Imbeleko Report: Cultivating Resourcefulness, Not Dependency


The purpose of the ‘Imbeleko and social connectedness’ project was to conduct a cross-sectional study in order to explore and describe indigenous ways of care and support to inform policy and intervention. Theoretically the study is grounded in frameworks of Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS), social connectedness, child and human development, as well as psychosocial well-being and support. Methodologically, a concurrent mixed method design was used. Participants were conveniently sampled (n=430; elders=240; youth=190; men=150 and women=280) in collaboration with Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund partners in seven purposively selected Southern African regions (reflective of bounded systems likely to portray indigenous belief systems on a regional basis, namely in Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho, Gauteng, Limpopo, North West and the Eastern Cape). Transferability of findings is delimited to time and space as relates to a cross-sectional study. In addition the ecology of transferability need to mirror equal characteristics of high risk and high need related to poverty. Transferability of findings are also delimited in terms of age and gender, with older women comprising 41% of the sample, and the age group 18-30 constituting 34% of the sample.

Quantitative and qualitative measures and an informed consent form were developed in consultation with a Funder Reference Team and these documents were translated into regional languages. For data generation trained researchers and regional NMCF-partners co-facilitated one day six-hour (7 days and 42 hours in total) interactive Participatory Reflection and Action (PRA) sessions per site in the regional language. During the same site visits, participants completed demographic questionnaires also in their mother tongue) that were analysed (non-parametric, descriptive statistics) for quantitative insight into participants’ care and support patterns. Care and support themes that emerged as indigenous models include IKS Care and Support Beliefs (interwoven connections in life and death; cultural rules and values; entrenched involvement with one another; communal capital, and a mind-set of livelihood), and IKS Foci and technologies of care and support (IKS modes of support; psychosocial support; health support; educational support; material support, and employment support).

We theorise that IKS constitute not only social connectedness, but also relatedness as a continuity of connectedness – thus integrating life and after-life relatedness. In addition, we posit need as a positive driver to attain meaning in life, and as a driver that links relationships within such a continuity of connectedness. We argue that policy and intervention infused with IKS can result in resourceful responses that use communal capitals to direct mutual well-being and livelihoods, rather than frame assistance as individually targeted aid for victims who are disabled and isolated by vulnerability.