The Power of Connectedness
“All the believers were in one heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.”
Connectedness is a core value of IseeU. Nobody arrives at her destination having travelled alone. Along the way we would have encountered cheerleaders; coaches; sages; cynics; nay-sayers; and numerous other travelers. An astute traveler will choose her network of companions wisely because she understands the importance of a healthy social network. But for some, notably the poor and marginalised, the significance of social capital is a blind spot and as a result their access to opportunities is drastically hampered.
South African Child Gauge, 2015 highlights that financial deprivation is not the only manifestation of poverty:
“Poverty is about deprivation in many dimensions – hunger and under nutrition, dirty drinking water, illiteracy, a lack of access to health services, social isolation and exploitation, as well as low income and assets.” (my emphasis)
The work we do at IseeU is based on a noteworthy premise: whilst it is true that post-1994 many more opportunities have become available to a broader cross-section of South African society, young people from disadvantaged communities lack the necessary access to these opportunities. In support of this assertion, The SA Child Gauge points out that
“In a context where parents, teachers and surrounding institutions may themselves lack the information necessary to make an informed choice [about post-school endeavors], this may lead to a foreclosure of opportunities [for the young people who should be accessing these opportunities].”
During our three-year mentoring programme, IseeU aim to expose our mentees to experiences and people they would otherwise not have access to. Through this we intend to develop their understanding of the opportunities available to them, and to grow their social network. We do this because we believe that a healthy network can have a transformative impact on an individual, and in time, her community. We believe this because we have experienced this ourselves.
Recently we had the privilege of demonstrating the power of connectedness by introducing our grade 11 mentees to various job shadowing opportunities. For those of us with established networks, arranging job shadows for our children often involve us contacting a friend or at worst, a friend of a friend, who either makes the necessary arrangements, or refers us to someone who can assist us. For our mentees and their fellow learners, the term “job shadow” is more likely than not a meaningless concept buried in the covers of their Life Orientation textbook. Not many, if any, will ever experience a day in the life of a…(fill in the career option) to judge for themselves if they are suited to that job.
As part of our Grade 11 curriculum, our mentees have to identify three careers they are interested in and best suited for. Once they have done this, we then arrange a job shadow for each mentee with someone in our network who works in their first-choice career. An important outcome of the process this year was the realisation by a few mentees that the careers they had chosen to investigate were not necessarily what they had imagined them to be like, and that they may have to explore the other options on their list. For us this was a positive outcome – our mentees could make an informed decision about their options and possible opportunities as a result of accessing IseeU’s social network.
By encouraging a sense of belonging to a broader network, IseeU hope to see the realisation of an organisational dream – to connect young people with potential opportunities and build bridges between communities.
As we work towards this dream, we aim to inspire others to dream and work with us. We aim to connect and encourage connections because we believe in the power of connectedness, the power of community.
 Defined in SA Child Gauge (2015), Published by the University of Cape Town and the Children’s Institute, p25 as “networks between individuals and groups that allow people to collaborate”
 See note 1 above, page 24, footnote 19, quoting Moore K (2005)
3] See Note 1 above, p26
 We are grateful for our partnership with the Student Counseling Department at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). The psychometric assessments administered by members of this department, enabled our mentees to identify the careers they are best suited for.
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