Empowering youth in impoverished communities with a voice for positive social change.

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Empowering youth in impoverished communities with a voice for positive social change.

South Africa
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Empowering disadvantaged communities with a voice for positive social change.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In Townships like Alexandra unemployment, lack of basic services such as clean water, electricity, waste management and formal housing affect most residents. Residents of South Africa’s Townships often feel hopeless in the face of their many challenges because they do not believe they are being heard. This feeling of being ignored is one of the leading contributing factors in violent service delivery protests. The high level of unemployment, poverty, crime and the devastating impact of HIV and AIDS on families all contribute to challenges the youth of Townships are faced with. Hillside Digital identified the need to establish community citizen video units that would amplify the voice of their community with the use of technology through local capacity in bringing societal problems from the community to decision makers and actions from decision makers to the community. A recent human sciences council survey shows that public trust in municipalities remains below 40% since 2006. We believe that the only way to achieve long-term change is to give people the means to find solutions from within.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Hillside Digital Trust trains and supports youth as community video journalists to investigate societal ills, identify the root causes and possible solutions. Hillside Digital works with young people not in full-time education or employment and takes them through an intensive, ten-month course in all aspects of digital video production and new media techniques like blogging and creating content for internet television and mobile phone. They learn how to conduct post-viewing discussions and surveys as well as how to locally market, monitor and evaluate their work. The trainees become social activists within their community, using digital video equipment to make call to action films about the most critical social issues affecting. They then use mobile cinema community events to screen films at different locations in the heart of the community, inviting opinion and discussion and creating local solutions to promote a sustainable view of development. The call to action films together with data collected at screenings are made available to decision makers and stakeholders encouraging all to work together in a comprehensive and integrated approach to solving these challenges. Our goal is to establish the largest network of grass root citizen journalists in Africa championing the rights of their community, their region and our continent, achieving dramatic positive social change together.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Hillside Digital's pilot project Siyakhona was born during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa as part of Sony’s collaboration with FIFA on corporate social responsibility. The Siyakhona (We can do it) project in Alexandra Township last year went into the streets to discover a burning issue affecting their community. They discovered that rats was fast becoming a growing pandemic. In their research they learned of babies and the old being bitten in their sleep, injuries from minor cuts to deaths. The team identified pollution, rubble, water management and behavior and attitudes as the root causes of the rats crisis. Siyakhona began hosting mobile public cinema screenings in various locations of the Township highlighting the crisis and urging the community to stand together to find solutions and fight the problem. Simultaneously the Siyakhona team took their film to the municipal offices. They showed their film to the head of Health. Impressed that young community activists were not only highlighting the problem but also presenting solutions, meetings were soon arranged with the Regional Director. On 7 September 2011 Hillside Digital, Region E, department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, local NGOs and a number of other stakeholders launched the Siyakhona Initiative; a comprehensive and integrated approach to clean cities and rodent control. The Siyakhona call to action film received national attention after being aired on several national television shows.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Citizen journalism combined with community cinema screenings and the use of the Internet is a unique concept in South Africa and as such does not have direct competitors. Hillside Digital's aim of being the voice for the community encourages collaboration and partnerships with local NGOs and media such as newspapers and radio stations.
About You
Hillside Digital Trust
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Hillside Digital Trust

Organization Country

, GT

Country where this project is creating social impact

, GT

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Growth (your pilot is up and running, and starting to expand)

How long have you been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Social Impact
FOUNDING STORY: We want to hear about your “Aha!” moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution’s potential to change the world.

I've always been passionate about film and technology. In 2008 I returned to my father's farm to produce a documentary on the plight of rural farm workers. It was evident that corruption was rife and living conditions were appalling. The biggest observation I made during interviews was a sense of hopelessness, those I interviewed complained that no one would listen to them and their plight. A young man I interviewed told me he wished he could go back to school, graduate and become a social worker so he could help his community, I got the "aha!" moment.

Rather than producing a documentary in the hopes of highlighting their plight, it would be more effective to train young people like him in digital film making, human rights, community engagement, computer and Internet skills so that they are empowered with a voice for positive social change.

I realized that with today's technologies and its affordability it was possible to establish community citizen video journalism hubs in impoverished communities. Empowering the community with digital video cameras and knowledge would encourage the community to find solutions from within and leaders to take action.

Specify both the depth and scale of your solution’s social impact to date

Siyakhona Producers; young people not in full-time education or employment when trained by Hillside Digital have already made call to action films on issues including xenophobia, poverty, HIV/AIDS, crime and homophobia and screened them to thousands of people of all ages, inviting debate and solutions to the problems. Their work has been featured internationally on CNN Aljazeera English and several South African television shows.
Our Siyakhona community media hubs in Johannesburg and Cape Town are also sustainable businesses, offering a wide range of services to clients both within the community, nationally and internationally.

