Assessing the role of youth civic engagement in promoting social change : a critical investigation of ILISO in site C, Khayelitsha
Youth Civic Engagement is not a new phenomenon in South Africa. Throughout the history of country, spanning from the early resistance to colonialism in 1652 to the formation of the African National Congress in 1912 and its Youth League in 1944, the Soweto uprising in 1976, right up to the 1994 independence struggle, the youth has always played a pivotal role in social transformation. Unlike in the past where there was a common enemy in Apartheid, today the country faces a more complex set of socio-economic challenges. Despite being a middle income country, South Africa grapples with extreme poverty and income inequality, which impacts on educational opportunities and ultimately civic awareness and involvement. Approximately 42% of young people under the age of 30 are unemployed. The country currently has a youth population (14-35 years of age) which is about 41% of its entire population of almost 54 million. This youth population growth in itself implies that youth development should be a major priority area if growth and development are to be realised. The research is based in Khayelitsha. The social-economic problems faced among Khayelitsha township youth are complex and multidimensional in nature. The research question is: how is youth civic engagement able to initiate and foster collective action among community members of Site C in Khayelitsha, in order to promote social change? ILISO Care Society, a Community Based Organisation based in Site C was used as a case study for the research. In line with the theory and conceptual framework of social capital, the study demonstrates how reciprocal relations, trust and strong bonds, act as seedbeds for collective action. The Integrated Model of Communication for Social Change is incorporated into the framework to narrow down the social capital theory to an operational level. It is also used to illustrate how novel methods of dialogical communication adopted by ILISO Care Society reinforce social learning and promote democratic practices among young people. Both the quantitative and qualitative approaches were used for the study, with much of the analysis being grounded in qualitative methods. Data collection was done by means of the following utilities: a survey questionnaire which was administered among 52 respondents, semi- structured interviews, focus group discussions and participant observation by the principle researcher. The study revealed how the legacy of apartheid’s segregation policies have had enduring effects particularly on the education system, in turn, negatively impacting on youth civic participation, as well as other interlinked spheres of society. Most importantly, the findings revealed that the ILISO youth civic engagement projects have contributed in increasing the level of confidence (efficacy) to solve community problems of not only the ILISO project members, but also the wider Site C community. This was evidenced in the research participants‟ own belief in their ability to produce change (self-efficacy) and the ILISO youth members‟ shared belief as a group, in their ability (collective self-efficacy) to bring about social transformation. This has led to Site C youth acting collectively (collective action)when faced with challenges, thereby promoting social change.