Case Studies

Township Youth Learn ‘Give To Grow’

Jan 2020

Basic Legitimate Leadership principles were encapsulated for general life application in a three-afternoon programme for high school learners – and the principles were surprisingly easily understood by them, according to the facilitators. The programme, called Give to Grow, is applied in South African townships by one of South Africa’s largest non-governmental welfare organisations, Afrika Tikkun.

Afrika Tikkun, founded in 1994 by the late Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Cyril Harris, and businessman/philanthropist the late Dr Bertie Lubner, provides, education, health and social services to young people and their families through five centres of excellence in South African townships.

The Legitimate Leadership Model has been applied in Afrika Tikkun’s operations for the past five years. Its application there has been championed by Leonie van Tonder, its former general manager; she had also previously applied the model in a number of situations in the South African commercial banking industry.

Legitimate Leadership has thus gained considerable currency among Afrika Tikkun’s employees (see Afrika Tikkun – An Astounding Culture Shift in One Year). But because Legitimate Leadership principles are also applicable to many areas of general life, ways were sought to also impart them to township children – see Give to Grow Leadership Workbook.

In its centres of excellence, Africa Tikkun runs empowerment programmes which include giving children an awareness of human rights (including sexism, racism and homophobia) – so that they can stand up for themselves with integrity, question the status quo, and contribute to a more just society. These empowerment programmes include self-advocacy groups of high school girls and boys of around 15-16 years old.

This cohort was also selected by Africa Tikkun as being most likely to benefit from an awareness of Legitimate Leadership principles because they are normally two years away from matriculation and not yet too focused on their school-leaving exams. Because of scarce resources, no programme can be offered to everyone.

Dr Jean Elphick, a former general manager of Afrika Tikkun’s empowerment team, says learners had to apply with a written CV (which is also useful in preparation for the world of work, which is one of the focuses for Africa Tikkun) and a supporting letter.

Those who were selected for the programme were required to absolutely commit to attending the three consecutive afternoon sessions which would be held.

A basic workbook was drawn up by the (adult) programme facilitators which particularly allowed space for participants to write their own answers and observations – and which they could refer back to after the programme hours.

The facilitators’ session plans were later developed into a set of facilitators’ notes.

This first workbook boiled the Legitimate Leadership principles down to three basic areas of focus, and this has been carried through to the final-version workbook, which is called the Give to Grow Leadership Workbook.

The three basic areas are set out on the first page of the 20-page booklet:

1. A successful life is about giving not taking. Giving is your choice and within your control.
2. Giving from the heart, and doing the right thing, makes us generous and courageous.
3. Mature people can put service above self.

Following the three-afternoon programme, feedback about it has been excellent, says Elphick. Given this, Africa Tikkun will include it in a leadership camp which it will run in 2020 and thereafter. It is planned that this will leadership camp be offered to children who have leadership positions (for instance in sports teams) as well as children who have reached grade 10 (two years before matriculation).

Pat Moloi, general manager of the Africa Tikkun’s Alexandra (township) centre of excellence, where the first programme was piloted, says she has observed that the children who took part in the first programme in 2018 have increased in confidence and are taking more leadership positions. She believes that the course was beneficial because it focused on the small group as individuals, and on their relationships with friends, family and other people. “It prompted them to reflect on who they are and those relationships,” she says. “Other courses they do are often related general knowledge, for instance.”

Moloi had previously done advanced Legitimate Leadership training, and as a facilitator, she interwove the course with material about intent – benevolent and malevolent. Intent is a strong theme in Legitimate Leadership.

Sylvania Sheppard of Legitimate Leadership, who co-designed the programme, says its core propositions are from Legitimate Leadership. For instance:

  • Giving is only giving if it is unconditional.
  • Giving is about being appropriate.
  • Giving is not only a giving of things.
  • Giving requires a preparedness to risk / lose.
  • You can give even if you have a little.
  • Giving is a choice.



An informal tone was set from the start to obviate any feeling of a big hierarchy between the adult facilitators and the learners, and to make participants feel calm and welcome.

The session started with an explanation of the three sessions and a check-in (there were also two check-ins at the end of each session because facilitators wanted participants’ input of the programme; there were also reminders and refreshers in the booklet which learners could write in afterwards with examples and observations from their lives.

Facilitators then asked participants to think about people who had made a contribution to their lives and how living a life of significance related to how much you give. Elphick says it was remarkable how easily the children comprehended this – they appeared to be in tune with it: “Kids are super-smart even when they come from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Of course, mothers featured heavily here – for giving unconditional love, advice, help when mistakes were made, and assistance with self-confidence. But, surprisingly, the children came up with other types of giving by their mothers and other relatives – for instance, “she gave me my name/roots/identity”. All of these had the word “give” in them.

In the workbook, the spaces for written self-reflection proved very effective, including for checking whether the concepts had been fully understood. A number of children, for instance, took giving to be important because then they would then receive – which is in variance to the kind of giving which is advocated in the Legitimate Leadership Model and in the Give to Grow Leadership Workbook.

Thereafter, with a stack of cards bearing graphics showing various situations, the children were asked to sort the cards into:

  • Acts of taking/getting/having.
  • Acts of giving.

For instance, what were the following images – taking or giving? Working hard/ Making an effort/ Caring for others/ Being kind to others/ Receiving awards at school/ Being in the popular group at school/ Having the latest shoes/ Having a fancy phone/ Being a member of an important family/ Allowing someone to copy my homework.

