Unlocking human agency through youth development programmes: An exploratory study of a selected NGO working in youth development on the Cape Flats
Schippers, Deidree Dianne
MetadataShow full item record
This study explored how human agency could be unlocked through youth development programmes using a case study of a selected NGO working in youth development on the Cape Flats in the Western Cape Province in South Africa. The aim of the study was to explore whether the selected youth development organisation encourages and unlocks young people’s aspirations and agency in its program design. The objectives of the study were, firstly, to determine if the organisation provided the students with opportunities and spaces in which the young people could exercise their agency in the development process in order to pursue their goals and aspirations. Secondly, to identify challenges that could inhibit the students from exercising their agency; and lastly, to arrive at recommendations on how the challenges could be overcome or prevented. The argument in this study was that youth development organisations should empower and help to develop the youth in such a way that they could realise their full potential in order to make a positive and constructive contribution to their communities and the South African economy. Human development interventions, the kind that is instrumental to youth development, stresses the importance of helping people to expand on their existing capabilities and strengthening human values such as democracy and agency (Conradie & Robeyns, 2013). As such, the Capability Approach as pioneered by Amartya Sen (1988), was used as the theoretical framework because individuals, specifically young people’s well-being, is often dependent on the extent to which they have the aspirations, freedom and capabilities (in other words the opportunities) to live the lives which they value (Robeyns, 2005). Human agency is thus necessary to translate aspirations, freedom and capabilities into actions that could assist individuals to achieve their desired states of well-being. The six dimensions of agency that the study focused on were reflective judgement, motivation, goal pursuit, autonomy, relatedness and competence as conceptualised by Conradie (2013). The study was located in a qualitative research paradigm and used a case study design. The research participants consisted of two groups. The first group were the two programme managers of the selected organisation. The second group was 40 Grade 10 learners who participated in the youth development programme offered by the selected organisation at a high school on the Cape Flats. The research instruments used included a biographical information sheet, a self-reflective questionnaire and a focus group discussion for the student participants, and individual interviews conducted with the programme’s two staff members. The quantitative data consisted of the students’ biographical information and were analysed through Excel software. Content analysis was used to analyse the qualitative data through a three-stage open coding process. The importance of the findings of the study was that the youth development organisation added value to the students’ development by assisting them to identify their aspirations and unlock their agency role. The findings also showed that being part of a community characterised by poor households, alcohol and drug abuse, violence and crime, and disadvantaged public schooling; the students’ chances to succeed against those odds were slim. Based on the findings, recommendations were proposed for the Department of Social Development, youth development organisations, post-school institutions, families and communities, and young people, on how the different role players could engage collaboratively in order to empower and assist the youth to realise their full potential; and in so doing, enable them to make a constructive contribution to South Africa at large.