Our experience of the ABCD approach to social work practice


Anne Letsebe*, Luz Helena Hanauer**

Zenzele Development Trust is the development arm of the WDB Group of organizations. We create a bridge between women living in poverty, to the services that they are entitled to receive from the public sector and the services they qualify to receive from the public sector, which they have not reached yet due to lack of knowledge, psychosocial deficit and bureaucratic barriers. The work of Zenzele facilitators is to bring the existing services and their rights to their attention and show them the path to obtain it for themselves, thus reinforcing their agency and fostering their self – empowerment. Our process entails an active accompaniment from the point of goal setting all the way to the achievement of the landmarks established in a set period of three years, after which the Zenzele team exits the area. 

Social work is a central component of the service delivery model of the Zenzele Development Trust.  Our approach to practice has over the years been the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) approach, which recognises the ability and potential of individuals and communities to deal with life challenges, including the illusive challenge of addressing poverty.

What has worked for us:

Given the context in which we operate, we have a strong orientation to locating ourselves in our target communities as opposed to having our clients visit our offices. This deep connection has made it possible for us to understand on the one hand, the depth of poverty faced by families in these communities and on the other hand, the resilience and resourcefulness inherent in them.

(Road re-gravelling at Mandeni Ward 18)
(Road re-gravelling at Mandeni Ward 18)

Our deliberate focus on families, learning from them as key informants, and working with them in partnership to identify their challenges. We have found value in employing the Poverty Stoplight Poverty Measurement tool, which enables families to self-diagnose and progressively track their poverty levels and quality of life, as a strategy towards the ideal of poverty eradication.

Harnessing family and community strengths in the quest for the goal of poverty eradication. We have mastered the skill of including all stakeholders to grow and understand the poverty issue in its multiple dimensions. We can reach out from ward to district level.

The Strength of our interventions lies in a team of committed field workers – the Development Facilitators, who are our foot soldiers, supported by supervisors. Zenzele invests in ongoing capacity building for its work force through internal and external training opportunities, in response to contextual.

While we provide services to our beneficiaries, our focus is also on ensuring sustainability. To this end, we provide training to third parties (public and private) on our model. We arrived at our current model by practically applying it and experimenting with different approaches.

The work we do requires a solid and cost efficient back office. Each rand has to reach our beneficiaries as much as possible in the form of services. We have envisaged achieving this with a strong partnership with the WDB Trust, deflating ?? costs and ensuring that our Development Facilitators maximise their potential in serving the communities we target.

The application of the ABCD model has enabled the realisation of intent in the name Zenzele which means “do it yourself.” The service and value-added provided to our beneficiaries is to awaken individuals and communities to their potential, informing them of their rights, and being a bridge between the individuals and communities and the services that they may procure for themselves, potentiating their agency, and consolidating their citizenship.

(Our clients have many traditional skills. With the help of our teams they have unearthed their potential)

*WDB Zenzele Development Trust Chairperson

**WDB Trust Executive Director


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