ITD case study included in "Appreciate Inquiry for Change Management" book release


At ITD we are always proud to be able to make valuable contributions wherever we can. We are proud to announce that one of our case studies has been included in the book "Appreciative Inquiry for Change Management.

See below for a summary of the content.



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The Reading Rainbow

The Importance of Diversity Literacy in South Africa

By Kutlwano Bokala

“Reading is not walking on the words; it's grasping the soul of them.” – Paulo Freire

We live in a time where progressive transformation equals superficial compliance to BEE statutes, radical social justice equals ridiculed cries of passion and increased globalisation equals the westernisation of Africa. Many South Africans will graduate from educational institutions, retire from illustrious careers, travel to foreign countries and affiliate with people from diverse backgrounds, never having to encounter concepts of race, gender, age, sexuality, disability and post-colonialism in meaningful ways. Nor will they be required to consider how these theories apply in their everyday lives and contribute to the present-day complexities of South Africa that require a greater understanding of the concept known as diversity and the changing relationships of people differently positioned within the nation-state. However, the influence of South Africa’s prevailing legacy on the current social climate desperately calls for its citizens to develop a soul-seeking curiosity into the social politics of what it means to be different. This is especially true for Human Resources professionals, educators, politicians, social activists, corporate executives, civil servants and other leaders in society at the helm of transformative nation building.

Beyond the legalities of employment equity that seem to force the hand of those belonging to dominant groups or the negative responses to images of students fighting for radical change, there is a need for South African professionals to prepare themselves to function sensitively in social contexts characterised by diversity. Hence, Diversity Literacy as an acquired competency should be a fundamental constituent in the socially constructed imaginary of its citizens. A sort of reading practice is necessary for one to begin to “read” the social relations and pervasive structures of inequality within society the way one would “read” text.

Inspired by Steyn’s (2014) Critical Diversity Literacy Framework, the efforts of a diversity-literate individual should be employed in accordance with the following criteria:

•             Identifying the material and symbolic manifestations of dominant identities e.g. whiteness, heterosexuality, masculinity, ablebodiedness, heteronormativity, christonormativity, etc.

•             Exposing how these systems of oppression intersect, interlock, co-construct and constitute each other

•             Recognising the definition of oppressive systems such as racism as current social problems rather than a historical legacy

•             Understanding that social identities are learned and an outcome of social practices

•             Analysing of the ways in which diversity hierarchies and institutionalised oppressions are mediated by class inequality

•             Engaging with issues of transformation of oppressive systems towards deepening democracy in all levels of social organisation

This provocative way of appraising the social complexities of an evolving world requires individuals to adopt an analytical orientation that allows one to develop an integrated consciousness that is personal, social and political. A dialectic experience is ignited within the individual whereby personal liberation and social transformation manifest as virtuous foundations of existence. Literacy thus becomes a liberating exercise of transformation; to understanding what one “reads” and to “writing” what one understands.

Drawing on the cutting edge of social theory and the recognition of social construction, Diversity Literacy opens up new ways of thinking about the commonly held ‘truths’ about Mzansi’s diversity problem and other cultural issues exacerbating it. Therefore, it is crucial that society begins to see beyond the taken-for-granted facts disseminated by dominant discourses like mass media or government that ultimately hold up the structures of systematic oppression.

South Africans need to wake up from the slumbers of complacency induced by the sweet lullabies of neoliberalism and sharpen their euphoric vision of national harmony blurred by the utopian ideals of “rainbowism”. This is not to say that the South African dream for the rainbow nation is an illusion. On the contrary, it is very much a reality. An imaginary, socially constructed, that calls for one not to stop believing in the rainbow but to interrogate the creation of the rainbow in the first place.


Freire, P. (1985). The Politics of Education: Culture, Power, and Liberation. South Hadley, Mass: Bergin & Garvey.

Martín-Baró, I. (1994). Writings for a Liberation Psychology. A. Aron & S. Corne (Eds.). Harvard: Harvard University Press

Steyn, M. (2010). Critical Diversity Literacy: Diversity Awareness in Twelve South African Organisations. Innovative Issues and Approaches in Social Sciences, 3 (3).

Steyn, M. (2014). Critical Diversity Literacy: Essentials for the Twenty-first Century. In Routledge International Handbook of Diversity Studies (pp. 379–389). New York: Routledge. 


unnamedKutlwano Bokala is a writer and researcher specialising in organisational development and human resource solutions at the Institute for Transdisciplinary Development (ITD).

