For three years, Réjane Woodroffe lived a life of extreme opposites. On a weekly basis, she undertook the 12-hour commute between Cape Town and an isolated community on South Africa’s southeast “Wild Coast.” The worlds could not have been further apart. In Cape Town, there was a modern apartment, a car, and a job in high-end finance. In her mud-brick home in the village, there was no running water, electricity, or roads. Her neighbors and later her colleagues were largely illiterate.

Réjane’s unlikely journey begins from her childhood. She grew up in what was classified a “colored township” in Cape Town during the height of the anti-apartheid struggle. By the time she’d reached university and South Africa had attained democracy, there was a sense among many activists that the struggle was over. Ten years later, it became clear that there was still much to do to achieve the country that had been fought for.

But how can individuals and organizations lead their communities to create long-lasting, permanent change? Réjane Woodroffe’s leadership experience in the remote Eastern Cape of South Africa gives funders and entrepreneurs a lesson in what it means to drive change alongside your community.

In 2004, Réjane and her husband Dave founded the small Bulungula Lodge, a small eco-friendly tourism retreat on the Xhosa Wild Coast, now completely owned and operated by the Nqileni village where it is located. Operating the Bulungula Lodge forced Réjane to come to terms with the scope of the contrast in lifestyles. “My everyday life in the village is the same as my neighbor’s, but I’m not poor. She is. Poverty is not about the absence of material possessions. It’s about not having resources, not understanding the immune system, not knowing your rights. Poverty is about people not knowing or owning their choices.”

The way BI works is that communities identify problems and possible solutions, and then BI works with them to achieve them, ensuring that communities feel (and literally have) ownership over their infrastructure. BI has led to a pre-K through college education network, cold-chain distribution for anti-virals, clinics, a hospital, renewable micro-grids, roads, entrepreneurship, and so on—all the first in their communities. The success, by design, is the community’s.

Read the full article about community-led change by Réjane Woodroffe at Stanford Social Innovation Review.