The OATS framework

‘The capacity to aspire’ refers to aspirations of people to escape conditions of poverty and deprivation

  1. Future-oriented cultural capacity
  2. Social spaces based on a broad socio-economic context
  3. A meta-capacity founded on social and collective action
  4. Ethics of possibility for improving quality of life
  5. Navigational capacity that meaningfully realises having a voice and being empowered

Which factors influence the capacity to aspire among young black South African people from working- and middle-class backgrounds?

The framework


  1. Immediate objects of aspiration are more about wants (designer clothing, latest gadgets)
  2. Intermediate objects of aspiration provide long-term rewards with sustained effort


  1. Agentic capabilities strengthen active self-formation and discipline
  2. Agentic transactions involve the use of social networks, historical narratives and role models for youth


  1. Windows provide a glimpse of the future, allowing youth to anticipate and plan ahead
  2. Social safety nets provide guarantees that allow youth to take prepared risks


  1. Imposed spaces are composed of race, class, age, gender and sexual orientation, and vary according to time, location and the individual
  2. Intended spaces focus on the horizon, the spaces of the future and the ethics of possibility, fed by hope and imagination

The OATS conceptual framework is a unique proposal that seeks to understand the internal workings of the capacity to aspire


OATS - A new conceptual framework
In: Black Youth Aspirations: Imagined Futures and Transitions into Adulthood
Botshabelo Maja (2021) ISBN: 9781802620269