The Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) is a nucleus for professionals and grassroots activists who think independently yet plan and act collectively. It is the hub of new synergies between development professionals, local project workers and collective action. CORC provides support to two different types of community networks who mobilise themselves around their own resources and capacities. The first are networks of informal settlements that are mobilised around specific issues: land, evictions, informal settlement upgrading, basic services and citizenship. The second are women’s collectives that are mobilised through savings.
The Community Organisation Resource Center (CORC) was constituted in 2002 to build on the work of People’s Dialogue on Land and Shelter who supported the then-South African Homeless People’s Federation. These two support NGOs co-existed in parallel: People’s Dialogue was structured to be the dedicated professional support arm of the Homeless People’s Federation, while CORC was set up with the intention of consolidating a community-based, pro-poor platform in order to facilitate engagement of a network of community-based organisations on a settlement-wide basis. For the first three years, CORC facilitated learning exchanges between communities associated with the Coalition of the Urban Poor (CUP) and the Alliance of Rural Communities (ARC), forerunners to what is the Informal Settlement Network today. People’s Dialogue has ceased to exist, and CORC continues to support community-based planning towards building pro-poor and inclusive cities.
CORC’s interventions are designed to enable these communities to learn from one another and to create solidarity and unity in order to be able to broker deals with formal institutions especially the State. The entry points for such interventions are community-based centres for learning where horizontal exchanges occur. These learning centres are settlements whose residents are involved in the incremental provision of land tenure, basic services and affordable housing – either through acceptable relocations or on-site / in-situ upgrading. At these centres CORC and community networks attempt to set precedents that transform the way all stakeholders think and act in response to the urbanisation of poverty.
Community-based documentation is important to ensuring the active participation of community actors in the narrative of the Alliance’s work. CORC professionals and field workers and community members produce contextually relevant learning and training materials that support the development of “social technologies” such as enumeration and interpretation of data, mapping and measuring of shacks, community-based planning and partnership engagement, and so on. CORC supports the Alliance to build links with community and corporate media to distribute and build the profile of the Alliance’s work in community organisation and informal settlement upgrading (see the Resource Centre for publications). Communities are encouraged to pursue documentation in their vernacular languages and produce contextually informed evaluations, reports and minutes.