Our Workshop

A picture of Heath Nash, the founder of Our Workshop, standing in front of the front door of the workshop space in Cape Town

Our Workshop is a nonprofit organisation which does up-liftment and sharing for the purpose of trying to change racial inequality. Our focus is primarily in Cape Town for now, but we want to reach more audiences with this website. Aside from the NPO, Our Workshop Projects is a Pty (Ltd) and it exists to earn profit to support the Our Workshop NPO by selling products and services. This is a model of a social enterprise where the NPO and the Pty(Ltd) feed one another. In this way, anyone in the world can get involved by supporting our creations, and thereby supporting the Our Workshop NPO, which was founded in December 2016.

I met Heath Nash, the founder of Our Workshop, while on sabbatical in 2017. He invited me to one of the creative workshop sessions (I wove plastic on a loom!) just outside of Langa Township, in Cape Town.

It transpired that Our Workshop are underfunded (like many NPO’s in developing countries). I quickly realised the significance of what they were doing and asked how I could get more involved.

To collaboratively build a long-lasting, self-sustaining, community-run, free-to-use workshop space for creative professional development using the design-thinking-process as a method for problem-solving.

The Our Workshop Mission

The challenge

 

Heath & I met again at Our Workshop, and this time we discussed the needs and challenges that the Workshop faced. Heath explained that in order to start to understand and explore one’s creative potential one needs:

  1. The space (physically and mentally) to play and learn
  2. Materials and tools to experiment with freely
  3. A supportive community of other creatives within which to learn and share skills, successes and failures
  4. Access to new opportunities for personal and professional growth

I soon learnt that even though Our Workshop was able to provide the space, materials and access – the supportive community part of the equation was often a challenge for Heath & the other volunteers. Heath expressed that a new website could help deal with a lot of these challenges, so I began by asking questions about what the website would allow Our Workshop to do better.

A new website presence could help:

  • To teach/share design thinking on an ongoing basis, and share the importance of the design thinking by showing/doing to a wider community.
  • To show more people how they could get involved in taking part (to encourage more youth, and more individuals to partake in the community projects and workshops) – by showing upcoming events and also featuring past projects.
  • To potentially help bridge communication issues and aid in conflict resolution at the Workshop by:
    • allowing everyone who belongs to Our Workshop to feel like they’re part of a team
    • to help share the skills of open honest communication
    • to share individuals’ creative growth within Our Workshop over time by sharing their work online – making them feel like they are truly a part of Our Workshop
  • To help bridge the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged creative communities in the larger context of Cape Town, South Africa (and potentially, the world)
  •  To inform artists/crafters/makers of what is available at the workshop for their use (the tools, materials and other resources available)
  • To help raise funds and create more awareness for Our Workshop – especially in the Corporate community in South Africa, who can offer support by donating materials (eg: offcuts) from factories for the makers to use in their projects, as well as providing financial aid
  • To get ‘established’ creators on site (who don’t understand what Our Workshop is trying to do) to understand the ethos of the workshop and understand the ideology better – encouraging them to join in or get involved in some way

My role on the project

 

After my sabbatical in Cape Town, I returned to London. At the time I was working full time on the Netflix production Giri/Haji, so all the work on the project had to be done after hours and on weekends.

Initially, I was planning on doing the user experience research & design and then graphics, but I soon realised that the day-to-day operations at Our Workshop were taking up a lot of Heath & the Team’s time, so I started to organise the project flow and lead. I did this by putting together a basic waterfall plan in Google docs, and sharing it with the team to give them an idea of the work that was involved.

I decided on a waterfall approach because:

  • The site would need to work with a CMS platform (like WordPress), so that the Our Workshop team could self-manage the site in the future
  • Due to the fact that funding and working with existing WordPress-theme functionality were known project constraints
  • We wanted to get the site up and running, so we had something to show to pitch for funding/grants, which could then allow us to approach future improvements on the website in an agile way

To keep communication flowing, we started a group Whatsapp chat, and a Trello board. These were our main modes of keeping track of the project, along with emails. Video calls were not used often (the connectivity at Guga S’thebe was very poor, and we decided very early on that Whatsapp was much more time efficient for everyone chatting ‘outside’ of normal work hours, as well as being much less invasive).

Research

Method

I carried out remote field interviews with six individuals who had previously worked with sustainable, environmental or community projects in South Africa, or had attended Our Workshop classes in the past. The interviews were carried out over the phone.

 

During the interviews, I kept a Google document log of any insights and thoughts. I would add comments in during the interview – this way I could still capture the exact details of the interview, but add my own thoughts without interrupting the flow of the conversation.

 

Each user was asked the same questions – firstly to introduce themselves and tell me what they did for a living, then what their daily challenges at work were. I followed this part of the interview with questions related to fundraising – asking them if, and when, they donated money or time to a cause, and how they decided they would do this in the first place.

The findings

 

Through the interviews, I found out about potential user’s behaviour towards donating resources to NGO’s, as well as how other NGO’s operated.

My main findings were:

  • A clear lack of connection was identified between different NGO/Community leaders & entrepreneurs in South Africa. The interviewees didn’t know about each other, yet they all worked in related fields and could benefit significantly from knowledge sharing – for example, one interviewee was struggling with a problem and didn’t know of a viable solution – whereas another interviewee explained the same problem to me, and how they solved it in a previous business.
  • For any fundraising to be able to take place in South Africa, the NGO would need certification (BBE status, 18 A Certification, PBO application etc.)
  • Individuals interviewed who did want to donate to a charity or foundation could not alway do so on a regular basis, and would prefer to do once-off donations or opt for volunteering their time or resources instead of money.
  • One of the benefits which was most valued by past attendees of Our Workshop sessions were the connections formed with other members of the creative community.

The platform led me to participate with and meet other creatives, like a fashion designer in my ‘network’ which I wouldn’t have necessarily met otherwise.

Ashleigh, speaking on the benefits of collaborating with Our Workshop on a project in a user-interview

The hypothesis

From the interviews I realised that there was a bigger opportunity to use the Our Workshop website as a platform to ‘gather’ knowledge and connect  individuals with other experienced creatives – for example other small business owners or entrepreneurs.

This online hub could help individuals expand their ‘local’ communities by:

  • enabling a wider reach. The website could provide exposure as well as help forge new networking connections for individuals (not just local, but global)
  • creating a sense of belonging. The website could introduce individuals who previously didn’t know of each other but all rally behind similar causes/have similar values and struggles.
  • providing a high standard of access to creative education (through online content or potential future live-streaming of workshops)

With the added benefits to Our Workshop by:

  • providing an ever-growing network of individuals who are willing to help support and grow the NGO
  • identifying potential sponsors/donors (on a monthly or once-off basis)

The sitemap

Due to a non-existing budget, the site has been slowly built on WordPress over the last year. This is the current sitemap, although the site has not yet been pushed live in full (we won’t launch officially until Sections 4 & 5 are complete, we are working on “Get Involved” currently).

However, pages 1-3 are currently live, and the paypal donations link is also live.