3. Taking It To The Streets

Day: Thursday, December 4, 2014


Today marks the second meeting with the vendor mentors to teach them more about PhotoVoice and about being an inspiration for the other vendors. We planned for them to define their individual roles as mentors, focusing on each of their strengths and weaknesses to see how they would best work as a group. Roles included being spokesmen for the project or being more of a teacher. After that, the plan was to teach the mentors how to use a camera and have them, in turn, teach us, which would involve a field trip to take pictures on the streets of Woodstock. Once finished the mentors would create a plan for Monday, when they would take what they learned and teach it to the other vendors.

Cast of Characters

  • Xolani– Big Issue Vendor Mentor
  • Fikiswa– Big Issue Vendor Mentor
  • Themba– Big Issue Vendor Mentor
  • Lavista– Big Issue Vendor Mentor


Big Issue South Africa offices conference room and the streets of Woodstock


Spirits were high as we entered The Big Issue for our second vendor mentor meeting. We were extremely excited for the activities we had planned for the day because they would allow for some deep thinking and creativity for the vendors. A goal was to make our meetings more fun and interactive because last meeting the vendors grew very antsy from just looking at a computer the whole time. We hoped that they would enjoy our idea of taking a field trip down the streets of Woodstock to practice photo taking and learn what qualifies as a usable picture and not.

Lavista arrived 20 minutes early and we were so happy that he had made this meeting. He was not able to attend the last one because he was sick and we missed his presence. Fikiswa came in shortly after with a large smile spread across her face. She was upset because Xolani and Themba were running late even though we still had 5 minutes. And on the 9 o’clock mark Xolani came strolling in sporting a rather elaborate cowboy hat. Themba came in 10 minutes late, causing us to have a discussion about the expectations of being on time and focused in meetings. Nikki told us to be stern and let them know that if they were late without a note or unfocused we would dock their payment. The mentors understood this because as Xolani explained, they have a huge responsibility and they need to be 100% focused on this project.

Xolani And His Cowboy Hat

Xolani And His Cowboy Hat

We switched gears to defining the roles of the vendor mentors, the challenges they will face in this position, and their personal strengths and weaknesses. In terms of what the role of a vendor mentor would entail, all 4 were pretty much on the same page. Fikiswa started with saying that they are leaders who will assist other vendors when they do not understand something and being able to clearly explain it. Xolani took a different approach by focusing on the teaching of other vendors to be passionate about what they do. As we have seen from the previous mentor meeting, Themba is very focused on his customers and having open communication with them; this is a tool he wants to teach to other vendors. Lavista did not have much to say when it was his turn, but he brought up the fundamental fact of having patience when working with other vendors. However, there will always be challenges in a project and we wanted to get the mentors input on what they believed some of the challenges would be. Xolani said that it was not going to be easy to teach new vendors how to have patience. He says that they will expect immediate results, however it takes time to get to the high goals you set for yourself and Xolani wants them to know that this will take time and to not get discouraged. Fikiswa said it will be difficult to get vendors to truly understand what you are doing. It takes a lot of effort for everyone to be on the same page about a topic or idea. So a challenge they will have to overcome is communication because as Fikiswa stated, “communication is the power of everything”.

