Training Workshops Unlimited (TWU) skills training and career pathway for persons with intellectual disability

TWU equips more than 600 persons with intellectual disability with vital skills for socio-economic inclusion, resilience and independence.

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  • Yes, I fulfill all of the eligibility criteria.

Initiative's representative name

Mr Thomas Bezuidenhout, TWU General Manager

Initiative's representative date of birth

8 April 1956

Initiative’s representative gender

  • Man

Which eligible market are you based in?

  • South Africa

Where are you making a difference?

The Western Cape Province in South Africa and training across five other provinces in South Africa.

Website or social media url(s)

Facebook @capementalhealth; Facebook @CTKiteFest; Instagram @capementalhealth; Instagram @CTKiteFest; Twitter @CMH_NGO; Twitter @CTKiteFest; #LetHopeFly; #CTKiteFest2019;

When was your organisation founded?

June 1913

Focus areas

  • Reskilling and upskilling the workforce

Project Stage

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways) 

Yearly Budget: How much capital do you need to accomplish your proposed project?

  • $500k - $1m

Organisation Type

  • Non-profit / NGO

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed

Cape Mental Health (CMH) was established in June 1913 to address vagrancy and prostitution among young women with a 'mental handicap'on the streets of Cape Town. The oldest mental health society in South Africa, we were driven to establish Training Workshops Unlimited (TWU) in 1980 as a job creation, job coaching and poverty alleviation project for persons with intellectual disability - who are routinely excluded from socio-economic life because of lack of skills, limited access to appropriate education, stigma and prejudice. Sadly, more than 80% of people with intellectual disability are either unemployed or underemployed and face significant challenges in achieving greater independence, self-determination and future employment.

2. The problem: What problem surrounding employability or financial capability are you helping to solve?

Persons with intellectual disability are often excluded from socio-economic life because of low literacy levels, lack of work skills and experience. They do not have the same educational opportunities as others and, when they do complete their basic education at schools for learners with special educational needs, they continue to be marginalised by society, are unfairly perceived as 'unemployable' and face exclusion in the open labour market.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

TWU offers a comprehensive rights-based programme at 4 workshops in Athlone, Mitchells Plain, Retreat and Khayelitsha (all disadvantaged communities in the greater Cape Town area). The programme provides basic and advanced life skills for improved mental health as a key component of health, coping skills and resilience; vocational education and skills acquisition and supported employment through job coaching'; financial literacy; and self-advocacy training for improved self-determination and inclusion in the open labour market; and entrepreneurial training (for a selected few) as a potential 'exit' strategy for programme graduates. We provide services to about 636 adults with intellectual disability a year, of whom 68% are youth aged 18-35. Our model is unique in the Western Cape and South Africa and has been identified as a 'best practice model' by the Department of Social Development (2015) Ministerial Youth Excellence Gold Award, the NYDA, the S A Federation for Mental Health, and the Zero Project Innovative Practices Award (2017). Subsequently the HWSETA funded us to train 225 participants nationally in shifting mindsets to transform protective workshops across the country.

4. How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solving the problem?

Our training and interventions are culturally appropriate to South African youth, accessible for those with limited/no literacy skills, incremental in the training and development process, and responsive to the challenges of life faced by persons doubly prejudiced by being disabled and poor. Our approach is to safeguard their dignity, their constitutionally entitled rights (e.g. the right to vote), their right to self-representation and self-advocacy, their ability to offer peer support as persons with lived experience, and their right to accessible information on matters affecting their freedom, health and safety. We offer experiential learning and opportunities for them to make a purposeful contribution in the workplace and in society.

(Instructions for questions 5 and 6, no answer required) Please only answer the question (5 - “employability” or 6 - “financial capability”) that applies to your organization’s topic of work (see below for definitions)


5. Employability: how is your organization or project teaching people to develop the skills that they need to survive in the future job market?

Basic life skills training offers independence training for trainees not yet ready for the work skills programme - skills are developed in personal hygiene, money management, time management, HIV/AIDs and sexuality, basic work skills, safety awareness, and affordable leisure time. Advanced life skills training and work skills training develop technical skills in the use of tools/equipment to enable them to work within a production team. Trainees learn about quality control and meeting deadlines - and implement these skills in various production units (e.g. assembly-type work, woodwork, sewing, cement work, wire-and-beaded products, etc). The Bridging to the Open Labour Market level improves their employability through practical experience in contract work, learnerships, internships, volunteer/trial placements, enclave employment, job applications and supported jobs with job coaches.

5a. Please describe which future-oriented skills your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress

Trainees are able to use public transport and community resources; they manage their health, sexuality, relationships, and finances (disability grants, budgets); they employ safety measures at home and at work; they learn to solve problems, be self-reliant, and self-advocate. They learn the basic principles of commerce through opening bank accounts, buying commodities and cell phone data, and using social media/WhatsApp. We measure progress through baseline/post-baseline questionnaires and focus groups involving trainees, families, and TWU staff, and are able to track employment data.

7. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Organisations such as the Western Cape APD and the Oasis Association run workshops to employ persons with disabilities, but TWU’s structured training and career pathway is unique. We offer a model of transformation for protective workshop, where persons with intellectual disability functioning at different levels are regarded as adults in training towards employment in the open labour market with maximum integration into society. We offer progression, exit opportunities and continued support, complemented by self-advocacy structures for service users to evaluate and advise on service delivery.

8. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

TWU trainees are made aware of their rights and during the advanced life skills development and assimilation of open labour market vocational practices, they are afforded opportunities to participate actively in various advocacy initiatives, such as the Women’s Advocacy Group, the Training Committee, Trainee Council, Advocacy Pressure Group, Peer Supporters and Mental Health Advocacy Officers. These initiatives have surpassed our expectations this past year, with trainees rising above their circumstances, finding their voices and advocating for those not able to speak for themselves. More than 600 trainees annually enjoy improved mental health and socio-economic empowerment and 100 are supported in the open labour market . Engagement with employers & society challenges negative attitudes and mental disability stereotypes , and addresses existing informational and structural barriers.

9. Financial Sustainability Plan. Can you tell us about you plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

CMH is a 107-year-old organisation with solid infrastructure, an experienced work force, and a diverse income stream. It carries responsibility for the losses of all its programmes and projects. Income is derived from subsidies from the South African Government, professional fees, donations and fundraising, contributions from the community in support of project events, municipal rebates, rent received, trading activities, and funding from the Health and Welfare Sector and Education Training Authority. We operate along business principles and have a proven track record of fiscal discipline and economic resilience. We are on an expansion trajectory and are confident that the organisation will be sustainable in the short, medium and long-term.

10. Team

The president of Cape Mental Health is Dr Amelia Jones who is supported by two deputy presidents. The CMH board (see attachment) has 9 members, of whom 2 are service users representing persons with intellectual disability and psychosocial disability respectively. The CEO of CMH, Dr Ingrid Daniels, is the current President of the World Federation for Mental Health, and is supported by two Assistant Executive Officers and over 160 staff . TWU employs 47 of these staff across the 4 workshops.

Help Us Support Diversity! Are you a member of an under-served , under-represented, or marginalized group in your country of residence? (yes/no) (this question is optional – if you choose to fill it out, the response will not be shared with your fellow contestants)

  • This does not apply to me

If you selected “yes” to any of the categories above, please explain how being a member of this group has impacted you and your work?


How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Participated in previous Ashoka challenges  

11. Bring it to life: Please walk us through a concrete example of how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address

Trainees attend TWU on weekdays, enjoying a structured programme and opportunities for socialisation. They can progress along the levels of the training and career pathway to open labour market employment, acquiring life and work skills, and benefiting from interventions, training, and job coaching aligned to their particular needs. TWU replicates open labour market conditions so trainees learn about work discipline and practices, meeting targets and deadlines, maintaining quality work, taking responsibility, and being able to speak for themselves. This is a great source of pride for them and elevates their status from being disabled and ‘unemployable’ to being able to acquire skills, and greater independence. Trainees are better able to cope with daily challenges because of improved skills in self-care, communication, building relationships, integration, work skills and self-advocacy.

12. Skills Matching: HSBC Employees will have the opportunity to offer skilled-volunteering. If matched, which of the following skills would you be most interested in receiving?

  • Monitoring Impact
  • Research
  • Marketing Strategy, Design
  • Web/Mobile Development

13. Financial Sustainability – funding breakdown: please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating an estimated percentage that comes from each source.

Individual donations or gifts - 2%

Foundations or NGO grants - 4.2%

Bequests - 0%

Corporate contributions - 10.8%

Grants or contracts (State subsidies, SETA Skills grants) - 69%

Earned income (sales, professional fees, contract work, rental income) - 14%

14. Financial Sustainability – please tell us more about how you plan to fund and scale your project over the next 12 months.

State subsidies from the Departments of Employment & Labour, Health, and Social Development make up 69% of income. We derive income from professional fees, donations, special events, property rentals, grants from family trusts and foundations, corporates, and a SETA discretionary grant for skills training. Income is generated by factory-type contract work for 22 companies, gardening /cleaning service, a waterless carwash, manufacturing /sales of cement products (pillars, bricks, paving, pots), woodwork items (e.g. footstools, toy furniture, tables, etc.) and sewing (e.g. tracksuits). CSI funders include Astron Energy, Grandslots, AMSOL, & Polyoak Packaging. The TK Foundation (previous funder) is considering funding our remote mental health services during the COVID-19 lockdown. Operational costs constitute an estimated 38% and programmatic costs the balance of 72%. See uploaded budget.

