Free To Grow roots, FTG, FTG journey

Our Journey

Free To Grow opened its doors in 1994 at a time of renewed hope and new beginnings across South Africa. Founded by Alinda Nortje, former social and community worker, the vision was to bring healing, hope and capacity building to large numbers of people in communities and organisations.

We have evolved as a leader in creating a culture of high engagement and collaboration and continue to broaden our reach and deepen our impact.

Read more about our journey

Our People

Free To Grow Team

Ultimately, an organisation’s success is about more than high-quality products,  its members also shape it. This belief is mirrored in the work culture of Free To Grow, which prioritises employee growth and alignment to the company’s values as a core competency of the organisation.

Central Office: Based in Somerset West, this is the hub of our design, development, marketing, financial and administrative processes.

Facilitators: Our diverse team of passionate and skilled facilitators are all licensed by Free To Grow. We do not outsource the presentation of our programmes and strive to use the facilitator most suited to our client’s profile and needs.

Consultants: Our team of consultants, many of whom have senior management experience, are skilled at shaping solutions appropriate to our clients’ needs and have the skills and experience to add value to the project implementation.

Our Founder

Alinda Nortje, Founder of Free To Grow
Alinda Nortje Founder and Executive Chairperson

Alinda Nortje is the founder and Executive Chairperson of Free To Grow.

After graduating with a BA (Hons) in social work at the University of Stellenbosch in 1978, Alinda gained valuable experience in understanding and meeting people’s needs in her role as a social worker. It was while doing community development on farms in the Boland that she became aware of the dire need for a personal empowerment programme that would be accessible to people with an educational backlog. She set out to design such a course herself over a four year period, incorporating the feedback of hundreds of participants into the course design. Due to the outstanding impact of the programme, Alinda developed the vision to make it available to as many people as possible.

Today, Alinda is a leader in the field of Employee Engagement with more than 30 years of experience in the facilitation of learning. Her work has taken her across Africa to Asia and the Middle East, where she has been personally involved in designing large-scale organisation-wide Culture Change and Engagement projects. Alinda’s passion for people, empathy and authenticity enable her to easily connect and build rapport with people across cultures and job levels, making her an excellent facilitator, a role she still relishes.

Gifted with an innovative mind, and an innate ability to connect with others, Alinda has designed all of Free To Grow’s programmes and regularly presents at national and international forums on the topic of engagement.

Our Values

Our values are at the heart of who we are, what we do and how we do it.


Our Learning Methodology

Free To Grow is an expert in the design of learning programmes. Through 30 years of experience and research in this field, we have developed a methodology that helps people, on all job levels, to understand, remember and apply what they have learned.  We make learning ‘stick’!

In the design of our programmes, we draw from Neuroscience (how the brain functions), Adult Learning Principles (what makes learning exciting, meaningful and ‘sticky’ and Psychology (how individuals and groups behave).  Click here to read more

Our Footprint

Free To Grow programmes presented globally

Our Team

South Africa: We have Free To Grow accredited facilitators in: Gauteng, Kwazulu Natal, Free State, Western & Eastern Cape.

International: Representatives in Angola, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria and Zambia.

Our Clients

Our work has taken us to 35 countries: Angola, Argentina, Australia, Botswana, Burundi, Canada, Colombia, Dubai, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guernsey, Iran, Jordan, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Singapore, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Examples of organisations who have implemented our programmes on either a large scale or over an extended period of up to 22 years are:

Our Impact

Ensuring impact on people, culture and bottom-line create a positive return on investment (ROI) for our clients. Here is some evidence of our contribution to our clients:

Free To Grow Resources

Our Resources

How we give back

Free To Grow is passionate about making a difference and giving back to our communities. We do this through:

  1. Our CSI initiatives
  2. The Free To Grow Foundation

1. CSI Initiatives

Prince Albert Community Trust (PACT)

Collaboration, faith, hope and love – these are the building blocks that form the Prince Albert Community Trust’s (PACT) foundation of positive, transformational community engagement.

In honour of Nelson Mandela Day, the Staying Strong Toolkit was made available to the interns and volunteers of the organisation.

Staying Strong focuses on building skills of resilience, optimism and ownership – strengthening people’s emotional roots to serve and support themselves and others. “We believe that through the implementation of ‘Staying Strong’ and our partnership with Free To Grow, we will positively impact the growth and well-being of our youth, and further empower them as change agents in the Prince Albert community,” explains Ingrid Wolfaardt, founder and executive trustee of PACT.

Read more on this initiative here

Thata Ithuba Foundation

The Youth of SA are close to our hearts and over the years, Free To Grow has grasped every opportunity to make a meaningful difference by helping disadvanted youth to improve their futures. Late in 2021 we continue our journey with the Thatha Ithuba Foundation – by facilitating an Assertiveness workshop for their students at the Houw Hoek Hotel

The Thatha Ithuba foundation accompanies and supports students of the Township Imizamo Yethu/Hout Bay and enables them to take advantage of opportunities to improve their future, and to pass on their experience to following generations.