She holds a Bachelor of Commerce and honours degrees in Human Resource Management from the University of Pretoria and is currently completing a Master’s degree in Diversity Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand. Her academic interests are in Critical Diversity and the interdisciplinary course of study that ranges widely between, but not limited to, social psychology, politics, gender studies, critical race studies, queer phenomenology, sociology, affective studies, social justice education, de-colonial studies and intersectionality.

With the guidance of her supervisor SARChi ( South African Research Chairs Initiative) chair of Wits Centre for Diversity Studies, prof Melissa Steyn, Kutlwano aims to publish her thesis titled “The Affective Black Experience: Struggles with Conformity for Young Black Professionals in Corporate SA”. In her thesis, she aims to amplify the experiences of young black professionals struggling to assimilate into the dominant work culture of their organisation, often foreign to their own, as well as expose the power structures that construct the subjectivities of such employees as outsiders within.

As an aspiring social scientist, Kutlwano attributes her pursuit for social justice, transformative equality and personal liberation to her upbringing as an Afro-Canadian born of politically exiled parents. This transcultural experience informs her professional efforts to empowering individuals from various backgrounds.

When not immersed in her studies, Kutlwano appreciates various expressions of the arts, daring to partake in acting, writing and singing, as well as enjoys the writings of social giants like Sara Ahmed, Kopano Ratele, Warsan Shire and Maya Angelou.


Energised by the sharing of research projects in New Mexico

1010 103282363165058 1609444619 nLast month Elonya Niehaus, researcher at the Institute for Transdisciplinary Development in Centurion, Pretoria, had the opportunity to attend the 5th International Qualitative Research in Management and Organization Conference (QRM) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.

Just back from the visit to the USA she said the conference was attended mostly by academics and researchers in management and organisation studies representing countries such as Africa, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Ireland and United States of America.

“The conference provided the context for qualitative researchers to share their research projects in the management and organisation contexts,” she said. Topics ranged from relational leadership, ethics in management, gender and age in management to research considerations such as reflexivity, auto-ethnography and action research.

“Reflecting back on the conference I realise that the research papers that energised me were those that told stories of research projects where the research was done in such a manner that the research participants also benefitted from participating in the research.

“Keynote speaker, Michelle Fine, who engaged in critical participatory action research, made it clear that we should not only be concerned with theorising, but also engage in practices that interrupt and change. Her examples of participatory action research projects left me inspired to engage in projects where the participants and their respective communities benefit from the research engagements.”

Fine is the Distinguished Professor of Social Psychology at the City University of New York, USA, and her paper was titled “Dialogue, Disruption and Inclusion”. Visit for more publications by Fine.

Megan Reitz’s paper, “Dialogue in Organizations – Developing Relational Leadership,” provided a good example of action research in organizations in which the leaders became the co-researchers in defining practices for developing relational leadership. Visit

Lone Hersted’s paper, “Roleplaying as Participatory Inquiry for Leadership Development & Organizational Learning,” illustrated how a research project can stimulate “learning from within” where people in leadership positions can use role-play and reflecting teams to develop and improve their leadership practices. Visit

How can we do research and write about research in ways that the community where we conduct the research can also benefit from the research? How can managers, leaders, human resource practitioners, industrial psychologists and consultants benefit from the research? 

Niehaus reiterated ITD’s use of participatory action research as the theory of change. “This allows us to apply a cycle of planning, engagement and reflection in collaboration with both our clients and our transdisciplinary team members, aimed at facilitating transformative change to the benefit of the client organisation. As change consultants, we do not engage with clients from an expert position where we make diagnosis of what is wrong in the organisation. Instead, we use our skills in facilitating a ‘change and learning process from within’.

“Through the use of dialogue and conversation we co-create a context where the organisation and its members can use their successes, strengths and past experiences to initiate constructive change.”


ITD Researher to Attend International Conference in USA

Elonya Niehaus Coetzee editedElonya Niehaus, researcher at the Institute for Transdisciplinary Development, will be attending the 5th International Qualitative Research in Management and Organization Conference (QRM) from 22 to 24 March in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.

The theme of the conference is “Dialogue, Disruption and Inclusion” and the two keynote speakers are Michelle Fine, Distinguished Professor of Social Psychology at the City University of New York, USA, and John Shotter, Emeritus Professor of Communication, University of New Hampshire, USA,

Michelle Fine engages in critical participatory action research in schools, prisons and communities, to address issues of injustice, exclusion, dispossession and contested subjectivities. Her concern is not just to theorise, but to interrupt and change.

