WoSA, the Whole of Society Approach, is an alternative approach to service delivery within government. It aims to encourage and put into practice a new way of working in partnership across all levels of government, as well as with civil society, business, NGOs, and intermediary organisations. The aim of this approach is to achieve the shared purpose of socio-economic development for the benefit of all South Africans. The Western Cape Government’s Provincial Top Management Team (PTM) adopted a Whole of Society Approach (WoSA) ‘toolkit’ in October 2017. This toolkit outlines an approach to a shared purpose, the use of collated data to plan interventions and track impact, and how to use a systems approach for interventions and successful community entry.

WoSA is not a project or a programme. Instead, it is the idea of doing things differently, of stepping out of one’s comfort zone, and of acknowledging the opportunity to learn from failure. WoSA needs to be supported by a leader who is willing to empower a team to be innovative. It required a willingness to spend time on self-reflection and team reflection, so that lessons can be shared, and behaviour adapted. WoSA can be put into practice by anybody who cares about citizen-centric public service.

As a start, WoSA is being implemented in four areas in the Western Cape, i.e. Saldanha Bay, Drakenstein, Manenberg/Hanover Park and Khayelitsha. Specific Provincial Heads of Department (HODs) are responsible for WoSA in each of the four areas as follows:

  • Saldanha Bay:
    B Engelbrecht, P van Zyl, R MacDonald
  • Drakenstein: B Walters
  • Manenberg / Hanover Park: P van Zyl, J Gooch
  • Khayelitsha: G Morris.


    Design Teams have been established to provide technical support to the designated HOD in each of the four areas. The designated HODs and the Design Teams have agreed to a phased engagement strategy in each area. There is also a transversal design team to support the WoSA approach.

    The Whole of Society Approach calls for collaborative action across all spheres of government and all sectors, guided by a shared purpose to impact meaningfully on the lives of citizens. It calls for a different way of being and a different way of doing what the Constitution mandates the Government to do, and for allowing for a balance of multiple perspectives.

    Given that the Whole of Society Approach is not another government project or programme, it does not replace other existing projects and programmes. Instead, it aims to influence and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of existing projects and programmes. It allows role-players to reflect on, and enhance, what they do.

    The logic of the design process that underpins WoSA entails the collaborative problem solving of complex problems. It is anchored by cycles of reflection, learning and adapting.

Participants in WoSA commit to adhering to the following principles:

We commit to the protection and active realisation of people’s human rights.

  • This means that projects are designed and implemented in a way which emphasises meeting the needs of citizens and improving their lived experiences.

We want to enable and empower communities to participate in finding solutions to those problems that affect them directly.

  • There is therefore authentic community engagement, with the acknowledgement that everyone has something of value to add to the process. Input from stakeholders is heard and acknowledged

We encourage communities to embrace and celebrate both their commonalities and differences.

  • This requires an enabling space to be created for participation, collaboration and co-design by communities and NGO’s.
  • The co-design of projects and plans must be valued as an important element of the process.

We promote equitable access to basic services, social infrastructure services and economic growth opportunities.

  • This means that government fast-tracks certain processes to provide targeted service delivery in specific locations.

We commit to meeting immediate needs, whilst understanding that we should not compromise our ability to provide for future generations.

  • Government therefore understands the importance of sustainable development and actively pursues it.
  • In addition, project strategies and actions can be changed quickly in response to information gathered from complex environments.

We look beyond mandates and we ensure that our decisions are informed by credible and accurate evidence.

  • Mandates and outcomes are shared.
  • Data gathering is important, to ensure that projects are evidence-based.

We often ask ourselves: “Are we doing the right things, in the right way, for the right reasons?

  • Time for self-reflection and team reflection is prioritised.
  • Time for the sharing of lessons learned is built into meeting agendas.
  • Lessons from success and failure are captured and shared.
  • Decisions are made quickly, as often there is a need for short turnaround times.

We want to work together in a manner that builds trust.

  • This translates into Provincial Departments and Local Municipalities actively seeking ways to work together, across silos, towards shared goals.
  • Leaders and management empower their teams, and enable them to experiment.
  • Trust is built so that team members feel comfortable giving and receiving feedback.Such feedback is centred around the overall project purpose.
  • The team makes itself open to “failing forward”, thus enabling experimentation and innovation.
  • The team is able to acknowledge that they don’t have all the answers.

For the Whole of Society Approach to be sucessful, the following factors are critical:

  • The WoSA approach and associated attitudes must be embedded in the municipal environment.
  • It must be recognised that this approach to socio-economic development is about human engagement, culture change, learning through experimentation and possible failure, as well as about collaborative leadership towards shared mandates and outcomes.  It is not about just integrating meeting schedules.
  • Consistent, empowering leadership and role-modelling must come from the HoD (i.e. the most senior) level.
  • Community organisations must play a key role and be recognised as integral partners.
  • WoSA must be led by the services and sectors in question, such as Health, Education, Social Services, etc.