The Field Band Foundation’s 20th year is a good occasion for us to take stock of what has been achieved in becoming one of SA’s only national youth development organisations using an arts and culture basis.

The two decades since our founding in 1997 has seen 50 000 young people pass through our programmes in uniquely African Field Bands that have been the conduit for lifeskills and performance arts training of various sorts.

It is also a time to reflect on how we should update our offering so that the Foundation’s work remains relevant to changing circumstances, where the median age in our country is 25 years. This is especially important because young people today face challenges that are particular to their generation – in particular, scarce job opportunities with many associated social ills.

Understanding what we do well, what we can improve on, what we should stop doing, and what we should do more of is all part of what we call our Fit for Purpose (F4P) journey.

This process has been helped by insights gained from an extensive evaluation undertaken by Tshikululu Social Investments, on behalf of De Beers, of the impact that the Field Band Foundation has had on the lives of past beneficiaries from our work in Kimberley, Parys and Musina.

Done over a few months in 2016, this comprehensive evaluation used key informant interviews, focus groups, telephonic interviews, and surveys. Interviewees gave the Foundation an average seven-out-of-ten rating for having a positive effect on their lives, noting these benefits to their lives:

  • Improved confidence
  • Improved interpersonal skills
  • Improved dancing and musical skills
  • Finding employment opportunities
  • Improved socialisation
  • Exposure to travel opportunities
  • Social acceptance of sexual orientation; and
  • Community recognition.

The evaluation report notes: “The FBF was also able to keep beneficiaries focussed, and to a large extent kept them away from the social problems facing their communities. There were instances where they reported staying away from criminal or delinquent behaviour, staying committed to finishing school (which is not always something some community members aspire to), finding employment and staying away from falling pregnant during their teenage years. Over and beyond this, the organisation has been very inclusive in terms of valuing diversity in the form of race, gender, language, sexual orientation, age and integrating people with disabilities into the programme model”.

These results are heartening. Our duty now is to ensure that we continue to realise these results.

To that end, the Foundation has developed its Youth Development Model (see next page), a theory of change that is based on practical outputs of our work – leading through short, medium and long-term results to the goal of “empowered and healthy young people able to contribute to a vibrant society”.

First off in the Fit for Purpose journey is to assess how the Foundation runs itself, and here we benefit from an evaluation undertaken on Investec’s behalf by GrowthMap. This gave the Foundation the highest possible sustainability rating, which assessment included a review of governance, internal management systems and financial stability.

This gave us the lead into enhancing further the capacitation of the company’s head office, the pivot on which our 44 Field Bands in 22 operations, across 7 provinces, rest. During the period under review, this included strengthening our reporting functions; the introduction of updated project monitoring and evaluation indicators and measurement tools; creation of a new business development post; a strategy to deepen our partnership with key donors; and the revision and integration of our various educational curricula.

The Foundation’s music and lifeskills educational programmes are delivered to all members at band rehearsals, and in bespoke workshops for the Foundation’s 157 full- and part-time staff. These are designed by the Field Band Education team, supported by the PULSE programme that sees four Norwegian exchange students join our staff for one-year tours of duty, and through specialists consulting to us. A current priority is to meld these different inputs into a seamless programme that is carried through all operations, updated to make our teaching relevant to young people who need to be “work ready” in how they approach their life paths.

A pilot project in our Springs operation has been that of Church and Business Against Aids (Chabahiva), which includes extra development and training of the band staff in social development and Aids-related training. This is now being extended to the Hammanskraal operation and into a Wellness in the Workplace programme for Head Office.

During this year we also successfully concluded a Pepfar US Community Grant programme that provided HIV training for all Project Officers to upskill them in their ongoing education of their Field Band members.

In three areas, specialised parenting workshops were also provided to support parents in building healthy communication and relationships with their children, particularly around issues concerning health. The Foundation is pleased to have been invited by Pepfar to re-apply for support in this endeavour.

In “Project Partner”, the Foundation is working with key supporters to deepen the relationships between them and our Field Bands in practical collaborations that go beyond funding to the better alignment of our work with the partners’ local social investment imperatives. In this, each party gains from the insights and on-the-ground actions of the other, to greater community development benefit. This work will be significantly extended in the next year.

The Foundation’s longstanding partnership with the Department of Arts & Culture allows Field Bands to gather in large-scale public performance events, with 2016 seeing national championships held in Soweto in February, and a national youth celebration involving 13 Field Bands at the Fezile Dabi Stadium in Tumahole, Parys, in October. A National Field Band Celebration is being held in Alexandra in October 2017, with simultaneous community events to mark our 20th birthday taking place in 10 other localities across SA.

In all the aspects of our comprehensive F4P approach to making “Music for Life”, we are indebted to the involved oversight that we enjoy from our Board of Directors under the leadership of chairman Brian Gibson, our partners local and foreign, head office and operational staff members, and to our thousands of Field Band members across South Africa.

Theirs is a combined effort of meaningful work with positive outcomes, and it is performed with joy. Truly, they are contributing to a vibrant society, and the Field Band Foundation salutes them all.

 Nicolette (Nicky) du Plessis