PhotoSpeak: Photography: a new lens on youth civic engagement?

On 25th April, the GFCF hosted its second webinar focusing on community foundations and their work with young people. The webinar focused on the work of two organizations – one from South Africa and the other from the United States – which have used photography as a platform through which to amplify the voices of young people in the community.

The Community Development Foundation Western Cape, a young but dynamic community foundation based in Cape Town, is now in the third year of its PhotoSpeak programme, which takes a rights-based approach to youth development and engages young people through the medium of photography. Executive Director, Beulah Fredericks, described how the programme had evolved from the pilot phase – in which young people were simply invited to reflect their community through photos – to its current form where the emphasis is on “Governance through the eyes of youth”. Aspiring photographers are now encouraged to capture images of day to day events in their communities that somehow connect with South Africa’s bill of rights (whether by illustration of that right being claimed, or it be denied) and the overall objective is not only to observe, document and lead to greater awareness around political and economic rights but also to use the photographic images as a launching point from which to discuss solutions and actions, as well as individual responsibilities.

In the words of one of the PhotoSpeak participants:

“Through the photos taken others were able to acknowledge and appreciate triumphs, hardships, and other aspects our youth are facing. Success of the project was dependent upon the youth. Because of the vision of The Community Development Foundation PhotoSpeak and linking youth with communities, as well as presenting a positive outlet for teens to express themselves was possible.”

The inspiration for this programme came out of a study visit Beulah made to the United States in the early days of the community foundation which included a site visit to the Golden Gate Community Centre in Phonenix, a grantee of the Arizona Community Foundation. Sarah Gonzalez, current director of the community centre, also joined the webinar as a presenter. She talked about the GGCC’s “Photo Vision” programme and how the centre used it as a mechanism through which to determine what young people thought was important to address in their communities. Like CDFWC, for whom “PhotoSpeak” is part of a larger strategy to encourage young people’s participation in the community as well as a constituency-building effort for the foundation itself, “Photo Vision” is not just a stand-alone project but rather feeds into a larger more integrated development initiative spear-headed by the community centre.

Both presentations from the webinar will soon be available on the GFCF website (presentations from our previous webinar on YouthBank are already available).


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