On 6 April 2021, FunDza turned 10 years old! We’re hugely proud of our longevity and the impact that we have had on the lives of young people across our country – and beyond too!

A little later in the year we will release an impact report that will document what we’ve achieved in the last 10 years, but here are 10 of the top facts:

Through our Family / book distribution programme we have:

1 Supported 610 organisations around the country

2 Delivered 127,000 books, 14,000 funzines and 307,000 pocket booklets

3 Trained 194 teachers/reading group facilitators face-to-face and 71 online

4 Delivered 113 reading or writing workshops to 3,200 learners

5 Hosted 33 WhatsApp webinars for reading clubs reaching 257 participants

Through our Fanz / online programme we have:

6 Consistently (over the past four years) reached more than 100,000 users each month online, and last year we reached 720,000 returning readers (active and regular)

7 Commissioned and published 739 brand new original short stories or books (135 of which were written by young mentored writers and 133 in other South African languages), 1,083 articles or blogs, and sourced and published 458 children’s stories (113 in other SA languages)

8 Published the creative writing work of 4,978 Fanz writers, 65 of whom have been mentored to write short stories, and 23 of whom have been mentored to write blogs

9 Delivered 57 courses to 41,539 course participants 21,210 of whom completed the course, and 4,153 of whom received certificates of excellence

10 Received 538,000+ comments on stories, articles, poetry and blogs on the fundza.mobi site

We know that these are all just numbers, and that what really matters is whether or not all this reading and writing is changing lives. We try to gauge this by conducting regular surveys of our readers, writers and course participants.

These survey impacts are self-reported but they speak directly to our theory of change. In terms of this, we are wanting to encourage young people to read more content, to read more frequently and to enjoy reading more – as research confirms that the more young people read, the better they get at reading. The testimonies of readers point to this cycle.

In the 2020/1 Annual Reader Survey, 66% of respondents said that their reading had ‘improved a lot’ and a further 24% said it had ‘improved quite a lot’.

61% said that they were reading ‘a lot more frequently’ and 30% said they were reading ‘a little more frequently’.

In terms of reading enjoyment, 36% said that they didn’t like reading before but do now, and 49% said they had enjoyed reading before but liked it even more now.

From the comments that describe these impacts, we can gain some insights into how these changes are manifest. Frequently readers wrote about how their vocabulary has expanded – as this one comment shows: “I have learned new words that I didn’t know. My vocabulary has increased and I am flowing with words when reading.”

There is also knowledge gain – “I gained more knowledge about certain things that I did not know about. I get to exercise my mind. I now read without a stop.”

Readers say that they are also learning from the stories and applying this knowledge in their own lives. The act of reading itself is also helping respondents to make better and safer choices for themselves, to become more confident in their thoughts and opinions, and to get in touch with their feelings, as these comments show:

“Reading FunDza stories, poems and drama improved my life because they are really educative. Nowadays when I come across a difficult situations I know how to deal with it because I look at it with a different perspective than before.”

“It has helped me be more open minded and I saw many opportunities. I have archived certificates and still willing to achieve more. I now understand people’s feelings and their heart-breaking experiences.”

“Reading keeps my busy since well there was nothing I can do beside chilling at Indian’s shop, watching my peers smoking drugs. Ever since I discover fundza my life improved very much. Am always indoors reading. I don’t see any reason to go out and do nothing. instead I read and I find the best way to use my free time by reading here on fundza.”

“When life gets tough I search for the story that relates to what I am going through and it always soothe my heart.”

“I am now woke as they say alert and aware of things that are happening around me. I am able to interpreet and interact with others in various topics i am no longer the silent one with no opinion or view on certain subjects.”

Click here to download an overview of FunDza’s 2020/1 Annual Reader survey results.

In the last 10 years we’ve been privileged to learn from our readers and writers, and from the people who have contributed to our organisation and its work. Here are the top 10 lessons that we’ve gleaned and which have helped to shape our work.

1 Local relatable content works: We can see that content that reflects the lives of our readers is the most popular… bonus points if it is written by someone (i.e. a young-ish person) who is similar to our target readers!

2 Readers are aspirational – they want to improve their lives and their communities: We can see this through the popularity of our courses and through the demands made for content that helps readers to either find jobs, become the masters of their financial futures, make changes to their communities, or develop themselves personally!

3 Readers LOVE interaction and they want it more: feedback shows that readers want to be active participants on the fundza.mobi platform and on our social media. Responding to comments online and providing opportunities for readers to like content makes a difference.

4 Readers can be writers too! Almost 5,000 young people have had their writing published thus far on the site… and there are lots more who want to get published. We’re trying different ways (i.e. our FunDza Fellowship programme launched this year) to reach more young writers and help them to improve their writing work.

5 Design with low digital literacy in mind: From the comments and suggestions it is clear that many of our readers/writers are not that digitally literate, so it is vital to design the technology with that in mind and make the journeys and experiences as smooth as possible.

6 Design for old slow devices: Most of our readers are using older devices that are slow – so designing mobile first and data-light – is key to getting people to engage.

7 Get fundza.mobi into spaces in which our users spend their time: It’s not enough to remove the barrier of high data costs (i.e. being zero-rated by the mobile operators), it is also important to be easily discoverable – partnerships with Moya Messenger and FreeBasics.com are key to FunDza’s growth and success.

8 Incentivise enough (but not too much): Competitions do help a lot with engagement, but don’t only rely on these… Our aim is to grow intrinsically motivated readers and writers who love to read and write for its own sake. So, aim to find ways to reward those behaviours you want to encourage (our Fantastic FunDza Fanz competition that ran in September 2020 successfully rewarded lengthy reading behaviours – more here).

9 Innovate and experiment as much as possible: One of FunDza’s core strengths has been to try out new projects and to work in interesting ways with partners too. This innovative approach and ability to test ideas has meant that we are continuously reinventing ourselves and offering new and exciting opportunities for our beneficiaries – whether unlikely partnerships such as the one with Freedom House for the ‘People of Phendula Park’, or the Momentum Metropolitan Foundation and the ‘Majolas’ financial literacy projects, or special projects like #Slam4UrLife – FunDza is continuously offering something new to enjoy!

10 Love the work! We’re a small team and it takes a lot to ensure that we have new content each day, new courses each month, and exciting special projects on the go continuously. We’re so lucky that the FunDza team has always consisted of individuals who have LOVED the work of FunDza and who have LOVED engaging with FunDza’s Fanz and Family and Friends. Without these dedicated people FunDza could never have reached the 10-year milestone.

So, here’s to the next 10 years and all the possibilities for FunDza and its growing communities of readers, writers and learners!

#LoveReading #LoveWriting #LoveLearning