Towns Action Network Announces Funding Partnership with Embassy of Finland

The Towns Action Network announces a new funding partnership with the Embassy of Finland, as the national learning and support platform expands its partnering reach for town regeneration in South Africa. 

Author: Nobungcwele Mbem


Lazaan Swarts with her stand of seedlings and herbs at the Changemakers Festival in the Genadendal valley, an event supported by TAN. Credit: Ashraf Hendricks 

The Towns Action Network (TAN) is excited to announce a new funding partnership with the Embassy of Finland’s Fund for Local Cooperation, that will support the network’s efforts to connect changemakers and foster local partnerships across sectors to regenerate small and medium size towns in South Africa.

TAN is an action-inspired learning and support network aimed at catalysing the untapped potential of struggling towns, and fostering collaborative action between local municipalities, residents and business for sustainable change and impact.

The network’s activities – designed to inspire joint action to revive small town economies and build mutual accountability – are co-lead by the Economic Development Partnership (EDP) and seven other Support Partners – Ranyaka, Kagiso TrustRestaurare/ Citeplan, Karoo Development Foundation, Accountability Lab SAPublic Affairs Research Institute (PARI),South African Local Government Association (SALGA).

The network also uses storytelling to spotlight ‘what is strong instead of what is wrong’ to celebrate stories of impact and hope, while promoting learning between changemaker-led initiatives.

Supporting changemakers for town regeneration

The Finnish Embassy’s Fund for Local Cooperation (FLC) supports and builds partnerships with civil society organisations working toward strengthened civil society, governance and economic development. Previous partners include Fetola, ICLEI Africa and Womhub.

As one of the 2023/2024 fund recipients, TAN will continue to support and amplify the inspiring work being done by TAN’s current network of around 200 members, while expanding its national reach.

“Our small and intermediary towns have so much potential, with many changemakers actively working towards improving the social and economic positions of their communities, ” says Nobungcwele Mbem, EDP Project Lead.

“This national network connects these changemakers in structured yet creative ways to share ideas, access knowledge and ultimately, build a world of local partnership to help bring small towns out of decline.”

Tsakane Bok, Fund for Local Cooperation (FLC) Coordinator at the Embassy of Finland in Pretoria adds: “We hope this funding partnership will contribute towards good and accountable governance in South Africa and help communities to fight against corruption.”

Looking ahead

In 2022, TAN awarded micro-grants to seven initiatives across 12 South African towns to host innovative public events as part of a Connections Carnival aimed at boosting local regeneration. As the final event, a Changemakers Festival was hosted by the Valley of Six Changemakers Network in Genadendal, Western Cape, bringing together 30 local civil society groups – as well as the Norma Canjanie Agricoop and Voorstekraal Women’s Network.

In the coming year, TAN partners will co-lead a series of partnering for action and learning exchanges for its member network, while expanding its connecting power into more local communities across South Africa.

In one example, a TAN initiative lead by Citeplan in partnership with the EDP, Ranyaka, Kagiso Trust and the Valley of Six Changemakers will implement COGTA’s Small Towns Regeneration (STR) strategy in Theewaterskloof in collaboration with the local municipality, comparing the towns of Grabouw and Genandedal.

Other funded activities will include

  • Regular online TAN network gatherings and newsletters to promote cross-sectoral learning and the sharing of resources between members.
  • Expertise and capacity building from a panel of technical experts to empower TAN changemakers.
  • An open-source digital platform for sharing knowledge and support resources between the network members.

The new funding will also strengthen the network’s ability to capture learning and amplify stories of change and accountability, to inspire citizens about the potential of partnering for change.

Interested in joining TAN?

The Towns Action Network is open to any organisation or individual involved in small town regeneration and governance, including residents and businesses, municipal officials, civil society, community organisations, researchers, media and other changemakers.

To join TAN or sign up to the TAN Newsletter, email Nobungcwele Mbem