Connections Carnival: Seven changemakers awarded activation funding

Author: Simon Sizwe Mayson


The Towns Action Network, convened by the EDP and partners, has awarded micro-grants to seven initiatives across 12 South African towns for a cross-country changemaking festival 

Acrobatic buskers entertain festival goers at the Village Green at the National Arts Festival in Makhanda. Source: Shutterstock

Seven finalists from small towns across South Africa have been awarded micro-grants as part of a ‘Connections Carnival’ funding opportunity launched through the Towns Action Network (TAN) in June. Over 50 submissions were received, featuring a wide range of proposals of innovative public events aimed at boosting local regeneration.  

The winning proposals – which include youth-lead story telling and artistic placemaking events in the Eastern Cape, indigenous learning exchanges in Kwazulu-Natal, and citizen activations in the Free State – will each receive small grants and support from TAN partners to host their initiatives in their hometowns between September and November 2022 as part of a cross-country ‘Connections Carnival’. 

In November, the winners and partners aim to gather in the Genadendal/Greyton valley in the Western Cape, to be hosted by the Valley of Six Changemakers Network for a Connections Carnival finale event. The process aims to build connections towards regeneration within and between towns, for which the EDP is hosting an online learning and support network between finalists. 

The seven finalists are as follows:

The Power of One Odendaalrus, Free State
Event Date: August/September
Proposal: Promoting and lobbying active citizenry through a community development initiative.

Hessequa Harmonie Heidelberg, Western Cape
Event Dates: 20 – 24 September 2022
Proposal: Connecting different socioeconomic groups through music events in three towns: Heidelberg, Riversdale and Slangrivier. 

Creative Enterprise Propeller – Indwe, Eastern Cape
Event Date: 29 October 2022
Proposal:  Storytelling using the performing arts with diverse youth aged 14 to 30, followed by a ‘solutions finding lab’ to challenges that have been identified. 

The Makana Route PADP Makhanda/Peddie, Eastern Cape
Event Dates: 1 – 3 September 2022
Proposal:  A series of small events celebrating placemaking along a new Makana Route in the Eastern Cape and activating changemakers towards regeneration, amongst artists, environmentalists, planners and residents. 

U – the Space – Utrecht, KwaZuluNatal
Event Dates: 1 -11 September 2022
Proposal: Celebrating indigenous knowledge systems and promoting regeneration through earning exchanges with artists in villages around Utrecht 

Namaqua West Coast Tourism – Strandfontein- Matzikama, Western Cape
Event Date: 3 September 2022
Proposal: An innovative sports competition – including canoeing, mountain biking and trail running – and the celebration of local food to promote tourism in the Matzikama region 

Greyton Transition Town /Valley of Six Changemakers Festival – Bereaville, Voorstekraal, Genadendal, Boesmanskloof, Heuwelkroon and Greyton, Western Cape
Event Dates: 25 – 27 November 2022
Proposal: Building meaningful partnerships across six towns through the Valley of Six Changemakers Festival, with a focus on reconnecting with nature, and supporting local green economies with permaculture and food exchanges.

Why the Connections Carnival: Residents in many small towns across South Africa are witnessing first-hand the deterioration of their towns due to the lack of service delivery and maintenance of basic services. Festivals and public events are known for their potential to catalyse changemaking and enable like-minded organisations to partner for greater impact. 

By supporting existing changemakers in small towns to host tangible events that showcase local assets – as part of an ‘asset-based citizen-led development’ approach – the ‘Connections Carnival’ hopes to change people’s attitudes about the places they call home while attracting local investment. 

The Connections Carnival is a project of the Towns Action Network (TAN) which was launched in March 2022 and is hosted by eight Support Partners who are involved in catalysing change in small towns: In Transformation Initiative, RanyakaKagiso TrustRestaurare/Citeplan, Accountability Lab, Karoo Development FoundationDemocracy Works Foundation, and the EDP. The Network aims to enhance accountability of local government to local residents, businesses and local organisations to limit further corruption and promote regeneration efforts.