EverGrow Foundation

EverGrow Foundation, Free To Grow, CSI, Staying Strong

Established in 2013, EverGrow is a non-profit organisation well-known for its social upliftment programmes in respective wine growing communities. Alinda Nortje, the founder and Executive Chair of Free To Grow, came across EverGrow’s Aware Ambassadors via LinkedIn and noticed the hard work that these wine industry community change agents were doing in the rural areas of the Western Cape. When she followed up with Caroline Poole, the CEO of the EverGrow Foundation, they immediately had what Caroline describes as a ‘heart connection’.   The work done by the Aware Ambassadors is close to Free To Grow’s heart, as the organisations share a common focus on growth and development. This inspired us  to extend a supporting hand and offer the gift of its Staying Strong toolkit free of charge.

For more on this initiative: Staying Strong: Renewed hope for EverGrow


Serving the communities of Elsies River, Ravensmead and surrounds, this amazing initiative creates a safe space where children come to learn maths and leave having learned much more. This is achieved by employing and training mothers in the immediate area to give extra mathematics lessons to learners at selected schools, during and after school hours.

Our contribution, in collaboration with the Klara Project, is to equip the moms with much needed personal development by means of our 4-day FTG Lifeskills programme.  The Klara Project came to be after the tragic passing of a young Swedish philanthropist, Klara Eklund, who always dreamed of partnering with Free To Grow in South Africa to plant seeds for a better future. To date, we have co-sponsored seven workshops for 75 of the MathMoms. We presented the programme at 25% of our standard rates, with the Klara Project carrying this cost.


MES, Free To Grow CSI,

MES adresses the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs of the homeless and unemployed, challenging individuals to take responsibility for their lives and implement the skills provided and learned.  They began their inspirational journey in Hillbrow in 1986.   The MES model of Intake and Prevention, Intervention and Sustainable exit believes that every person is on a developmental journey and MES aims to provide what is needed to ensure that they are able to leave MES and lead a self-sustained life.

Vocational skills development is vital to becoming skilled and employed.  MES – however -prioritises the development of the individual’s self-awareness and social skills to ensure that they are able to implement the skills that they have learned and taken their rightful place in their community. With this objective in mind, MES started implementing Free To Grow’s Lifeskills programme in 1999.

The impact of the Free To Grow Lifeskills programme was so overwhelming, that MES made it a prerequisite to all their vocational skills training.  “We saw a much-increased commitment towards the vocational skills development programmes, increased confidence in preparing for job interviews and greater commitment to addressing other personal challenges such as addictions.”

In 2006, Free To Grow sponsored the training of MES facilitators in our Money Sense programme.  This programme has added vital personal financial skills enabling the people who attend to make better decisions regarding their money management.

Since 1999, MES has trained 4 060 unemployed and unskilled individuals in Free To Grow Lifeskills and 3 717 in Money Sense.  Twenty-four members of MES staff have also benefitted from the programmes. “We are deeply appreciative of our partnership with Free To Grow that contributes to our plight to “Change the Heart of the City!,” says MES.

Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa

Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa

Like a watering can that runs empty when not refilled regularly, caregivers often suffer from stress, fatigue and burn-out due to the giving nature of their work.

The staff of the Hospice Palliative Care Association (HPCA) pour themselves into offering those with terminal illnesses quality, meaningful lives in the time that they have left. Wanting to support Hospice in their worthy but challenging task, Free To Grow approached André Wagner, Organisational Development Manager HPCA with the offer of sponsoring Free To Grow’s Lifeskills and StressWise courses for Hospice staff throughout South Africa.

Fifty-two training days, valued at close to R500 000 were volunteered by 14 Free To Grow facilitators. Part of this intervention included a Leadership Development programme for their regional managers.

“Thank you, Free To Grow for helping us as carers to remain whole and for ‘filling up’ our tanks again. You will never realise the difference this makes to us in both our personal and professional lives,” enthused Andre Wagner, national Organisational Development Coordinator of HPCA.

2. The Free To Grow Foundation

Free To Grow Foundation

The Free To Grow Foundation is a non-profit entity established with the objective of attracting donor funding and corporate sponsorships to develop people and grow communities.

Our purpose is to strengthen psychological capital (Psycap), consisting of hope, optimism, resilience and self-efficacy and develop skills aimed at improving quality of life. We empower people from the inside to take action and to change their circumstances.

  • Positively impact communities from which our donor organisations attract their workforce. We help create a more stable and constructive environment for our donor organisations to operate and draw potential employees from.
  • Offer growth opportunities for employees outside working hours. We accelerate the development of your employees without you having to carry the loss of man-hours when programmes are presented during work time.
  • We offer sustainable initiatives through partnering with our donor organisations to create community-based “Growth hubs”, which form the basis for skills development. Over time, hubs develop the skills to deliver products and services to organisations in their geographical areas, thus supporting supplier development strategies.
  • We embrace a philosophy of “through the community, by the community”. We encourage empowered sustainability of our programmes, by equipping people to facilitate our programmes and manage the hubs in their communities. “We teach people to fish”.
  • We optimise the spending of CSI, skills development and enterprise development funds in the true spirit of black economic and social empowerment.
  • We have the resources to deliver training, support and manage the hubs nationally, thus making the programme scalable.

Together we can inspire dreams, empower people and grow communities. Join us in planting the seeds for a better future.