Khulisa staff harvesting vegetables from their KwaZulu-Natal office garden to donate to a children’s shelter.
(Image: Khulisa Social Solutions)
• Lesley Ann van Selm
MD, Khulisa Social Solutions
+27 11 788 8237 or +27 82 601 2299
Local NGO Khulisa’s out-of-the-box programme on restorative justice has been exported to the UK, and is now part of a package of programmes being successfully implemented by an independent registered charity.
Khulisa UK’s mission is to “break the cycle of crime and violence by helping people to change their lives”. It does this in three ways: guiding by restoring empathy, self-belief and self-worth; healing individuals – both perpetrators and victims – and communities; and nurturing by believing all people can grow.
“We think that we are quite unique in bringing to the UK programmes that have been tried and tested in the extremely fragile and challenging social environment of South Africa,” reads the staff induction pack. “In particular we look at projects that provide innovative and effective ways to address crime, violence, anti-social behaviour, justice and community regeneration.”
Khulisa means “to nurture” in Zulu. The programme targets offenders and ex-offenders, young people at risk of exclusion, offending or becoming involved in gangs, victims or witnesses of violence and crime, as well as people facing significant personal barriers in their lives.
“Through our work we aim to empower disadvantaged individuals with the skills and personal understanding they need to develop their own alternatives to violence, desist from crime, improve their futures and build stronger and safer communities.”
Homegrown innovation in the UK
Khulisa UK is an offshoot of South Africa’s Khulisa Social Solutions, an NGO that’s been running for 16 years. Its founder and MD Lesley Ann van Selm was originally looking to raise funding from international donors – while Khulisa has for the past 11 years been funded by the Finnish and Danish embassies, more funding was needed to expand.
But the EU will only fund EU-based organisations so Van Selm set up a company in the UK called Khulisa Crime Prevention Initiative.
She is an Ashoka fellow, an international body that recognises and supports leading social entrepreneurs through an entrepreneur network. “It’s quite a prestigious thing to be an Ashoka fellow,” she explains.
With the support of Ashoka in the UK, she managed to get a pro bono attorney to help register the company there. A feasibility study showed that “there was as much potential for us to get money in South Africa as there was for us also to have our programmes exported to the UK”.
Van Selm elaborates: “Khulisa’s programmes are so out of the box, and have been so organically developed, and we realised that the programmes in the UK were very, very conventional and all compliant against international theories of psychology, etc.”
It took two years to develop a pilot programme, then Khulisa’s Silence the Violence (STV) programme was tried out in Hackney in London. A psychologist, an academic from Manchester University, a human rights activist and an ex-offender were invited to participate.
“The outcomes were mind blowing,” says Van Selm.
Getting the programme off the ground
With success around the corner, funding was needed to follow up on the trial programme. Khulisa managed to get several contracts with the Home Office Police, a private prison company, and several other trusts, in particular the Sainsbury’s Family Trust and the Monument Trust, which gave US$157 000 (R1.4-million). This enabled Khulisa in the UK to appoint a CEO, rent offices, employ staff and get the programme off the ground.
The attitude in the UK was that if Khulisa can get the programmes to work in South Africa, with its many challenges, it can work in that country too.
Now, three years down the line, the British company is a separate entity, paying royalties to Khulisa South Africa, and looking to expand their programmes there.
Van Selm says that she is looking at ways to expand the restorative justice programme in the UK, through the STV programme, which is based on restoring relationships between criminal and victim.
She adds that she’s proud of the fact that the UK franchise is using the Khulisa brand name. She says the name is catchy, and “makes people feel curious”.
“It is a proudly South African brand.”
Khulisa UK has taken the STV programme and combined it with three others – Milestones Mentoring Programme, Face It, and My Square Mile, developed in-house. These programmes supplement STV, which is described as “an intervention that additionally reduces violence and changes anti-social behaviour contributing to a reduction in violence/assaults whilst offering longer term positive effects on reducing re-offending with other supports.”
It is best suited for young people in at-risk situations or those involved in gangs with exposure to crime and violence, including witnesses and victims.
The programme consists of 10 modules of two- to three-hour facilitated sessions, usually run over five days. It is followed up with one-on-one support sessions. It uses group and cognitive behavioural therapy, a strengths-based approach, and includes coaching, role play, problem solving, emotional management and conflict resolution.
Some of the learning outcomes include recognition of high-risk situations and techniques to avoid or cope with them; an ability to recognise levels of violence and awareness of its damaging effects; improved listening skills and greater empathy for others; the development of emotional intelligence; enhanced self-expression and self-awareness; and improved relationships.
Khulisa UK’s CEO Simon Fulford says some 1 500 people have benefited from the programmes since the organisation started operations in 2009. He adds that this excludes any indirect impact on family and community members connected to the participants.
Success is not always easy to measure. “Rating success with offender rehabilitation and behaviour change programmes is always a difficult one as the impact is subtle, long-term and hard to measure or claim direct responsibility for,” he explains.
Two responses give a sense of the programme’s success. An ex-offender from 2011 reports: “I’ve not cried for 18 years, and this is the first time I’ve felt safe enough to do so, in this group dynamic.”
A 16-year-old school pupil said: “I was able to look into myself, pin-point what is wrong and start a path in to correct and move on, as I am able to look at others and feel empathy.”
Fulford says that Khulisa UK has an annual operating budget of around $630 000 (R5.6-million), employing seven permanent staff and about a dozen freelance programme facilitators assisted by some 40 or 50 volunteers each year.
The organisation operates in the London, Greater Manchester and the south coast areas of Dorset and Hampshire, but also runs programmes on an ad-hoc basis in other parts of the country, depending on contracts or commissions.
“Overall, about 300 adults and children participate in our full programmes per year, with several hundred more engaged via short workshops, taster sessions, and more.”
Now, Khulisa UK is looking to adapt and pilot South Africa’s Justice and Restoration Programme for use in the UK.
“Khulisa UK and Khulisa South Africa bring a new dynamism to north-south relations, with a unique model of exporting social development solutions from south to north and then adapted in-country,” says Fulford.
“Similarly, as we develop and enhance programmes here, we will share this knowledge and expertise with our colleagues while looking to further export the Khulisa approach.”