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Ecumenical Service for Socio-Economic Transformation (ESSET)

The Ecumenical Service for Socio-Ecumenical Transformation (ESSET) is an independent ecumenical organisation that works against the systematic exclusion of the poor and marginalised social groups by advocating for social justice.

It is registered as a non-profit organisation (section 21) founded in 1996 with a mandate to build to the capacity of local churches to work for socio-economic justice. The South African Council of Churches (SACC) and a number of other ecumenical organisations were instrumental in ESSET's formation.

ESSET partners and facilitates processes within churches and a wide range of civil society organisations such as informal trader associations; ministers' fraternal and provincial councils of the South African Council of Churches. ESSET also collaborates with other faith based organisations in South Africa and in other SADC countries including Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

ESSET History

Some church leaders with foresight predicted that our country will become a land flowing with milk and honey after the down of democracy. Their analysis of the South African nation building more than two decades ago showed that communities would not automatically reap maximum benefits of democracy after the downfall of aparteight. They had a vision of initiating interventions that will build capacity of people whom the system had excluded from the mainstream economy.

The Ecumenical Service for Socio-economic Transformation (ESSET) was established by the leaders of the South African Council of Churches and other church denominational groupings to facilitate programs that enable the church to know how to empower people to deal with socio-economic challenges. They felt that the church was a strategic institution that was supposed to be used as a base for economic justice programs.

The founding directors of this organisation are leaders who fought for the political liberation of the people of South Africa. They include Dr. Beyers Naude, Proff. Barney Pityana, DR. Brigalia Bam, Bishop Seoka, Dr Wolfram Kistner and others. These leaders knew that political freedom that was not going to be backed by economic justice would be meaningless to millions of vulnerable people who often do not have access to resources and are far from people of power.

Mission, Vision and Values


To advocate for social and economic justice by committing ourselves to being in solidarity with the poor in their struggles as they act in resistance to their marginalization and oppression.


A transformed society, free of socio-economic exclusion, exploitation, and discrimination.


ESSET values and promotes: • Integrity • Equality • Wholeness and fullness of life • Responsible stewardship for all creation

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