Mobile Cinema Screenings have attracted an average of 300+ per screening reaching 1000’s of residents. Siyakhona Alexandra hosts a half hour talk show every Monday on radio Alex FM discussing burning issues and local culture. Alex FM has over 100 000 listeners.

What is your projected impact within the next 1-5 years? Is your idea replicable? If so, how?

Hillside Digital aims to replicate Siyakhona at other Football for Hope Centers such as Lesotho, Kenya, Ghana and Mali. Our aim is also to partner with other NGOs in townships and rural communities throughout Africa. Our goal is to establish the largest network of grass root citizen journalists in Africa championing the rights of their community, their region and our continent, achieving dramatic positive social change together.
Siyakhona Alexandra's first call to action film has mobilized the entire community, the city of Johannesburg and more recently government to work together and improve living conditions and health.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and mark growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Secure enough funding to cover organizational costs

Six-Month Tasks
Task 1

Secure corporate sponsors and or patrons

Task 2

Build a functional website that is easy to use for community production hubs

Task 3

offer training and partnership to applicable NGOs in other townships

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Establish new Siyakhona unit in Lesotho while increasing the capacity of Hillside Digital

12-Month Tasks
Task 1

experiment and refine using mobile phone video as a citizen journalism tool

Task 2

Partner with a higher learning institution to refine, improve and add to current programs

Task 3

Hire marketing, business management and training staff

How many people have been impacted by your project?

More than 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

Explain how your company, program, service or product is structured


What barriers have hindered the success of your project to date? How do you plan to overcome these and other challenges as you grow your solution?

Hillside Digital's concept has in a very short period proven its case. In the space of year a young group of individuals who had little prospect before are now achieving self sustainability as a production team focusing on social issues. They have used their skills to aid mainstream media in producing stories, they are producing corporate videos, mobile video shows and more. Very recently Hillside Digital secured a partnership between Siyakhona and the city of Johannesburg to communicate and consult with the community under the Siyakhona Initiative. The project has been a tremendous success.
Hillside Digital will market its successes to the corporate sector, philanthropic organizations and actively seek partnerships and collaborations in both the public and private sector

How do you see the information-technology and media sectors shifting over the next decade? How will your solution adapt to and/or drive that changing environment?

Most individuals in Africa engage with digital communication, information and entertainment through their mobile phones. Hillside Digital is adapting its film training to use mobile video while retaining the mobile cinema community screenings. Hillside Digital will seek and develop mobile phone applications to assist citizen journalists and the community.

Failure is not always an option. If your solution fails to gain traction in the next two years, what other applications of the idea could you explore?

Video journalism is a skill that is easily adaptable to be an affective tool in any number of areas requiring intervention. As a solution it has gained traction world wide including sparking the Arab Spring.
Units now operating in Alexandra and Khayelitsha are beginning to achieve self sustainability through various offerings outside of their core responsibilities as community activists and are growing everyday.
Hillside Digital recently launched a mobile video portal attracting over 60 000 users via a mobile social network platform. Pioneering video entertainment content produced by emerging township film makers is an area we will explore.

Expand on your selections, explaining how you will sustain funding

Hillside Digital launched its pilot project as Siyakhona sponsored by FIFA 2010 World Cup, Sony and Streetfootballworld. Hillside Digital is actively seeking corporate and public sectors to support our work and replicate it on other impoverished communities that need access to a voice.

Tell us about your partnerships

Siyakhona was born during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South AfricaTM as part of Sony’s collaboration with FIFA on corporate social responsibility and is implemented by Hillside Digital. Recently Hillside Digital secured a partnership between Siyakhona Alexandra and Region E and the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs to consult with the community and find innovative and sustainable solutions to control rodent infestation and more broadly to address service delivery issues under government's clean cities and towns program.

What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section?

We are in urgent need of professional marketing and business development staff to attract further funding in order to offer subsidized training to partner NGOs in other impoverished communities.

Changemakers is a collaborative and supportive space. Please specify any community resources you would need to grow and sustain your initiative. Select all that apply

Investment, Human resources or talent, Marketing or media, Research or information, Collaboration or networking, Pro-bono help (legal, financial, etc.), Innovation or ideas, Mentorship.

Specify any resources you might offer to support other initiatives. Select all that apply

Marketing or media, Research or information, Collaboration or networking.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren’t specified within the list
Define your company, program, service or product in 1-2 short sentences

Identifying societal ills, taking action, inspiring change.