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Community and Individual Development Association (COMMUNITY) is a non-profit project-facilitation organisation with a 30-year history and a significant track record for innovation and effective and measurable impact.

Being a project facilitation organization, COMMUNITY has created structures and legal organizations, each with their own Board, constitution, staff, local representation, and funding. Once projects are established, they are ‘floated’ and continue on their own or with support. This has allowed greatest possible impact over the years.

COMMUNITY itself has maintained a very small core group of social entrepreneurs, who have always been deployed into the various projects and initiatives to conceptualize, initiate, build, and sustain organizations, and has not had a large Board structure or funding in its own right.

Results of our work:

"COMMUNITY has pioneered the ‘free education’ movement in South Africa for post-school education, and the impact of its work is wide-ranging and far-reaching, also having led to a variety of ‘spin-offs’."

Taking kids from school, through university, back into the economy:

  • 5,000 graduates, 4,500 working in jobs, together earning R200 million in annual salaries
  • 500,000 people reached with skills development
  • Over 30,000 students, staff, parents, and principals trained in Self development programmes including Transcendental Meditation and other methodologies for life-enhancement
  • Increasing pass-rates by 25% on 100,000 school marks for 9,000 children
  • Provided 10+ schools in Alexandra township with computers, textbooks, and security equipmentrained
  • Trained more than 10,000 learners, teachers, principals and parents in the self-development programmes in schools in Alexandra, Soweto and the East Rand of Johannesburg from 1995 to 1999
  • These results were comprehensively measured and tracked, and include:
    • Increase in pass-rates of 25% for 9 000 students over a 3-year period, vs. a fall of 1% in pass-rates for 12 000 learners in the control schools
    • Fall in absenteeism of 90% of both learners and teachers in schools
    • Reduction in drug usage, substance abuse, and violence in schools
    • Complete stopping of suicides in schools were program’s were implemented
    • Improved marks in maths, science and English in every grade


The Soweto Craft and Self-Development Centre was started

  • Participants received job training in sewing and garment manufacture, and self-development programmes. A huge number of products were made and sold over the years to make the women involved sustainable.


The Crossroads Self-Development Centre (Western Cape) was started

  • A large community centre was built by Community and Individual Development Association, worth millions of rands, and donated to the community
  • Many community initiatives have been facilitated through having this centre
  • Training residents in sewing and garment manufacture on a large scale was undertaken

The Crossroads Self-Development Centre was eventually burned down in riots, proving to us, that impactful development work is not about buildings its about people. Its about the inner change that needs to take place within people. This has been proven to us again and again. The apparently 'sexy' stuff doesn't make the real difference. Its the intangible people issues, the 'ooga booga' stuff that people ignore. 'Soft' is the new 'hard'.


Sagewood School and Education Centre founded

  • CIDA assisted with the creation of this successful independent school located on a 70-acre campus in Midrand
  • Sagewood was one of the first true multi-racial private schools in South Africa
  • Over R 11 million at the time was raised from De Beers (diamond mining company) to establish the school
  • The school continues to operate very successfully today, with pre-school (pre-primary), primary school, secondary school, and a number of community support programs
  • The school has had 100% matric-pass-rate for the last 10-years
  • The campus is worth over R 60 million in 2009
  • Many thousands of kids have been educated over the years, K-12



10,000 students and teachers trained in Qwa Qwa:

10 000 teachers and students in Qwa Qwa and Free State schools were trained in the Transcendental Meditation technique. The school academic results and other key indicators were tracked and results are available.


The Soweto Self-Learning Centre in Meadowlands and the Alexandra Self Learning Centre were started

  • The centres helped coach students to re-write the matric (Grade 12) examination. Self-development programmes were used to develop a positive and creative approach to life to help with their careers after school.


200 Peace Corps community peace workers trained

  • 200 Peace Corps community peace workers (established by the ANC to create community peace and stop the prevailing riots and violence) in Sebokeng and Bekkersdal were trained in programmes for development of the qualities essential for their work – clear thinking, confidence, tolerance, friendliness and impartiality.
  • The program incorporated the Transcendental Meditation technique to manage stress levels in the individual and the environment. This well documented project with Peace Corp workers, was a highly successful project initiated together with the ANC (African National Congress) in 1990


400 teachers and students trained in Kwazulu-Natal

  • 400 teachers and students trained in Kwazulu-Natal in Self-development programs. Extensive results were not tracked.