John Shotter has long been interested in disrupting and refiguring inquiry from “aboutness” to “withness” thinking, to a kind of before-the-fact 'in process' thinking instead of the after-the-fact “cause & effect” thinking we do currently in response to events that have already happened. He is interested in participatory forms of life and inquiry in a world of living, embodied beings: to movements of feeling and moments of judgment.

Both are embedded in working with communities in inclusive dialogical ways.

The aim of QRM 2016 is to explore the implications of dialogue, disruption and inclusion in researching organizational life.

"I feel privileged to be given this opportunity to attend an international qualitative research conference," Elonya said. "Not only because it is an opportunity to travel abroad, but also to be given the chance to engage with people interested in collaborative and dialogical practices for research. I hope that this conference will give me new information and experiences that I can use to add value to ITD and the work that we do in organisations and communities.

I am passionate to make visible the transformative work that ITD does by researching and writing about our unique ‘transformation through participation’ approach. I hope that this conference will inspire new ways of researching ITD’s business practices.

"This will be my first visit to the USA. I have always dreamt about experiencing New York. Now this will become a reality – after attending the conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, my husband will join me in New York. We have a friend who lives there and together with her we will experience New York ‘through her eyes’."

For more information visit



Transformation in the workplace - SAAP Conference 2016

At the recently held conference in Pretoria organised by the Southern African Association for Pastoral Work (SAAP) Dr Johan Dill, Senior Consultant at ITD, conducted a workshop focusing on “Transformation in the Workplace: The Role of Appreciative Inquiry in Change”.

This presentation tied in with the main theme of the conference “Healing as a Pastoral Challenge” introduced by the keynote speaker Prof Wentzel Coetzer.

In his presentation, Dill explored the current pastoral challenge faced by counsellors from the perspective of the workplace and industry, where most working people spend their days in stressful and challenging environments. 

He quoted from a 1969 thesis by the late Prof Ernie Marais, his father-in-law, highlighting general anxiety, interpersonal conflict, personal frustration and fear of failure as psychological categories of threat. Almost fifty years later, all these themes of challenging stress and pain are still prevalent in the workplace. 

 As a public practical theologian Dill aligns himself with fellow theologians such as Daniel Louw (hermeneutical approach), Charles Gerkin (hermeneutical approach), Dirk Kotzé (systems-constructivist and narrative approach) and more recently with R Ruard Ganzevoort (empirical-reconstructive and critical constructive approach and Nico Koopman (theology to fulfil its public role towards the community). 

Hermeneutical, contextual, constructivist and public aspects inform Dill’s approach to the modern workplace of business and manufacturing as a complex environment where people have to function optimally. 

Since business situates itself firmly in the marketplace with an associated culture of earnings and profit, pastoral counsellors will have to adapt a new strategy – different to that of the clerical client-pastor relationship. 

In this environment, the pastoral counsellor will have to balance two clients: business and management on the one hand and the employee (or groups of employees) on the other. Serving as a bridge between these seemingly opposed groups the pastoral counsellor has to generate a shared story, co-created by the individual as well as the organization.

Since business situates itself firmly in the marketplace with an associated culture of earnings and profit, pastoral counsellors will have to adapt a new strategy – different to that of the clerical client-pastor relationship.

From a methodological perspective, the counsellor will draw on a participative action approach to research and narrative and appreciative inquiry pastoral counselling tools to serve clients. In this regard healing takes on a different form to that of a context where only individual interviews take place. Healing becomes a “shared story, co-created by the individual and the organization, based on a mutual sense of responsibility for the business, and promotes success as a whole” (Marc Kahn, 2014, in “Coaching on the Axis”).

Dill concluded his workshop by presenting a case study “Manufacturing of a Spiral Casing Product at DCD Heavy Engineering” in collaboration with the plant manager, Mr Nico Fourie (who explained the technical and the human challenges during the manufacturing process). Dill and Fourie outlined the nature of Dill’s interventions in the process and gave indication of positive results achieved after many months working on this challenging project.

This case study confirmed Dill’s earlier argument that the pastoral counsellor has an important role to play by being empirically close to people in the workplace, where they practice so-called lived religion. In addition, the pastoral counsellor can affirm workers’ self-worth and rekindle their hopes and dreams.