By Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)
Last week, the South African Shack Dwellers Alliance welcomed Comic Relief vice-chair and film director/producer/writer Richard Curtis with his wife, Emma Freud, and family at the Cape Town office. Before arriving he told his children,
“Today I’m meeting the people I work for”.
As a renowned film-maker, Curtis is also co-founder of the UK based charity Comic Relief which has been one of the alliance’s principal development partners since 2011. Together, they spent a morning meeting the alliance partners, visiting Mtshini Wam informal settlement where community members explained the process of re-blocking and showed Curtis and his family what a re-blocked settlement can look like. They also visited the Solid Waste Network, one of the alliance’s income generation initiatives.
To achieve the vision of more inclusive and pro poor cities it is critical to build partnerships with urban development actors who support this vision. The alliance’s association with Comic Relief as a development partner is a platform for organised communities to be at the core of building such cities. Communities are best positioned to contribute to design and to plan development solutions that have greater impact and sustainability than external development interventions. The alliance’s partnerships not only include the network of SDI affiliated countries or partnerships with government but also focus on partnerships with international aid agencies and donors, such as Comic Relief.
Founded in 1985, Comic Relief’s vision is of a “just world, free from poverty” (Reference). By raising funds through campaigns such as Red Nose Day and Sport Relief, Comic Relief spends these on projects that tackle the “root causes of poverty and social injustice in the UK and across the world” (Ibid). In particular Comic Relief supports projects “on the ground”, giving people a “leg up, not a hand out” (Ibid). Comic Relief displays a long term view of achieving this vision and therefore forms lasting partnerships with local organisations. Some projects are supported for up to six years whereby the progress of projects is tracked and funds are paid in phases.
Comic Relief and the South African Alliance
Comic Relief has been a core funding partner of the Alliance’s work since 2011 when uTshani Fund secured a grant for supporting the core activities of FEDUP housing development process. The grant is in its second year of operations and aims to support community lead projects in housing development and informal settlement upgrading (via the uTshani Fund housed funding facility Community Upgrading Finance Facility). uTshani Fund and CORC have formed a close working relationship in addressing the challenges of homelessness, landlessness and urban poverty.
The Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) has also been successful in applying to Comic Relief for grant funding. As part of its UK Aid Match scheme, Comic Relief formed a partnership with the Department for International Development (DFID). In December 2011 DFID agreed to provide a further £10m of funding for Comic Relief’s Urban Slums work. This sum would be matched by Comic Relief through funds raised during Sport Relief 2012, thereby totaling £20m. This new fund is intended to transform the lives of a million slum dwellers in a limited number of African cities through the strategic collaboration of agencies. The funding spans five years in total.
CORC and the South African alliance partners responded to the call for proposals and were successful in their application. The core of the funding proposal focussed on setting up a local city fund which will deliver informal settlement upgrading projects in the area of Khayelitsha in the City of Cape Town. The city fund is a responsive mechanism that aims to achieve a long term sustainable fund which could be replicated and/or recapitalised by City and Provincial government.
The beginning of Comic Relief funded projects in Khayelitsha
As part of the Comic Relief grant, the alliance has been engaging with several neighbouring communities in Khayelitsha that live in UT, TT and BT sections, Litha Park and UT Gardens. Since mid 2012 these communities have been forming a horizontal relationship with ISN structures. After community members living in UT Gardens profiled and enumerated their section, they expressed the need for a crèche / multi-purpose centre for the community on a nearby open field. Since the start of 2014 community leaders have continuously met with each other and CORC’s technical support team.
The meetings have had two aspects: On the one hand the community leaders expressed some key issues to address such as drainage and managing waste disposal. On the other, they co-designed and co-conceptualised the first drafts of the crèche / multi-purpose centre and identified existing footpaths and transit spaces. As the discussions continue, community leaders are eager to see this project lift off the ground.
This, then, is one of the projects that the Comic Relief grant supports. On the surface, it looks entirely different from Mtshini Wam or the Solid Waste Network which Curtis and his family visited. Yet the similarity lies in the tools that each community uses to organise itself. It lies in communities who lead their own design and planning. The SA SDI Alliance values long term funding agreements with international development partners such as Comic Relief (and its associations and members) that recognise the imperatives of informal settlement upgrading, housing and land, and livelihoods development.