See-Saw-Do is a Cape Town based social enterprise using their design skills for good. Passionate about transforming the spaces where children in underprivileged communities develop and learn, they create bright, bold, engaging and visual-centred environments.
Started as a student project in 2010 by Xanele Puren, See-Saw-Do has since grown to include the talents and hard work of Jeremy Puren and Schalk Venter too. We asked the team about their rewarding day job.
For those unfamiliar with See-Saw-Do, how would you best explain what you do?
Jeremy: We run a social enterprise called See-Saw-Do that creatively collaborates and assists NGOs and other organisations working in the ECD (Early Childhood Development) sphere, to ensure that children achieve their full developmental potential.
We do this by designing and distributing visually striking & relevant educational material to children and caregivers. We also do bright mural makeovers (in collaboration with corporates) for interior and exterior walls of the ECD centers that complement the teachers’ curriculum.
How did the idea first come about and what was your first project?
Xanele: See-Saw-Do was born in my final year at University. Our brief for 2010 was ‘design to make a difference’. When faced with a challenge it is always easier to focus on something that you love, so I decided to focus on children and illustration. I LOVE kids and I LOVE illustration.
I spent time in the creches of a nearby township called Kayamandi. The experienced changed everything. There were no books in any of the creches! I thought, “Geez! All kids should have access to books! Books changed my life!”.
Teacher Mable (of Siyakhula crèche) also pointed out how dull her environment is and how she wishes that her children could be taught in a happier, more stimulating environment. During 2010 I designed 3 English/Xhosa word image books and we painted 3 creches. The project won a grant from Sappi Ideas that Matter. The project snowballed and has now been running as a business for two years.
What are your different roles in the See-Saw-Do team?
Jeremy: Marketing and sales, creative strategy development, project manager.
Xanele: All things visual.
Schalk: Research, content management and prospecting.
What were you each doing before?
Jeremy: Stop-motion animator
Xanele: Studying Visual Communication Design at Stellenbosch University
Schalk: Master of Philosophy degree in Visual Arts at Stellenbosch University.
How do you find funding and volunteers?
Jeremy: We package, market and facilitate mural makeovers of crèches/schools in underprivileged communities for corporates. These makeover events are ideal for staff volunteerism & team-building. This is a great way for companies to invest in children/communities whilst at the same time investing in their staff.
What has been the greatest reward?
Xanele: We are driven by a GREAT love for children. To be able to have a job that focuses on improving education/environments (and thus children’s lives) AND to see the positive impact that our work has is the biggest reward. On top of it all, we have the opportunity to create a platform for other people to get involved in the process.
And the greatest challenge?
Jeremy: The greatest challenge is also the greatest adventure: to continually evolve and develop our products, systems and ourselves to ensure that we can have maximum social impact whilst building a sustainable business.
Do any specific projects stand out as your favourites?
See-Saw-Do: We transformed a series of 5 ECD centers in collaboration with Old Mutual at the end of 2012. It was a great experience, mostly because of the teachers of the crèches. We met inspiring women doing AMAZING work with the children they teach. On top of it all, we had the opportunity to supply all 5 ECD centers with books from the See-Saw-Do catalogue. Handing out books is always a highlight.
How do you come up with ideas for murals, are the themes site specific?
Schalk: Once we’ve identified a preschool or centre, we partner with other organisations and NGOs to ensure that their basic needs are met, for instance via feeding programs or teaching training.
Once these basic concerns have been addressed we meet with the specific beneficiary and key players in the community to establish their holistic needs, and how these needs can be addressed visually.
Sometimes the visuals are designed to supplement the school’s specific curriculum (legacy.seesawdo.com) or their vision (nolukhanyiso.seesawdo.com). Currently every project is designed from the ground up, however we’re in the process of exploring alternatives to ensure our work remains scalable.
What has working as See-Saw-Do taught you that you didn’t already know?
Jeremy: In theory, I understood the concept “giving is better than receiving”, but now it has become a core belief that I am experiencing.
Xanele: The reality of what is happening in the ECD realm + Running a business + I didn’t know I had the capacity to love children as much as I do now (the love just keeps on growing!)
Schalk: Being faced with, and challenging, my own career ambitions and emotional comfort zone can be very scary, but extremely rewarding.
Jeremy: We are very excited about collaborating with The Centre for Early Childhood Development in 2013 to continue to develop high impact educational material. Together, we are currently working on a campaign for Mandela Day where we aim to paint 10 crèches in one community on the day. If your company is looking to do something bright and beautiful for a community on Mandela Day, you know who to call.