Breaking free : exploring dialogue for collective action in the Footballers 4 Life Intervention at the Heidelberg Correctional Centre.
Many community development initiatives place great emphasis on the need for the a participatory approach towards development. Here the beneficiaries are expected to engage in dialogue and collective action in order to be empowered and consequently developed. This study therefore seeks to explore the elements of dialogue and collective action in a crime prevention and health promotion intervention that was administered by a non-governmental organisation called Footballers for Life (F4L) at the Heidelberg Correctional Centre (Johannesburg, South Africa) from March to August 2011 amongst a group of 40 male offenders. Premised on the idea that true human development should be participatory and therefore dialogical, this study used Participatory Communication to explore dialogue for collective action within the mentioned intervention. Participatory Communication was applied through the use of the Communication for Participatory Development Model (CFPD), which was used as a guide through which dialogue for collective action was explored. Furthermore, F4L is an organisation that uses retired professional football stars who, acting as role models, offer a unique approach towards effecting behaviour change amongst the communities they work with. Hence in this regard this study used the Social Cognitive Theory to primarily explore the significance of role modelling towards behaviour change in the F4L programme at the Heidelberg Correctional Centre. Taking a qualitative research approach, this study used interviews, focus groups as well as a participant observation schedule to collect the relevant data. This data was analysed through a thematic analysis which was facilitated through the use of a data analysis software package called NVivo. The study reveals how the offenders were excluded from the initial dialogue that took place between F4L and the prison in the recognition of the problems facing the offenders and planning of the intervention. Upon invitation to join the F4L programme the offenders went into it without any sense of ownership or clear understanding of what the programme was about potentially threatening the envisaged purpose of the programme. However, the study also found that the democratic leadership style and genuine efforts of the F4L head Coach (Silver) were able to play a key role in fostering a sense of brotherhood and therefore ownership of the developmental process amongst the offenders leading to the attainment of certain individual as well as social outcomes, i.e. self-reliance, empathy, budgeting skills, collective efficacy as well as communal trust.