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It’s time to talk about agency and intent

By December 21, 2020No Comments
intent and focus

If there is one thing that inspired Development Works Changemakers during this year, it was our clients. It was not always easy to make things work in 2020, and in the research and evaluations we did in 2020, we could see the power of agency and intent under difficult circumstances.

Read part one of this three-part series here.

Read part two of this three-part series here.

Acknowledging the dedicated work of actors in the development sector and their intent to make the world a more liveable place with better prospects and hope for marginalised communities is important. Their blood, sweat and tears stand in stark contrast to the evidence that has come to the fore on state capture.

When we become disappointed in those who we believed would create a better society, we need to remember those who have good intentions and keep on with the struggle for good, despite challenging circumstances. A sense of agency and clear intent stood out for us in the work of those who we interacted with this year.

Part of a team

It was a privilege to be part of the larger team responsible for the implementation of the first Early Childhood Development (ECD) Social Impact Bond (SIB) in South Africa. Development Works Changemakers was appointed as the M&E Auditor for the m2m Impact Bond Innovation Fund (IBIF), which was implemented by the Foundation for Community Work (FCW), and we participated in a reflection session on the IBIF implementation earlier in December.

The interest in this discussion was huge, with over 100 people participating from all over the world. The partners in this IBIF had the courage and the grit to implement innovation and managed to keep going and improving throughout COVID. We are looking forward to the next steps with SIBS in South Africa, and we are excited about the potential of SIB implementation for building MERL capacity in the non-profit sector in South Africa.

We were also inspired this year by our clients who were implementing drug prevention, treatment and care programmes, and the clients that use their services. Their sense of agency to do something and to keep on doing what needs to be done to fight this challenge can only be admired. We salute those who keep on trying, even when there are many failures on the road to recovery and healing. And we salute those who hold their hands and encourage them along the way.


We have been able to see how the intent to improve the way in which people who use drugs are viewed and treated led to the implementation of a harm reduction programme in the City of Tshwane. This ultimately influenced the inclusion of harm reduction in the National Drug Master Plan.

We also saw how City officials in Ekurhuleni are committed to bringing dignity and hope to residents of informal settlements through their reblocking programme. And how dedication and commitment to meet the healthcare needs of citizens in the City of Johannesburg ensures collaboration with the Provincial Health Department to bring 24-hour health facilities to communities.

We were also inspired by clients who are working towards the improvement of funding for inclusive education, which incorporates special needs education. The hope is to see our recommendations regarding innovative funding options being taken further in the near future. We also stood in awe of a wide range of roleplayers in after-school space in the community of Masiphumelele, who pivoted and kept going throughout lockdown to keep children in touch with the learning environment, and who ensured that food was available in the community.

In addition, we applaud the Western Cape Government Economic Development Programme (EDP) for their initiatives to connect food security issues to township economies to ensure greater sustainability.

Moving forward

Going into 2021, we are looking forward to our journey as researchers and evaluators. We ask questions as researchers, and as evaluators, we ask questions about answers, and we seek to understand and learn what works and what does not work. On this path of exploration, we meet exceptional people, who in the midst of a pandemic and state capture keep going, focused by their sense of agency and intent to improve the world.  This keeps us motivated to be changemakers. We are curious to meet the changemakers we will meet on our journey in 2021.

By Fia van Rensburg


Brookings: What happens in an outcome-based financing model when a major crisis hits

Bertha Centre: ECD Social Impact Bond Innovation Fund (IBF)


FCW: IBIF Programme