Blessing Mancitshana, a professional at CORC, SA SDI Alliance explains, “Everything we do is about Knowing our City ... In the beginning it was me talking about [profiling and mapping] activities, and now it is the community leading everything from the ground. GIS is normally seen as a language of professionals, but we have capacitated the community to be able to do things on their own.”
It's not easy to collect information from informal settlements. "When we do an enumeration," explains Melanie Manual from ISN in Cape Town, "we must collect information from each and every door." Community members recounted the many times they have been threatened while trying to this work. "If it's a dangerous settlement you better send a lot of mamas - not the men" says Anna Estavo from FEDUP in Durban. Nkhokeli from ISN concurs and shared a story from the time they tried to profile Europe settlement in Cape Town, "if it wasn't for the Mamas I don't think we would have gotten out of that settlement safely."
Community members from Accra, Durban, and Cape Town kicked off the exchange by sharing insights from their data, including the scale of informal settlement in each city, the priority needs identified by the data and community forums - most pointing to dire basic service deficits. "How can a city be resilient when so many people don't have a toilet or water tap?" asked Charlton. The community leaders explained how the benefits of SDI's community-led profiling and enumeration extend beyond simply data, to enhanced social cohesion, active citizenship, and empowerment to drive change and address the concerns raised by the data. Melanie Johnson explained, “It teaches communities to do things for themselves, we may be poor, but we are not helpless.” The community members and officials spoke of the partnerships between city government and SDI affiliated communities and gave detailed accounts of the action-oriented engagements of the past months in each city. Nkhokeli Ncambele noted, "Change is happening so quickly on the ground. We [in the settlement forums with city human settlements officials] were not shouting and the city was being honest."
Day three also saw exchange delegates visit members of the SA SDI Alliance in their community. Participants traveled to the Block 6 neighborhood of Philippi, where community leaders presented their local upgrading initiatives including a waste removal and wetland management project. During the visit, the exchange participants learned how profiling and mapping facilitated the planning and partnerships and how data collected by communities "stays alive" in the community, supporting daily engagements aimed at improving living conditions. Community leaders from the three cities reflected on their processes for community organizing.
"Mobilization is easy...whenever you go into an informal settlement, there are always mamas, they are the starting point of collaboration.” -Thozama Nomnga, FEDUP
“We present who we are and they understand us better because of that. We believe you cannot just sit and wait for someone to do things for you...we are doing things for ourselves.” -Anna Estevao, FEDUP
The first Collaborative Urban Resilience Building Exchange unearthed themes of trust, consistency and strong communication to be key to sustaining partnership between urban poor communities and city governments pursuing effective resilience planning and implementation. It indicated an appetite among African cities for platform partners with a greater offering regarding informal settlements and capable of supporting productive partnerships with communities at scale. Here, the Know Your City program for supporting slum dweller communities to organize at city-scale and anchor action-oriented partnership with city authorities demonstrated great promise. Moreover, KYC appears to offer opportunities for nuanced resilience measurement suited to developing cities and to measuring progress toward equitable outcomes.
Resilience strategies clearly offer an opportunity to go above and beyond what has been done before. The exchange revealed that resilience strategies have the potential to make a dent in issues of scale by making systemic change. The process of strategy development has the potential to bring together new partners capable of breaking down sector-specific projectized interventions in favor of programs of action to address chronic vulnerabilities and build far more inclusive cities.
A federation member from Accra offered a powerful conclusion: "Information is Power! ... If you know how to use it!" Baba Fuseni, Ghana federation (GHAFUP).
Please click on the button below to read a blog by ITAD on the event: