Resilience building has emerged as an important priority for cities worldwide. With an increasing number of cities developing Resilience Strategies, there is a pressing need to understand how these strategies intersect with issues of exclusion and poverty. In cities with large portions of their population living in informal settlements it is critical that more attention is given to understanding these intersections. Triggered by a collaboration established under the Community of Practice for Resilience Measurement , SDI, 100 Resilient Cities and Itad have begun this work.

Given the centrality of peer-to-peer exchange in its learning approach, SDI decided to host a Collaborative Urban Resilience Exchange in its recently launched Know Your City Resource Center in Woodstock, Cape Town. As part of the exchange, which took place from July 16th-18th 2018, SDI brought together city officials and community organizations involved in resilience planning and implementation in Cape Town, Accra and Durban. The exchange supported reflection by officials and communities from the three cities about how community-collected data on informal settlements and partnerships between government and organized communities (a package of strategies known as Know Your City by SDI and its partners) can support resilient city strategies capable of generating more inclusive city development outcomes.

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."

On the final day of the exchange, the participants looked to the future in each of their cities, identifying the reasons for successes and challenges to date, and speaking candidly about potential areas of improvement. Sessions facilitated by Victoria Sword-Daniles from Itad and Skye Dobson from SDI were instrumental in framing reflective and actionable discussions in which community members, supporting professionals and city officials addressed key target areas and produced tangible next steps. As part of these reflections the city teams generated "top tips" for other cities wishing to develop resilience strategies as well as "barriers to watch out for". Top tips included: finding ways to leverage the partnership between communities and government to generate greater value; to appreciate the comparative advantage of each partner; to create space for regular engagement and communication; and to make sure politicians are kept informed so they can champion the strategy when needed. Their advice regarding barriers included: keep politics out of the collaboration; make time to build trust between communities and officials; follow up on commitments made in events; institutionalize partnerships to mitigate against disruption when officials leave their position.

On the final day of the exchange, the SA SDI Alliance presented to future planners and architects from the University of Melbourne School of Design. Professor Iderlina Mateo-Babiano coordinates the university's annual Cities Without Slums intensive course aimed at offering students "knowledge of slum upgrading entry points, approaches and processes, and strengths and limitations [in order to] to better tackle inequality and to support the development of cities for all." The South African federation and ISN members presented on their experience from decades of participatory urban planning in South Africa. The webinar can be viewed below. Watch until the end for the surprise musical performance!

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 final agenda item was a webinar hosted by 100RC on "Integrating informality into Urban Resilience Building". City Resilience Officers from accross Latin America, Africa and Asia took part in the webinar to learn from the Accra and Cape Town teams. During the webinar, moderated by 100RC's Nse Esema, Cape Town CRO Gareth Morgan concluded with a call to action, "I encourage my fellow resilience officers around the world to make use of the insights and the convening power of SDI affiliates."

City resilience officials and SDI affiliates from Accra and Cape Town

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:

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.