15. Growth Strategy: What are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

Our strategy encompasses national training and the sale of training materials to transform and shift the mindset of protective workshops that are members of the SA Federation for Mental Health, to do a large-scale employer survey, and to develop accredited and structured post-school qualification for youth with intellectual disability.

16. Activating changemakers: How are you giving people the power to control their own destiny and support other people to become changemakers in their communities?

TWU trainees can participate actively in a Women’s Advocacy Group, Training Committee, Trainee Council, Advocacy Pressure Group, Peer Supporter programme and as Mental Health Advocacy Officers. A service user with intellectual disability serves on the board of Cape Mental Health and attends national meetings of the SA Mental Health Advocacy Movement (SAMHAM). 

17. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?

TWU received national awards from the Department of Social Development (2015 Ministerial Youth Excellence Gold Award) and the SA Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH), and in 2017 an Innovative Practices Award from Zero Project for employment and vocational education &training programmes for people with disabilities.

18. Tell us about how collaborations and partnerships would enhance the scalability and impact of your project

We have partnerships with the Departments of Social Development, Health, and Education & Labour. Through our Innovation and Training Department, TWU will roll out its training and career pathway to protective workshops  who are members of the South African Federation for Mental Health. The collaboration of AMSOL has allowed Cape Mental Health to roll out the Easy to Read programme to close to 1000 service users within the organisation. 

Finally - Your Selfie Elevator Pitch: Share a 1-minute video that shares a quick summary of the problem you would like to solve, how you’ve chosen to solve it, and the impact you hope to see.

Sandra Ellis manages the Donor Development Department at Cape Mental Health, the oldest non-profit mental health society in South Africa. This is her selfie elevator pitch.

Evaluation results

1 evaluation so far

1. OVERALL Evaluation:

Yes, absolutely! - 100%

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2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

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3. Does this entry have SOCIAL IMPACT?

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4. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

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6. FEEDBACK: Highlights

IMPACT POTENTIAL: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) – and you have a concrete plan for future impact. You have specific tools for measuring impact. - 0%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: You have a great understanding of the problem, have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful solutions - 0%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work operationally and financially in the present and future; your plan is specific and you value sustainability. - 100%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: You have a good plan on how to activate changemakers and empower them to innovate through your product or programming - 0%

Other option - 0%

7. FEEDBACK: Areas for Improvement

IMPACT POTENTIAL: make sure to provide specific instances of your social impact (or how you plan to measure impact) – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, the main activities/products, and provide evidence of (or plan for) impact evaluation - 0%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: make sure to describe how your solution is unique and innovative – it is helpful to include the research you have done on past solutions and how your solution is different from (and/or builds upon) these. - 0%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 100%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: make sure you describe your plan for how to empower others to become changemakers through your programming, service, or product - 0%

WRITING STYLE. Try to be concise, descriptive, and specific. Avoid jargon. - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%

Other option - 0%

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Attachments (8)

TWU - a description of the 6-level training programme.pdf

A description of the TWU training and career pathway, its beneficiaries, self-advocacy initiatives, Easy To Read project and a story of a beneficiary.

TWU CONSOLIDATED BUDGET 2020-2021 & Prices.pdf

A consolidated budget of income and expenditure for 4 Training Workshops Unlimited workshops and a price list for our contract work per production unit and products.

CMH Executive and General Board members 2019-2020.pdf

A list of Cape Mental Health's board members as well as two consumer representatives serving on the board.

CMH Management Forum 2020.pdf

A list of the managers of Cape Mental Health's various departments, programmes and projects.

The lived experience of a TWU service user.docx

The story of a TWU trainee who has moved along the training and career pathway.

Cape Mental Health Annual Review 2016-17 Innovation in Mental Health.pdf

Our Annual Review 2016/2017 pages 13-14 highlights the international recognition by the Zero Project 17 Innovative Practice Award for our intensive development and career path training programme for adults with intellectual disability. The story of Carla illustrates how a service user progresses along the training and career pathway to employment in the open labour market.

Cape Mental Health Annual Review 2017-2018 - Leave no-one behind.pdf

Our Annual Review 2017-2018 pages 12 to 14 highlights our efforts to offer inclusive and ongoing skills training and work opportunities, as well as the training we have offered in South Africa in shifting the mindsets of service providers to promote their empowerment and integration into the work place and the community.

CMH Annual Review 2018-19 - Time to Act Now.pdf

Our 2018-2019 Annual Review pages 14 to 15 highlights our self-advocacy and peer support initiatives to empower service users with intellectual disability. Our Easy to Read project promotes access to comprehensible information for service users with low literacy levels.


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