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Co(mmunity)-finance facilities as a tool for local democratic space

By CORC, Publications No Comments

By Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)

With the 2016 municipal elections around the corner, the relationship between elected representatives and local citizenries could not be more topical. For some, the relationship is a largely passive space, which has lead to mistrust between different groups. For others it is a space that requires the building of meaningful partnerships, participation, and an active citizenry. As a member of the Good Governance Learning Network (GGLN), we have joined fellow civil society organisations in exploring these questions in the 2016 State of Local Governance Publication: (Re)claiming Local Democratic Space. 

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CORC’s contribution (on behalf of the SA Alliance) engages with the notable lack of community participation and in-situ practice in the national Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP). The paper is titled Co(mmunity) finance as a tool for local democratic space: The Cape Town City Fund and is based on robust experiences of community saving as a lever for co-finance and an enabler of inclusionary practice (See p.51-61). It suggests the need for an innovative co-finance instrument that enables a collaborative platform between urban poor communities, intermediary organisations and local governments to co-navigate in-situ informal settlement upgrading projects.

The GGLN is an initiative that brings together civil society organisations working in the field of local governance. Once a year the network produces the The State of Local Governance Publication which presents a civil society based assessment of the key challenges, debates and areas of progress with regard to governance and development at the local level in South Africa. 

http://ggln.org.za/state-of-local-governance-reclaiming-local-democratic-space-2016.pdf

Scaling Up Informal Settlement Upgrading: The CODI Model Thailand

By CORC, FEDUP, ISN, SDI No Comments

By Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)

While the value of in-situ informal settlement upgrading is increasingly recognised by national and global actors, its implementation as a co-productive approach rooted in meaningful community participation is inadequate. An exception, however, is the Community Organisations Development Institute (CODI), a finance facility of the Thai government that has facilitated community-led informal settlement upgrading in more than 250 cities and towns in Thailand, demonstrating how a national government not only engaged with ‘pro-poor’ development but also managed to institutionalise an approach and implement at scale.

Somsook Boonyabancha, Former Director of CODI

Somsook Boonyabancha, Former Director of CODI

In early May, the South African SDI Alliance together with Shack / Slum Dwellers International (SDI) had the pleasure of hosting Somsook Boonyabancha, the founder and former director of CODI for a seminar in Johannesburg and Cape Town on ‘Scaling up informal settlement upgrading: The CODI model, Thailand’. ISN and FEDUP coordinators additionally used this opportunity to share current partnership and project implementation challenges with Somsook during a visit to Khayelitsha. Her visit to the Alliance occurred in the context of a broader meeting* with representatives of the South African National Treasury concerning CODI’s approach and its value for the South African context.

Jubilant welcome by FEDUP and ISN

Jubilant welcome by FEDUP and ISN

CORC director Bunita Kohler offers a warm welcome

CORC director Bunita Kohler offers a warm welcome

Informal Settlement Upgrading in South Africa

The upgrading context in South Africa is marked by a tension between policy and practice. Part three of the National Housing Code states that the Upgrading of Informal Settlements Program (the national policy and finance instrument for upgrading) set out to “facilitate the structured in situ upgrading of informal settlements as opposed to relocation(s)”. The aim: to achieve tenure security, deliver basic services and build ‘social capital’ in communities through participatory processes.

In practice, however, municipal application of UISP has been weak, especially in terms of community participation or alternative approaches to tenure security beyond freehold (See NUSP). Even after the National Upgrading Support Programme (NUSP) was introduced in 2010 to support municipalities in addressing these shortfalls, the lack of meaningful community engagement or in-situ upgrading of informal settlements persisted. This is largely due to inadequate municipal capacity for meaningful participation, a recurring preference of relocating shack dwellers to greenfields sites (the Joe Slovo judgement is a case in point) or repackaging reports on greenfield relocations as UISP projects (see State of Local Governance, p.64-65).