Defining Their Roles As Mentors

Defining Their Roles As Mentors

In every group, each member has strengths and weaknesses that differ from other members of the group. We wanted the mentors to take a bit of time to think to themselves about what they believed their strengths and weaknesses are. This was a good technique so that they can learn where they can help each other. All four shared a common strength in having good communication skills and being able to explain an idea to others. Fikiswa also mentioned how she has the power of persuasion and Lavista is a great listener; which are all great qualities to have as a mentor. The weaknesses of all four were very similar as well. They all mentioned how they were not the best at writing things down or that they did not like to write things down, but through working with them we’ve seen that they excel in writing, so this was interesting to hear. Lavista offered a different view and said that he can be very sensitive at times. The mentors seemed to find this activity helpful and it was amplified when we asked each vendor what they thought a strength was in the others. Fikiswa received the most praise from the mentors. Many of the comments were that she has great communication skills and confidence, Xolani also complimented her on her computer skills, which Fikiswa blushed at. Lavista even titled her “the captain.” Themba and Xolani received a lot of praise for being able to communicate well with others and to get other vendors to respect them because they are of the older generation. It was a bit awkward with Lavista because the other three mentors had not been able to see the strengths he brought to the table since he was sick for the last meeting. Themba noticed that Lavista was shyer and he mentioned that he wanted to help him get out of his shell and be more involved. Fikiswa appreciated that we did this activity because she realized the importance of working in a group rather than alone. She said, “no one can do it alone. Something that is made from a group is different than something made by an individual because there are more minds in it than the one.”

Themba Discussing His Strengths And Weaknesses

Themba Discussing His Strengths And Weaknesses

After our successful brainstorming session the team went through a PowerPoint that would be hopefully used in the how-to-guide on how to use a camera. We knew that the mentors knew how to use the camera from previous meetings, however we wanted to practice with them teaching us and each other how to use it. The PowerPoint went through the simple steps of turning on a camera and which buttons to press to do a certain action. Fikiswa excelled in memorizing which steps came first and then teaching it back. She was good at creating a narrative in her teachings; she would give an example for doing a certain action. When explaining the flash she said you would use this for example if you are trying to take a picture of Themba and the room is dark. For both Themba and Xolani they did well with explaining the steps but not showing how to do them using the camera. Lavista was fast at picking up the steps from looking at the PowerPoint; however when he tried to teach someone he would get confused on which step came when. This was a great help because now we will be creating guidelines for the mentors to follow so that they can keep track of which steps they are completing. They all agreed that having guidelines would be extremely beneficial, especially Fikiswa who said, “A guideline is always helpful because when you’re teaching someone you can get confused as well. This will help us stay on track.”

Going Over The "How To Use A Camera" Presentation

Going Over The “How To Use A Camera” Presentation

Then it was time to head to the streets of Woodstock so the mentors could take pictures of a certain view, building, object, or whatever else inspired them. Each mentor could choose one spot and then everyone would take 2 pictures at that location. This was a good activity to have them start showing more creativity and take a look at the place around where they work. All the mentors really started coming out of their shells just by being outside of The Big Issue and laughing with each other. Xolani was the first to choose a spot and he decided to make his location outside of The Big Issue, because he wanted all his customers to see the place that has helped change his life. He even told us that he tells his customers about the work he is doing with us so that they don’t think he’s not on his pitch because he’s at home doing nothing. It was great to hear that they are so proud to be working with us. After Xolani, Fikiswa stopped to take a picture of a side street with the view of Table Mountain in the background because she said that it just looked so peaceful and made her happy. Next was Themba’s turn and we were a bit nervous when he started leading us down a strange alleyway. He said he was leading us to the train station and that it was a shortcut. Xolani could see that we were getting a bit nervous and he reassured us that it was going to be fine, which cleared some reservation but definitely not all. But once we got to the train station we could see why Themba wanted to take pictures here. It was very industrial and he liked to watch the trains move in and out with the graffiti painted on the sides. Lavista decided he wanted his spot to be the train map that was on the side of one of the buildings. He choose this as his spot because he liked seeing all the possible routes he could take to go somewhere. Lavista wants to travel the world because he sells to a lot of tourists, so the map of the train is his first step. This activity went a lot better than we had expected and it kept the mentors energized and ready to work when headed back to The Big Issue to analyse the pictures they took and plan the meeting for Monday with the other vendors.

