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South Africa Regional Clubhouse Conference Brings Together Members and Alumni from Across Region

First of its kind gathering brings together members and alumni for learning and community-building

Johannesburg, South Africa – From February 27 to March 2, 2019, The Sci-Bono Clubhouse in Johannesburg hosted a regional gathering of Clubhouses. The first South Africa Regional Clubhouse Conference (ARCC) brought together coordinators, members, and alumni from The Bellavista Clubhouse in Johannesburg, The Etwatwa Clubhouse in Benoni, The Johannesburg Region B Clubhouse, and The Soweto Clubhouse in Phefeni and other welcomed guests from area organizations providing similar services.

This conference furthered The Clubhouse mission by giving this regional team the opportunity to explore and experience the Clubhouse learning model as well as build camaraderie and community. The Clubhouse mission is to provide a creative and safe out-of-school learning environment where young people from underserved communities work with adult mentors to explore their own ideas, develop new skills, and build confidence in themselves through the use of technology.

A woman gives a presentation to a class room of students at their computers

“I feel like this is a particularly exciting time in South Africa,” said Jeff Arthur, Community Liaison for The Clubhouse Network. “The president just mentioned technology–’the 4th Industrial Revolution’–in his nationwide speech and here it is the South African Clubhouses organize a historic regional conference; one that includes coding and virtual reality.”

This conference was the first of its kind for the network. Like other regional Clubhouse gatherings, this conference provided professional development opportunities for coordinators. In addition to serving Clubhouse professionals, each coordinator from participating sites brought mentors, many of whom are also Clubhouse alumni. On the last day of this conference, over 60 members joined to deepen relationships, many of which were initially built at The Clubhouse Networks biennial Teen Summit.

A group of teen girls take a photo of a decorative cube

One of the purposes of the conference was to share experience, knowledge, and resources in a hands-on way. This was an opportunity for Clubhouse staff to acquire additional technical skills as a means to continuously adapt and deepen The Clubhouse learning model. A virtual reality training activity particularly stood out for attendees. Clubhouse founders and MIT Media Lab representatives Mitchel Resnick and Natalie Rusk and graduate students Yusef Ahmad and Marian Muthuiled led a well-received Scratch Workshop. The member summit at the end of the week was filled with team-building activities and group projects, closing with performances and presentations of those projects.

360 VIDEO: Watch Bongani Mnisi, Clubhouse Coordinator of The Soweto Clubhouse lead youth in a traditional song

Special to this cohort of Clubhouses is their exploration of a unified South African Clubhouse identity. Understanding that there is power in numbers, they hope to work together to approach businesses and partners for resources. While this has been attempted by other groups, these Clubhouses are using their own unique methods to build a coalition.

These five Clubhouses in South Africa are members of The Clubhouse Network, a global community comprised of more than 100 Clubhouses in 18 countries, providing 25,000 youth per year with access to resources, skills, and experiences to help them succeed in their careers, contribute to their communities, and lead outstanding lives.

All photos by Jeff Arthur, Community Liaison, The Clubhouse Network