Alexandra Township

More than 9 000 learners, teachers, principals and parents were trained in the TM meditation technique in seven schools in Alexandra, two schools in Soweto and one school on the East Rand of Johannesburg from 1995 to 1999. These results were comprehensively measured and tracked, with marks data gathered from the Department of Education. Results which were extensively covered in the media, included:

  • Average increase in pass-rates of 25% for the 9 000 students tracked over a 3-year period
  • This compared to a fall of 1% in pass-rates for 12 000 learners in the control schools that had been chosen with similar demographics in the same communities
  • Absenteeism fell by 90% of both learners and teachers in schools
  • Reduction in drug usage, substance abuse, and violence in schools
  • Complete stopping of suicides in schools were program was implemented. In one school, there had been 8 suicides in three years. All suicides stopped
  • Improved marks in maths, science and English in every grade
  • A R10 million saving to the Department of Education through improved pass rates, for a R1 million cost of intervention


Maharishi Open University created in Soweto and Alexandra township

  • These programmes were run for one-year and were the impetus for creating CIDA City Campus


CIDA City Campus - South Africa's first 'virtually free' university

  • Hailed as a major breakthrough innovation in South Africa in the field of the provision of accessible tertiary education to the poor
  • Thousands of Southern Africans have been educated, found employment, and moved from poverty to the middle-class through this institution
  • Over 600 000 young South Africans in schools have been reached with one-week education and life-skills training courses
  • Numerous institutional awards have been won, including:
    • The 2003 SABC2 Achievers’ Award in education category. The award pays tribute to African excellence and is an acknowledgement of Africans who have made a profound difference.
    • The National Productivity Institute’s chairperson’s award for outstanding contribution was awarded to the campus
    • In 2002, CIDA City Campus also took the honours in the grand prix award in the Age of Innovation competition for the most innovative organisation in South Africa
    • The Nedbank Prosperity Sustainability Award
    • In 2002 CIDA was appointed by the Commonwealth Secretariat to serve as a Regional Centre of Excellence in Higher Education.


Oprah donates $1.3 million for girls dormitory

US talk show host, producer, and philanthropist, Oprah Winfrey paid a surprise visit to Cida City Campus in Johannesburg and donated $1.3 million towards a new girls' dormitory. When Oprah turned fifty in 2004, her staff said her favorite thing in the last few years was CIDA City Campus. Her staff’s birthday present: checks for $4,000 and $10,000, to sponsor 10 students in Oprah’s name to come to the university.


SABC 2 Achiever Awards

Several awards have been won by CIDA City Campus and these continue to this day, including:

  • 2003 SABC2 Achievers’ Award in education category. The award pays tribute to African excellence and is an acknowledgement of Africans who have made a profound difference.
  • 2002 Age of Innovation Award as the most innovative organisation in the country
  • 2005 The National Productivity Institute’s chairperson’s award for outstanding innovation in the provision of virtually free university education
  • 2002 The Nedbank Prosperity Sustainability Award
  • In 2002 CIDA was appointed by the Commonwealth Secretariat to serve as a Regional Centre of Excellence in Higher Education.


Dalai Lama and Sir Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson began the morning with a breakfast for 250 guests. He had just launched the idea of Virgin Galactic and spoke about that amongst other amazing successes of the Virgin group. This event was followed by a visit by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who came for 45 minutes and ended up staying for over 2 hours. 2 000 guests attended. Sir Richard sat at the feet of the Dalai Lama as no seats were still available.

It led to two great things, Sir Richard agreeing to allow a new school of entrepreneurship to be created in his name and to be sponsored by him, which is now the Branson School of Entrepreneurship, and the Dalai Lama decided to sponsor a student from Soweto, who's father had said that black people could never really make it in life. The Dalai Lama wanted to prove him wrong.


Community and Individual Development Association Investment Trust (C.I.T.)