Getting Closer As A Group

Getting Closer As A Group


We started by listing out goals of what we wanted to accomplish on Monday with the vendors and getting input from the mentors. We shared the three goals we wanted to complete.  The first was completing basic profile content, which included the basic biographic information, and questions about why they joined The Big Issue, their future aspirations, and what The Big Issue has done for them. The second was learning how to use a camera to take a picture. And the third was the photo analysis activity, in which the mentors would explain what the photo meant.We asked the mentors if there were other topics they wanted to tackle in the meeting and Fikiswa wanted to ask if they had any input for the blog on how to make it better. And Xolani wanted to explain the project again and how important it is to participate in it. We offered suggestions every now and then but we mostly wanted the mentors to think of how they wanted to run the meeting. One contribution we offered was to suggest that it would be best to have 2 mentors work with 4 vendors each on either the basics and questions or the teaching of how to use a camera so that it was less stressful on the mentors. Fikiswa said she wanted to work on the basics and questions because she was good at explaining, and Xolani joined her in that activity. Lavista stepped up and said he wanted to be in charge of teaching how to use the camera, which was awesome because he picked up on using the camera right away. Themba wanted to help as well because he greatly enjoys taking pictures and can help others get excited about that as well. It was great to see the mentors taking charge of topics that they felt confident in and they seemed generally excited for the meeting on Monday. Fikiswa said that it is “always benefiting to work as a group” and she could not wait to see how the meeting will go on Monday.

The Coolest Mentor Group In Town

The Coolest Mentor Group In Town


Ari:     This meeting was a super important meeting. Not only did we work with the Vendor mentors to help install the mentor program but we also were able to give the mentors a sense of what they were doing for The Big Issue. It was so inspiring to see the mentors interact and speak about their own strengths and weaknesses and the strengths of the other mentors they had worked with. Through that talking I feel that they all realized what it meant to work together and how to bring out the best sides of one another. I feel that this pilot program has the potential to work really well with the team of mentors we have assembled. They are very enthusiastic and helpful, making them very easy to work with and eager to do what needs to be done. I am looking forward to the meeting on Monday to see how the vendors react to their leadership roles and activities.

Gianna: I am extremely happy with how today went. I learned so much about our mentors and I think they learned a lot about themselves and their roles as mentors. The frustration during this meeting was a lot less and the engagement was higher. I definitely think that it helped to have the fun activity. The more time we spend with the mentors, the more I learn how to interact with them. I was the most proud today when we began planning the Monday meeting with the big group of vendors of the month. There was such excitement that they get to share what they learned with the other vendors. I was so happy when they organized themselves based on their strengths. Fikiswa and Xolani even took the time to think about problems that could arise and discussed how they would handle them. Themba took notes on what he and Lavista were going to do. I really hope Monday goes well and after seeing the enthusiasm about planning the activities, I think it will. I am so happy Lavista came today. He has excellent potential, especially in regards to understanding technology. Right now I see Lavista and Fikiswa being the tech leaders, and Themba and Xolani being the spokes people. They are falling into these roles themselves, which is really cool to see.                   

Nadjia: Today was more than I could have ever asked for. Each mentor was engaged and excited to be there after us having to instill a no cellphones policy. They really enjoyed learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses because now they know where they can help one another. I felt bad for Lavista however because it seemed as if the mentors were talking about him as if he was not in the room. They could not point out his strengths because he missed the last meeting so he was a bit on the outs. I appreciated Themba for noticing this as well and saying that he wants to work to help include Lavista more. Taking pictures out and about in Woodstock was fun because it just connected the mentor group together more with each other and us. We all laughed and took silly photos during the walks between spots. I was glad that on the way back to The Big Issue Lavista was talking with the other mentors more. I hope that he keeps with it and opens up more to them. It was most exciting to see how motivated the mentors were to make Monday’s meeting as productive as possible. They had no worries for how the day would go and I trust them. It will be interesting to see how this plays out because if it works then hopefully this mentor program can be sustainable and I will be beyond happy.

 Continue to Scene 4. An Old House Of Memories