I have sat in on; sustainability depends on nurturing the desire to address the conflicts, suffering and injustices of our world while also paying close attention to the many demands, practical tasks and contextual realities of what we do. The details are a bit blurry after two intense days but I hope to be able to distil them this evening so I can do my presentation in the morning.


When is Welfare Development

The session on Welfare vs Development took the format of a Participatory Activity called Active listening, where one writes down the points that stand out during project presentations. Thereafter common thoughts are collected and grouped together.

I was particularly struck by the following cards in no particular order.

  • Development is when independance is achieved after the welfare is removed.
  • Lack of community ownership in development projects is welfare. They do not develop independance.
  • NPO's are scared of profits. We need to engage in business ideas.
  • Do we understand the structural unemployment in SA? What labour market are we training people for.
  • Immediate relief provides a foundation on which to build.
  • When planning community mobilisation requires planning of consequences.
  • Strategic partnerships are key for an organisation to meet relief and development challenges.
  • NGO belief that they should be non-profit making hampers innovation and their own development and community development.
  • Education by NGO's versus government education. Are we diverging or moving together.
  • How do we move home based care and support groups to more sustainable models.

Interview with Kerry Farrance

Interview with Kerry Farrance, Oxfam Australia, Melbourne, Day 2 of Intersections

Which sessions have you attended today?
  • When is it welfare and when is it development
  • Don’t flat line your baseline
  • Policy Update for community health workers.
General Impression of the sessions?
Facilitators have been great. Many of the partners really engaged and we had some very lively discussions. For example, around community health worker policy – there was debate around whether health services be delivered by community or government. While there was no consensus there were strong debates on both sides and it seems that people who were very engaged in that debate will take the discussion further among themselves.
The welfare/development debate
The importance of welfare activities to address immediate needs stands out – while we do longer term work. At times we forget this and have a negative attitude towards providing ‘welfare’ type services – in some ways it seems that these types of services are an investment in the short term for longer term gains.
What do you think most participants got out of the session on baselines?
I think it gave participants much to think about. It is often hard for us to look beyond the immediate – to look at the end results which are often so far off from the time at which you start a program. This seems even more of a challenge when you are working around HIV and behaviour change – things take time and it not easy to always anticipate what to measure up front. 

Reflections on the broader process of the meeting thus far.
Lots of very interesting discussion is taking place and this has been a good opportunity for staff and partners across programs and across affiliates to engage together in issues. It also raised different perspectives on the same issues and this is an important process. 

When is it Welfare and When is it Development: Is that the Question?

This morning (27/10/09) a group of around 25 participants debated the question of welfare and development. Using tools borrowered from Participatory Appraisal methodologies, we quickly agreed that welfare can be development, and that we need not apologise for providing short term relief, or for lobbying for welfare interventions such as grants.  Short term relief is vital for alleviating the ill effects of poverty and distress, while social security is a right of citizenship as well as a investment in the future.  Welfare is development, and development involves the provision of welfare.  In this regard, NGOs, social movements and researchers concerned with development are powerful stakeholders who are able to influence policy and how it is implemented. 

Nonetheless a number of new issues need our attention if we are to move forward on reducing poverty though the provision of welfare.  Firstly we need to recognise the value of adopting long term goals, the strategies to acheive these and what we do once these goals have been acheived. These need to be supported by research and a well developed information base. We also need to be strategic in terms of who we engage with: the policy makers, the funders, spheres of government and the communities. Finally, in linking welfare and development, we need NGOs that think big, while remaining focused on their specific mandates and constituencies.  For some organisations, this might mean thinking BIG (Basic Income Grants), for some, thinking BAG (Basic Asset Grants), and for others, RISC (Rapid Income, Support and Counselling).

Community Service Forums: a True Voice of the people?

I attended a community service forum session at the Intersections Partner Conference on Monday.

Nkwame Cedile facilitated the session.

The main question was whether the community service forums are truly reflecting and representing what they were initially supposed to be.
Nkwame describes what the community service forums are:
  • They are meant to facilitate development in their communities instead of being swallowed by the systems.
  • Most of them were formed during public discussions when the RDP was still in place.
  • They mainly composed of various social groups and organs of civil society.
Case Study on Khayelitsha Development Forum
This was basically about the community development forum of Khayelitsha and their chairperson Mr Zamayadwa Sogayise, who was meant to be leading people towards key developmental initiatives, but mislead the community by encouraging them to destroy state property and break the law as means of attracting government’s attention.
In a nutshell Mr Sogayise is in complete opposition to the work of the civil society organisations and NGO’s in the area. This portrays him as the leader who does not understand the mandate and the role of the community development forums, as he is seen to be his perpetuating his own agenda against the will and the wishes of the community.
Case Study on Kwa-Makhutha Clinic
Presentation – Thembinkosi Ngcobo – KMCRC
This one was completely different from the previous one, since it presented a huge successful achievement in terms of what was the main advocacy issue. The main issue was the Health issue for the community of Kwa-Makhutha, in terms of the services that were offered by the clinic. Different community organisations were mobilised for this common cause. The advocacy campaign was launched and the following were achieved;
  • Local clinic now opens 24 hours, 7days a week.
  • Ante-natal clinic has been re-furbished and clinically improved.
  • A well equipped VCT & ARV Rollout site was built and is now in full operation.
  • There is now no limited number of patients being attended per day.
  • There is an ambulance on standby, in case of emergency.
  • There is a reliable 24hour security system.
Challenges in setting up Community Service Forums
  • Social Groups may take time to come together, as they come from different school of thoughts and philosophical backgrounds.
  • Party-political dynamics may hinder progress.
  • Community may find it difficult to vary civil society from political parties.
  • Faith-based organisations and churches may become apathetic.
  • Community groups might be swallowed by political parties. 
After the presentations, participants raised a number of concerns in as far as the community service forums go; 
  • Who should form part of the community forums
  • What mandate should they carry?
  • How do they account and when?
  • How do you deal with self-interest?
  • How do you handle a situation where community that has its own political agenda. How do you integrate that structure to a newly-structured body?
As the group was made up of a diverse composition, some of the questions could be hardly resolved, as they carried some nature of individual social dynamics and backgrounds.
But inspite of that, many of the group members showed an interest in piloting either of the case study models, and try to see if they can work for the better in their respective communities.                           
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