Community leader of TT Section, Site B Khayelitsha welcomes Somsook to her settlement

Community leader of TT Section, Site B Khayelitsha welcomes Somsook to her settlement

Where the SA SDI Alliance has implemented participatory upgrading projects in partnership with a local municipality (such as the City of Cape Town), these instances remain limited to a handful of settlements. Avenues for scaling up meaningful participatory practice in South Africa are rare, if not non-existent. In the experience of the Alliance, key challenges to scaling up relate to the disjuncture between lengthy bureaucratic processes and the pace of community preparation in informal settlements. For example, party political frictions may extend the time required to mobilise a community while lengthy municipal procurement processes regularly stretch project timeframes beyond the designated one year budget allocation period. When budget allocations are annulled or project dates postpoined, it is twice as difficult to restart and remobilise the community. Tools that intend to support community-led action (such as the UISP), can therefore have the opposite effect: they are often not flexible enough to adapt to project preparation and social facilitation processes in informal settlement communities.

How CODI Works

As an alternative, the CODI model offers relevant insights for the South African context. Formed in 2000 through the merging of the Urban Community Development Office and the Rural Development Fund, CODI is an independent public organisation under the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. CODI functions as a revolving loan fund that enables direct access to grants for upgrading and loans for housing. As a national implementing agent, CODI manages the Thai government’s Community Development Fund that engages urban poor communities and networks who are organised in housing co-operatives and informally recognised community based savings schemes. CODI supports the building of community cooperatives, through sub-group clusters that manage community grants and wholesale loans. Such subgroups bring about collective action through group guarantee, helping eachother, and collective repayment. Read more about CODI here.

Somsook speaks about the CODI model in Thailand.

Somsook speaks about the CODI model in Thailand.

Thailand’s Upgrading Initiative: Baan Mankong

The Baan Mankong City-Wide Upgrading initiative is one of CODI’s most notable programs. Introduced in 2004, it focuses on poverty alleviation, community welfare, technical support and tenure security through promoting savings, credit, loans and planning support. Baan Mankong (which means “Secure Housing” in Thai) facilitates capital transactions through an infrastructure/upgrading grant from central government and a housing loan lent to borrowers organised in housing cooperatives. Since 2004, Baan Mankong has approved a total of 850 projects in 1660 communities and benefitted about 90 000 families. Geographically, its reach covers 286 cities in 71 of 77 provinces. The average housing loan per family amounts to US$ 5000 while the average upgrading subsidy grant averages about US$ 2500 per family. The total loans granted by CODI’s revolving fund (at 3% interest) amount to about US$ 185m with a repayment rate of 97.5% (Figures drawn from Somsook’s presentation).

In her presentation, Somsook highlighted the following as significant requirements for a city-wide, scaleable approach:

  • Active communities: support for urban poor communities as owners of projects
  • City-wide approach: changes at the real scale of the problem (i.e. that affect all poor communities in the city) will link scattered communities and their priorities to each other, contributing to a more systematised and sustainable approach
  • Building strong communities: through secure housing and integrated development that includes:
    • collective land ownership or lease
    • community savings and fund (acting as a community bank)
    • welfare activities
    • activating the link between community networks and city organisations in regular meetings
    • collective management
  • Building partnerships: between community networks, local authorities and other development actors that enable deliberation and negotiation
  • New finance system: active community savings and credit, City Development Funds
FEDUP and ISN engage with Somsook around CODI's approach

FEDUP and ISN engage with Somsook around CODI’s approach

Scaling Up in South Africa?

With more than eighty representatives from NGOs, media platforms and think tanks in the sector, academic partners in planning and architecture and the Head of Department of Human Settlements in the Western Cape, the closing session of the seminar offered an opportunity for discussion. How does CODI straddle the tension between private and collective land ownership? Is collective land ownership/lease possible in South Africa? Is there government appetite for alternative finance mechanisms? While engaging with these points, Somsook continually pointed to the value of collective action:

“The key thing is to bring all actors to work together. Community is important to support each individual for a certain period of time. And land is an important factor [so we need] collective land as a project. Poor people will be weak otherwise. Its insufficient to just do one or two projects here and there… Let poor people at a big scale be the key actors to make a big change”

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Thando Mguli, HoD of Human Settlements in the Western Cape

Similarly to CODI, a co-finance facility in South Africa has the potential to locate poor people at the heart of upgrading interventions. Where urban poor communities shift from beneficiaries to activated citizens that identify, plan and implement development priorities, informal settlement upgrading can become more nuanced, responsive and participatory. For a co-finance approach, community saving is a valuable mobilising tool, an enabler for meaningful participation and an indicator of household buy-in at settlement level. A co-finance mechanism that is institutionalised in local government but not subject to its bureaucratic process can enable flexible time frames for project budget allocations that are not constrained by annual provincial or municipal allocations. In this sense, innovation and meaningful participation occur only when community members become significant actors in the upgrading process.

