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SARAO appoints CDI to assist with the implementation of the MeerKAT Creative Community Initiative

Monday, 15 April 2019  
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The CDI has completed a project with the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) in the Northern Cape, which has established the MeerKAT Creative Community Initiative (MCCI) to create an effective upskilling intervention programme in Carnarvon, Vanwyksvlei, Brandvlei and Williston.

Here we have been working with craft producers from disadvantaged backgrounds in under-resourced communities, providing them with creative skills training, as well as basic business and marketing skills, introducing them to the first steps in how to run sustainable businesses.  

The CDI began by conducting an asset audit of the Northern Cape in 2018 and noted the varying degrees of skills, experience, and ability amongst existing craft producers. This was followed by a week-long process of identifying producers of craft and visual artists, and, developing a database of participants from the participating areas. 

In phase two, the training consisted of a creativity and basic business development programme which included a series of workshops focusing on design, creative skills training and developing quality products unique to the Karoo. The creative workshop's objectives were to unlock ideas and concepts for products that draw on the natural and cultural heritage of the Northern Cape in general and the Astronomy precinct in particular. 

Furthermore, this phase focused on the development of products which are unique items that may potentially be found at the SKA Science Exploratorium. The workshops provided the craft producers with creative skills training to build creative courage, turn their ideas into saleable products; alongside workshops that built basic business skills.

In total, 19 craft producers and visual artists participated in the training, culminating in a final phase in February 2019, to embed knowledge gained and lessons learnt – this took the participants on the next step to further enhance their products, improve their costing and pricing, and there was also engagement with the market. This aspect included understanding the market, the retail process, the competition and the importance of packaging to enhance sales. 

In addition, a mentorship programme involved more experienced arts and craft producers, or local entrepreneurs, being paired with those who are less experienced, which then assisted in skills transfer and retaining local knowledge.


The team was headed up by Rosemary Cooke, who manages the CDI’s training programmes, and she was assisted by creative facilitator Mara Fleischer.

“This project was very successful, and it is hoped that it will be a catalyst to stimulate more economic activity in the sector in the Northern Cape. The talent and creativity unearthed in the communities attests to a huge potential for positive change. We are also grateful to the support we received from the local municipalities who generously assisted with organising aspects of the training events, such as logistics and venues,” said Rose.

The next phase, adds Rose, is currently being planned to start in May 2019, and this will look at potential market access opportunities through SARAO.

Apiwe Hotele, Technology Commercialisation Specialist at SARAO, said that a lot of small businesses fail, not only because the small business owners do not have funding, but also because small business owners do not know how to run small businesses. 

“MCCI provided participants with that knowledge, introducing them to small, medium and large markets and emphasising the importance of packaging particularly in arts and craft. Working with Mara and Rose was very easy because they are passionate about what they do. I watched the participants grow under their guidance. We are looking forward to the next phase of the project,” he said.

Leonette Smit, a participant from Vanwyksvlei, expressed thanks to SARAO for the initiative taken to invest in the craft producers of this region, and for the assistance to market their products. “Witnessing the progress in eac
h and every member of the group, is enough confirmation of the huge success reached by CDI with this initiative,” she said.


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