  • owns stakes in 5 companies: Trialogue; CIDALearning; POD Advertising; Fleishman Hillard South Africa; edgeGrowth

CIDA Empowerment Fund

  • now a thriving R 120 million education endowment; will help ensure financial sustainability for CIDA City Campus


The Branson School of Entrepreneurship

"Sir Richard Branson teamed up with social entrepreneur Taddy Blecher to create The Branson School of Entrepreneurship. For the first time anywhere in the world, Sir Richard has allowed an educational institution to use his name."

  • The school has trained over 2,000 students in entrepreneurship, and has 21 businesses in incubation.
  • The Branson School is scaling internationally from 2010 onwards. Watch this space!

Sir Richard Branson’s inspiring speech at the launch of the Branson School of Entrepreneurship in October 2005

“The South African economy is dependent on entrepreneurial activity for creating future economic growth and jobs. But the economic contribution to South Africa’s entrepreneurial sector is below the developing country norm. I believe that increasing entrepreneurship in this country is the golden highway to economic democracy.”

The Branson School creates opportunities that help young entrepreneurs follow their dreams of owning and managing successful businesses. With the right support and encouragement, the Branson school helps entrepreneurs make a huge difference for their families, communities, and the whole of South Africa.


CEO Dr. Taddy Blecher wins $1 Million dollar Skoll Foundation Award

for social entrepreneurship funding to support his work at CIDA. The prize was presented by Jeff Skoll, Robert Redford and Sir Ben Kingsley at Oxford University in March 2006.

"We have always wanted to strengthen and expand our campus so it can meet the tremendous need for the social and economic development of the continent. The money will be used initially to create a stronger and more stable educational platform at the Johannesburg campus from where we can replicate. We will however continue working to reach our funding goals for the future sustainability of the campus." - Taddy Blecher.

According to Sally Osberg, President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation, "Taddy reflects the essence of a Skoll social entrepreneur: an innovator who resolves social problems and builds civil society's infrastructure and effectiveness. Each organisation in our portfolio of Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship is tackling a complex social problem in order to promote healthy, sustainable communities... together with our other social entrepreneurs, Taddy represents an incredibly powerful force for systemic social change."

Dr. Blecher has won a number of other awards, including:

  • Global Leader of Tomorrow Award, World Economic Forum
  • Young Global Leader award, World Economic Forum
  • Managerial leadership award, Black Management Forum
  • Gemilut Chesed award, King David Foundation
  • Recipient of two honorary doctorates


The Maharishi Institute

  • MI was established to provide open access to education from Grade 11 through to MBA as well as intensive industry vocational programmes; the institution was established to provide students in South Africa with the opportunity of a Consciousness-Based-Education-approach to education.
  • The Institute is named in honour of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who founded the Consciousness-Based Education approach globally as well as the Transcendental Meditation technique which is a core technology for enhancing educational achievement. The institution has already facilitated over 600 students studying through short courses, and currently has 250 students studying through partner programs, and plans to grow to 2 000 students in Johannesburg within 3-years.
  • The Maharishi Institute does not offer its own educational qualifications. It provides the assistance, tuition and tutorial support for students to studying with accredited partner providers. The majority of youth graduating from South Africa’s high schools have neither the skills to make them highly employable, nor the entrepreneurial background to build successful businesses, and neither the finance nor the academic results to enter or succeed in university studies.
  • The Maharishi Institute provides the financing, educational access, skills development path, personal development tools, and supportive campus environment that these students can make it step by step out of an often hopeless situation, to a life of success and achievement.
  • The Institute is focused on true Sustainability: financial sustainability, personal sustainability, and environmental sustainability.


innovationTOWN to showcase African innovation

  • hosted for several years, South Africa’s premier innovation awards, in private sector, public sector, and civil society sector

Invincible South Africa

  • to reduce violent crime by 30% in South Africa by 2011 through an approach of creating coherence and raising the Collective Consciousness

CBE Schools SA ( - Consciousness-Based Education South Africa)

  • the target is to improve academic pass-rates by 25% for 20 000 children over the next 5-years, and ultimately to transform all key educational outcomes in South Africa’s schools. Currently working with 23 School Principals and over 200 school teachers in Kwa-Zulu Natal.