*The visit was supported by the World Bank

From left to right: Representatives from the World Bank, Cities Support Programme (Treasury), CORC, Somsook, Western Cape Human Settlements HoD and ISN Coordinator

From left to right: Representatives from the World Bank, Cities Support Programme (Treasury), CORC, Somsook, Western Cape Human Settlements HoD and ISN Coordinator

Seeing from the South: an international exchange with South African shelter activists

By CORC, FEDUP, ISN, Learning Exchanges, SDI No Comments

By Dan Silver, Diana Mitlin and Sophie King (crossposted from the Global Development Institute at the University of Manchester)

“We are poor, but we are not hopeless. We know what we are doing”.

This is Alinah Mofokeng, one of three activists from the South African alliance of community organizations and support NGOs affiliated to Shack / Slum Dwellers International (SDI) who came to visit Manchester last month. The three came to explain their approaches and to exchange knowledge with local organisations through a combination of visits around Manchester and Salford, and a half-day workshop drawing together activists from around the country.

While South Africa and the UK might initially appear to be worlds apart, previous discussions between low-income communities in the global North and South had identified commonalities in their disadvantage. Potentially there are approaches that can be drawn upon and adapted in order to resist marginalisation and improve local communities, which can work across different places and contexts. This was the basis for Sophie King (UPRISE Research Fellow) and Professor Diana Mitlin (Global Development Institute, University of Manchester) inviting the South African Alliance to meet with UK community groups in March, drawing on a long history of community exchanges. This coincided with the Alliance participating in the Global Development Institute’s teaching programme with community leaders lecturing on their experiences and methods.

Alinah Mofokeng (Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor), Nkokheli Ncambele (Informal Settlements Network) and Charlton Ziervogel (CORC) all talked about their experiences of being part of the South African Alliance of SDI. This alliance has pioneered people-centered development initiatives by and of people in poverty since 1991. Their foundations are established in the grassroots, working on issues that emerge from the daily experiences of poverty, landlessness, and homelessness to bring immediate improvements and long-term inclusive citizenship within cities.

SDI’s approach to organizing is grounded in women’s led savings schemes, in which each member saves small amounts and does so with the support of their own collective savings group, so they are able to improve their own lives, and that of the wider community also. Solidarity is central to their approach and savings schemes are encouraged to federate to have stronger influence on city and state government. In the process of coming together they learn about their respective needs and challenges and respond collectively. If one member’s family does not have enough to eat, the group may decide that week’s savings will be spent on putting bread on their table. Once one savings scheme is formed, they share their learning with other marginalised people around them and support others to form schemes of their own that can join the network.

This extends beyond initial collectives to direct community-to-community learning exchange at city, national, and international levels. From here, they are able to show that they are together and are capable, which means they can influence the government from a more powerful basis – as Nkokheli said, they have been able to say to the politicians: “you are eating our money and not doing what we want. We say, enough is enough!” Nkokheli said that once the community shows that they are capable, for example through building their own toilets in the informal settlements and developing savings, politicians are more likely to listen.

The exchange of different ways of doing things between the South African Alliance and UK organisations certainly had an impact – showing us that the exchange of ideas about solidarity, a self-reliant ethos, and having a long-term vision for more inclusive cities is powerful enough to make sense across continents. One of the participants in the meeting was Ann from a group called Five Mummies Make, which is a self-help group in Scotland who have come together to sell handmade crafts, put on events and contribute to local charities; through meeting every week, the women have improved their own well-being in the process.

