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Section 8: Lefika as a model of social entrepreneurship

What is open studio?

Ziyanda Magadla

Community art counsellor

8.1 Monitoring and evaluating the Lefika model


We suggest you again watch Hayley Berman’s video 2: Lefika as a social entrepreneurship model.


The case study below describes a research study that was undertaken in 2015 on the Lefika model and its impact.


Case study: The impact of Lefika La Phodiso

Lefika has developed a model of practice emerging from a post-conflict situation. The model attempts to build individual and group capacity to internalise something good-enough that can withstand the frailty, disillusionment and failures of the human condition – particularly within the South African context.

Lefika established the community art counselling training programme in 1997. In line with Lefika’s overall aim, the programme seeks to improve the lives in and communities of South Africa by increasing reach and access to psychosocial support to all individuals and communities affected by trauma.

The impact evaluation aimed to determine the reach and impact of Lefika’s community arts counselling training on improving lives and communities in South Africa. The primary evaluation question was:

Does Lefika’s community art counselling training improve lives and communities in South Africa by increasing reach and access to psychosocial support?

The secondary evaluation questions were:

What is the reach of Lefika’s community arts counselling training?

How does the programme work? 

A mixed-methods design was used to gather data to answer the questions.

A basic frequency analysis was conducted on the quantitative data and thematic content analysis was used to extract key themes from the qualitative data.



Historically, the structure of Lefika’s community art counselling training (being weekly sessions held at Lefika’s studios) limited reach to candidates residing in Gauteng.

Since the inclusion of the modular training in 2014, Lefika’s average number of training beneficiaries per year has doubled.

Number of community art counsellors trained per year

Although Lefika’s trained community art counsellors are based predominantly in Gauteng, their reach now extends into four more provinces, following the introduction of the modular training.

National reach

Through the 80 community art counsellors that Lefika has trained over the past 17 years, they have reached approximately 32 069 beneficiaries directly and 125 068 beneficiaries indirectly. These beneficiaries are reached through the strategic selection of participants who are based in community settings, and who are thus able to have a sustainable reach within their communities. 98% of the beneficiaries come from previously disadvantaged backgrounds.

In all, Lefika has reached an estimated 157 137 children, parents, caregivers, educators and other professionals, spanning across five different provinces, since the inception of the community art counselling training.

This is an incredible reach to have achieved given the size of the organisation, and the next step is to understand exactly what the impact has been on these 157 137 beneficiaries. In attempting to understand this impact qualitative data pertaining to facilitators’ perceptions of the training and the impact of their art counselling groups on their clients were used.



From the responses, there is no doubt that the training has contributed significantly to participants’ personal growth and development. Their responses highlighted four components, which they seemed to regard as significant contributors towards the training’s overall effectiveness. These are: theory, experiential learning, practical application and supervision.

The experiential learning and practical component incorporated into the training process were arguably the most impactful aspects of the training.

The experiential learning gave the participants a very personalised perspective of what it feels like to be a part of a community art counselling group, how it feels when this participation leads to personal growth and development and ultimately shifts one’s perspective.

The practical application, which takes the form of having to facilitate one’s own group, was referred to as “Baptism by fire”, by one of the participants. An immense amount of value was attributed to being given the opportunity to facilitate an art counselling group, during the training. This value was related to the extent to which it allowed participants to integrate and apply the theoretical and experiential components of the course… and seemed to lead to a very real sense of appreciation for what they are capable of as community art counsellors.

These findings, to a large extent, demonstrated that the training works by not focusing intensively on theory (as most academic programmes do), but instead through the unique integration of experience and practice into the learning process. This is shown to result in personal growth, which is, in turn, supported and bolstered by participation in on-going supervision sessions.

Following these findings, the question that arises is whether the trained Community Art Counsellors are able to transfer this impact to the beneficiaries in the groups that they run.

Perceptions of impact

Across the participants’ responses, two key features of their community art counselling groups stood out as significantly influencing the impact of the groups at an individual and community level. These included the provision of a platform for expression and the experience of the art counselling group in itself.

According to the responses, the community art counselling groups provided a platform for expression by creating a safe space in which beneficiaries were able to express themselves, providing them with various art materials to explore in order to do so, and gaining their trust in the process.

The extent to which the platform for expression impacted on beneficiaries, who were too traumatised to talk and those who did not want to talk, extended even to those who could not talk.

The platform for expression provided through the safe space, art materials and sense of trust within the art counselling groups, seemed to have a positive impact on beneficiaries. This positive impact, according to the facilitators’ responses, was observed predominantly in relation to the clients’ sense of belonging and their self-esteem.

While the platform for expression resulted in the positive impact of the art counselling on clients, the experience in itself is what is perceived to sustain this impact, as explained by one of the participants:

“It gives them a new experience that they have never had before. Most of them will tell you they have never created before. As the process goes on, you see how much easier it becomes for them. Get different perspectives of what got them there, to before; a different understanding through the arts…There is a lasting impact, because it is actually an experience on its own. You can't get rid of it, it stays within you. It is not a cure or something like that, but it is an experience that you need to take or reject. Even if you reject it, still that moment it stays within you.”


The findings highlighted an implicit structure, consisting of theory, experiential learning, practical application and supervision, as having a significant impact on facilitators’ personal growth and development as community art counsellors.

The facilitators seemed to be able to translate this into practice, providing a platform for expression and a new and lasting experience for children, parents/caregivers and educators, ultimately leading to perceptions of a positive and sustained impact on clients’ sense of belonging and self-esteem.

Ultimately, the findings support that Lefika’s community art counselling training does improve lives and communities in South Africa by increasing reach and access to psychosocial support.

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