After this first programme further cards have been added with graphics of instances adduced by the children.

This exercise works particularly well because the graphics are related to township life.

The course then focused on the proposition that “giving is under your control”. The facilitators asked participants to take the two piles of cards they had sorted (giving and taking) and divide them between those activities/instances which would be under their control and those which would not.

For instance, would being a member of an important family or having a big brand cellphone be under your control?

This was convincing evidence that acts of giving are mainly under your control.

The children were asked to again reflect on this and fill in their books.

Elphick remarks: “It is less effective to teach kids by telling them the theory and then asking them to relate this to their lives. It’s much better for them to do an activity and reach the conclusion in their own way.”

Sheppard says that many of the children came from homes with one or no parent. Although they generally had very little in the way of material possessions, they were quickly able to comprehend that giving is a choice and we have control over what we give whereas we have no control over what we are given.

“These learners know better than most children that they had no control over the little that they receive,” she says.

In the booklet, the summary of the first afternoon is:

  1. Giving is a choice. We have control over what we give.
  2. We do not have control over what we get.
  3. We can’t control what we don’t have control over.
  4. Giving is NOT only a giving of things.
  5. You can give even if you only have a little.
  6. Therefore, focusing on getting makes us weak because we can’t control it. Focus on giving makes us powerful.

The children were asked to, before the next session, fill in their “self reflection” and observe in what way they give or take – and to read and reflect on what had been said in the programme.

Elphick says repetition is an important part of the neuroscience of learning – and the booklet is repetitive in a number of places, particularly in relation to the basic tenets of giving and taking.


Two new words were introduced: courage and generosity, the two forms of giving. In Legitimate Leadership, to act courageously means to act despite your fears and though it means leaving your comfort zone; to act in accordance with your values, even though it is difficult, unpopular or criticised; and to do the ‘right thing’ even if it is difficult, dangerous or painful. To act with generosity means giving easily, from the heart; and giving unconditionally, without expecting anything in return.

It was important to make children aware that giving is not just about making people happy; it is not just about generosity. Sometimes it also involves having to do things which take courage.

To increase understanding of the two new words, the multi-lingual audience (South Africa has 11 official languages) was asked to translate the English words into as many languages as they could. This worked extremely well and resulted in excellent definitions in English.

Following this was another card sorting activity. This time, the cards bore graphics which only depicted acts of giving.

The children were asked to sort into piles acts of giving which required courage versus acts of giving which required generosity.

Then came another series of pictures and new vignettes, followed by questions and the introduction of two further words: selfishness and cowardice.

For instance, one picture showed a boy looking after a sick old lady in bed; a second picture was identical except that the old lady’s last will was lying in the foreground. In other words, the same apparent activity could fall under different categories according to intent.

Another set of images showed a hungry child at the door. Generosity would require you to give that child some food; but if the child repeatedly appeared at the door, acts of courage might be required.

Discussion of the questions and answers followed. Sheppard says participants said not being courageous means not facing your fears and choosing to do the right thing. If you do not act courageously, you are being cowardly.

The opposite of generosity, they said, is selfishness, which is when you choose not to give because you don’t want to risk losing things like time, money, food or belongings.

Then participants wrote in the workbook (page 8) about generosity, selfishness, courage, cowardice, gratitude and trust. Self-reflection on page 10 was for between the sessions.
The children were also asked to keep a gratitude journal (page 13). According to research, keeping a gratitude journal increases people’s happiness, says Ephick. On page 14 there were prompts about gratitude.

Says Sheppard, “You might think that with so little, these children would be worn down and have difficulty with being grateful. But it was the opposite.”


This involved revising everything that had been done so far and making sure that it was understood and absorbed.

Participants were asked to share examples of their acts of courage and generosity.

Then a pop quiz was held to see how much had been retained, with questions such as:

  • A successful life is about …?
  • Why does focusing on taking make you weak?
  • Why can we not control what we get in life, only what we give?
  • Two types of growing are …?
  • What do generosity and courage mean to you?
  • Why do people choose sometimes not give of themselves or act courageously?
  • What could be the risks of being generous or courageous?
  • Are you a giver or a taker?

A discussion followed about the responses.

Thereafter, the concept of maturity was introduced. Maturity is important to children, and whether they are perceived to be mature.

The question of how mature you are was linked to how much you give – and, from that, how significant you are able to live your life. Legitimate Leadership says maturity requires the suspension of own agenda. Maturity has nothing to do with age, education or experiences.

It was pointed out by participants that you could be 70 years old and immature and that 16 year-old participants could be more mature than adults if they were there to serve the other rather than themselves; that with maturity comes giving; and that people can depend on mature people.

In an intense session, requiring good facilitation skills, the children are asked to rate on a scale to what extent they believed that they were givers or takers/mature or immature.

Then the children are asked who would have the courage to share their scores and have them discussed by the group. The risk here was embarrassment or hard feedback – so volunteering was an act of courage.

In the event, all participants had the courage to share their scores.

The participants were then invited to give each other feedback on the scores that they had given themselves. There was considerable emotion around this.

Many of the participants had underscored themselves, according to the feedback. Some were seen by their peers as young in age but more mature, for instance.

A few had overscored themselves, according to their peers – generally, Elphick says, the more extroverted boys.

This last session then led into an existential debate, also requiring skilled facilitation.

In closing, the participants were asked to reflect on the whole programme and what value they had derived from it.

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