- Growing the collective
Pivot Collective’s story began in Cape Town in 2015, following a series of major student movements that shook campuses across South Africa. Two decades after the end of Apartheid, students came together to demand a more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and just academic research and learning environment. Through protest actions, critical dialogues, and heated public debates, the movements revealed how students from diverse backgrounds (intersecting with categories of race, class, gender, and sexuality) experience the University as both a place of opportunity and of friction. Aligned with broader intellectual and political debates around the decolonization of knowledge, the movements precipitated broader critiques of academic pedagogy and research practices.
For a small group of critically engaged researchers based in Cape Town – including Lindsey Reynolds, Joanna Wheeler, Nabeel Petersen, and Anna Versfeld – the student movements also provided the impetus to begin to explore how to create alternate spaces for co-producing and sharing diverse forms of knowledge. Our initial approach was to bring together a group of engaged researchers and practitioners to work together on critically engaged, action-oriented research and pedagogical work outside of the traditional university structures. Our goal was to disrupt the problematic boundaries between research, teaching, practice, and policy in knowledge production and translation to ensure that knowledge production and translation was more equitable and inclusive, and more responsive to local socio-political contexts and needs.
Over the next few years, we stitched ourselves together through collaborative projects, informal reading groups, participatory workshops, and many long conversations to form a loosely-knit collective of collaborators. Stuck on the name for some time, we came to refer to ourselves as the Feminist Unnamed Collective (acknowledging that the acronym might raise eyebrows) to emphasise our commitment to feminist principles of co-leadership, mutual respect, and an ethic of care. Eventually, in 2018, we came to settle on the name Pivot Collective and started the process to formalise our work through incorporation as a non-profit organisation.
The Pivot Collective NPC is a not-for-profit organisation based in Cape Town, South Africa. Launched in 2018, we focus on fostering participatory approaches within our organisational structure, our research projects, and in our community engagement initiatives. We search for creative ways of learning, connecting, and opening spaces for dialogue. Our passion is amplified through our social impact design programme, where we support young change makers to explore the issues that matter most to them and design their own projects through an iterative learning process.
- Our evolution & structure
In 2023, recognizing important work that had begun to emerge through Pivot’s partnerships with NGOs, foundations, and civil society organisations– the implementers and decision-makers who are shaping the face of health and development work– Pivot Collective took another step in its evolution.
Lindsey Reynolds and Claire Cole came together to co-found Pivot Collective Consulting, enabling Pivot to grow into a hybrid social enterprise. Our new consultancy company also enables us to provide more direct services and support to other values-aligned organisations working to deliver impact, decolonize their approaches, and put into action justice- and rights-based principles that are foundational to their change work.
The resulting structure enables Pivot Collective to function through two separate legal structures with aligned but distinct priorities. The second legal for-profit structure, incorporated as Pivot Collective Consulting , is focused on enabling us to directly translate our consolidated portfolio of research, knowledge translation, facilitation, and technical expertise into consultancy services to support the health and development field.
Our goal as a collective is to ensure that the deep knowledge and experience of diverse experts (including academics, implementers, and communities) can be integrated and translated into supporting our clients as they work to deliver meaningful impact. Aligned with the mission of the non-profit, Pivot Collective Consulting has a long-term goal of developing and serving as a pipeline for young people from the global South – including those who emerge from the non-profit’s training programmes – to work directly in reshaping and reimagining global health and development, helping our field to more effectively meet the needs of this next generation.
The current non-profit (Pivot Collective NPC) continues to operate as a collaborative space for participatory research, co-learning and public engagement, and youth development initiatives. As a youth-centered organisation, the NPC has also now begun an intentional journey towards becoming youth-led and -sustained as an independent entity.
- Pivot Collective Consulting
Pivot Collective Consulting is a woman-led network of researchers, scholars and practitioners working in diverse fields including anthropology, neuroscience, ethics, health, and philosophy. Our collaborative team operates from South Africa, with consultants based worldwide, and is representative of diverse lived and professional experiences.
We are a passionate and vibrant community of consultants and collaborators that share a common goal of recognizing and celebrating diverse ways of knowing and making meaning. Our multilingual and transdisciplinary team has extensive experience designing and facilitating participatory and inclusive processes that centre the voices of those with lived experience of adversity– from challenges to their sexual and reproductive health and rights, to infectious disease, mental health issues, climate change, and other pressing social justice issues.
With decades of experience working across sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and Asia, our team members have worked with diverse communities and organisations to find creative approaches to ensure meaningful engagement, effective inclusion, and productive knowledge exchange that realises the transformational power of locally embedded, experiential forms of knowledge. Consistent throughout our work is a dedicated core team well-equipped to meet the needs of our partners with both scientific integrity and actionable insights.
- Our shared values
Across the two organisations, our team members share a fundamental commitment to shifting existing hierarchies of knowledge and power and conventional knowledge flows in global (and local) health and development, which privilege particular voices and silence others.
We believe this effort starts with how we work within our own organisations, with partners, and through our projects. Our team members place equitable and meaningful relationships at the heart of our working ethos, as demonstrated by our extensive global networks of community and public partnerships and research collaborations.
We are committed to ensuring that the voices of people who have historically been marginalised in global decision-making – including young people; people with diverse gender, sexual, racial and other identities; people experiencing poverty; people with chronic illness; and others with intersectional experiences of adversity – are centred.
With our partners and allies, we work towards this broader goal by building creative, collaborative, and participatory approaches to research and knowledge translation that respect and honour a diversity of forms of knowledge and expertise, recognise intersectionality, redress inequalities, and ensure dynamic accountability and mutual trust.
Across our projects and partnerships, we work with people with diverse lived experiences and affected communities, shifting power in design, facilitation, research, and knowledge translation processes so that it sits more readily in their hands whenever possible. We focus on fostering genuinely collaborative, inclusive, and iterative ways of working.
- Ways of working
Across our diverse teams, we highlight three distinct ways in which our collective members are working to grow a stronger infrastructure and enabling environment for participatory engagement and knowledge sharing.
- We take active roles in knowledge production and translation in global health and development as researchers, engagement practitioners, and critical scholars.
- We build networks and spaces for knowledge sharing and collaboration between researchers, implementers, policymakers, and community actors, as well as growing communities of practice to strengthen the field of participatory engagement.
- We invest in and foster partnership– with sister organisations as well as our clients–to ensure effective knowledge production and translation that is grounded in local realities, because it is grounded in meaningful engagement of communities.
- Mission statement
The mission of the Pivot Collective is to support communities to harness their collective knowledge and strengthen their capabilities to work towards individual and collective well-being. We understand our role as that of an ally and supporter, neither defining what people need for them nor delivering services directly to communities. Rather, we facilitate collaborative and participatory research and co-design processes that acknowledge and celebrate different ways of knowing.
Through these processes, we support diverse communities to define what matters to them, explore what they need to reach a state of well-being, and determine how they want to move towards this vision. We fundamentally believe that community-led initiatives, built on locally-embedded forms of knowledge, are more just, more sustainable, and more effective at addressing long-standing social ills.
We also support organisations working in the space of global health and development to critically interrogate their own practices, to understand the effects of their work (both intended and unintended), and to shift their ways of working towards more equitable power relations with the communities they intend to serve.
By investing our time in fostering meaningful engagements between diverse communities and transnational actors, our work challenges existing power structures and contributes towards a more equitable, inclusive, sustainable, and just future.