Oppenheimers donate Ezemvelo nature reserve

In a remarkable act of generosity, prominent conservationists and philanthropists, Nicholas and Strilli Oppenheimer, of E Oppenheimer and Sons, and De Beers, have donated the 4000 hectare Ezemvelo Nature Reserve near Pretoria, to Maharishi Institute.

The official handover of Ezemvelo was celebrated on Thursday 14th August at Maharishi Institute in Johannesburg.

Ezemvelo is a Nature Reserve one hour north east of O.R. Tambo airport 20 km outside Bronkhorstspruit. Ezemvelo Nature Reserve is situated on the Bankenveld, which is the transition ecotone between the grassland and savanna biomes. Ecologically this is valuable as elements of both biomes occur within the reserve, creating a rich biological diversity.

Ezemvelo Nature Reserve,, part of the Diamond Route,, was donated by the Oppenheimer Family, prominent conservationists and philanthropists, to the Maharishi Institute on 14 August 2008 , to promote environmental and conservation-related education, to develop a rural eco-campus, as well as promote eco-tourism, and conservation of the beautiful natural heritage of Ezemvelo (the name means ‘back to Nature’). This offers ‘green’ education and leadership development which is Consciousness-based and develops the full potential of every learner. It gives an opportunity for true empowerment, to build whole, strong individuals, students with integrity, who understand the importance of protecting the environment, as well as communities. The experiences that Ezemvelo offers to learners are deeply grounding as well as inspirational, and it truly creates a life-long memory that students treasure. By May 2010, nearly 4 000 youth have had opportunities to join in programs at Ezemvelo.


Invincible Education Group, including Invincible Outsourcing

  • the first non-profit outsourced call centre in South Africa
  • providing students the opportunity to ‘learn and earn’ providing work experience during study and creating self-sustaining education institutions. The first contract was for uVuyo the Spirit of Upliftment, and involved entering data from 250 000 hand-written forms into computers. The students speed of data entry increased 10-fold from the first month they captured data to the last month that the contract was completed.

Key Development Initiatives for 2010

Ezemvelo Eco-Campus

  • donated by the Oppenheimer Family to the Maharishi Institute to be a centre of excellence in green and conscious education for urban and rural youth. The campus will be built by students and will be green and off the grid, and built completely in harmony with Nature using an ancient vedic system of architecture known as Vastu. Programs already run include: conservation, environmental research, organic food growing, leadership development, yoga, meditation, ecology, and astronomy. Nearly 4 000 youth and students have participated in programs in the past 2.5 years

Education and Replication Centre

  • to create an urban and rural model of low-cost accessible tertiary education which can be scaled and replicated world-wide. The model is being developed around the principles incorporated into the Maharishi Institute of Personal Sustainability, Economic Sustainability, and Environmental Sustainability. Building on the initial work of the replication centre established inside CIDA City Campus, the new Replication Centre which is now established, is building on all the learning and methodologies developed over the years in the creation of CIDA City Campus, a phenomenal success story in the provision of virtually free-tertiary education, to develop a complete replication package and model, parts of which can then be adopted and adapted in different countries, locations, and contexts, to provide accessible tertiary and vocational education to individuals from historically disadvantaged backgrounds. This will allow hopefully many individuals to benefit throughout the world over time from access to education that can change their lives, transform them as individuals, bring them out of poverty, build their communities, and build better lives through the amazing experiences of Community and Individual Development over the past 30 years

$10 Africa College Fund

  • The focus of the fun-d is to Educate Away PovertyTM and have fun doing it. The $10 Africa College Fund provides disadvantaged youth in Africa access to higher education degrees. On average a maximum of 2 in 100 students that enter grade one in South Africa will graduate from college. That means 98 kids out of 100 will not gain access to a complete education. For only $10 you can help change this. By giving $10 you are giving a child a future, you are changing a nation, forever. Based on the experiences of the past 10 years, where 4,500 unemployed youth have been given access to university or vocational education and are now working in jobs earning together over R200 million in annual salaries this is an approach which the $10 Africa College Fund aims to scale. The funds are given as a loan to the student and are repaid. Real dignity, no handouts. The opportunity for a bright future through effective education.