After the workshop, Ann was inspired to make a bigger difference than they were already achieving, saying that:

“If we bring together a bigger group, a federation, we can make such a bigger difference within the community, so not just small differences for individuals…I want to go back now and make the changes in the community, without having to go cap in hand asking for help constantly, but saying – this is what we want…”

Alinah, Nkokheli, and Charlton visited the United Estates of Wythenshawe for an extended lunch to meet people involved in Mums’ Mart. Mums’ Mart was started by a group of parents who came together after speaking to each other in the playground at their children’s school in Wythenshawe. Through chatting, they realised that they shared experiences of feeling isolated, and that their kids weren’t getting to take part in everyday activities. To address these problems the mums now meet every other week to have a meal while their children play, and they organise ‘market days’ to bring people from the estate together and raise money to take their families away somewhere fun for a day or a week.

After the exchange, members of Mum’s Mart have begun to emulate the SDI savings model and are holding weekly savings meetings, alongside their income-generating activities and monthly committee meetings to review progress; they also have ambitions about how over the long-term they can bring practical social change beyond their immediate group.  Sharon Davies, the group’s treasurer, told us that since the visit Mums’ Mart have set up their own savings scheme and it is going well, and that they “have loads of really good ideas as to where we are going to go with Mums’ Mart from now on”.

This was certainly not just a one-way street of learning from the SDI approach. Nkokheli, who was initially surprised that poverty existed in the UK after visiting a homeless group in Manchester, told us that: “The exchanges are very important to us, because it mobilises the community…and also [helps] to train communities to do things, [to see] what other people are doing for themselves. Here in Manchester, I learnt a lot…The systems are not the same, but the look of things are the same – there are things we can learn from Manchester, and there are things Manchester can learn from us”.

Through this exchange then, there have been concrete changes that have already taken place. It also shows the value of bringing together groups who might be marginalised from politics and from economic opportunities, to share ideas, tactics and strategies. There is most certainly scope in the UK to build on the approach that SDI take: developing a more self-reliant social action approach; coming together, initially in close supportive relationships between neighbours, but with a view to wider solidarity across groups and between areas; and showing the government through practical activities the capabilities of people living in low-income areas and the direction that poverty reduction strategies should take.

As Alinah said, “we are not hopeless. We know what we are doing”.

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/164289875[/vimeo]

Learning Space: Lessons from the ISN on building a strong social movement

By CORC, ISN No Comments

by Ava Rose Hoffman (on behalf of CORC)

In 2016, the SA SDI Alliance began a new series of participatory learning spaces intended for FEDUP and ISN community leaders and CORC staff to collaboratively strengthen understandings of government structures, processes, laws, and principles. These sessions serve to equip professionals and community leaders alike with information applicable to government partnership meetings. Furthermore, the sessions prepare community leaders to better report back on project preparation processes to their respective communities.

How do learning spaces function?

Each session is facilitated by an individual, but the sessions are guided with the intention for SA SDI Alliance professionals and community leaders to learn from one another, particularly through the experiential lens that community leaders bring to the table.

The first learning space of the year took place on 22 January 2016 and focused on “how government works.” This session worked through the roles and responsibilities of government, the structure of government on national, provincial, and local levels, and the division of powers between legislative, executive, and judicial branches. The second learning space took place on 29 January 2016 and explored “how laws and policies are made.” During this session, participants examined the difference between laws and policies, Green Papers, White Papers, Bills, and Acts, in addition to becoming familiar with the Draft White Paper on Human Settlements—which was the primary topic of the third session, held on 5 February 2016.

The fourth learning space of the 2016 series, held on 15 April 2016 at the community hall in Khayelitsha Site B, focused on the key principles of building a strong social movement composed of informal settlement dwellers.

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Learning Space in Khayelitsha Site B on 22 April 2016

Facilitated by Nkokhleli Ncambele, Informal Settlement Network (ISN) Coordinator of the Western Cape, the session focused on the organisational structure of the ISN, ensuring that the community leaders present grasp a clear understanding of their responsibilities as participants and leaders in the ISN as a social movement.

Nkokheli Ncambele, ISN Coordinator of the Western Cape, facilitating the learning space

Guiding Principles of the ISN
 
The most recent session kicked off with Nkokheli’s description of the fundamental pillars of the ISN:

  • Accountability & Transparency

To enhance efficiency and transparency, the organisational structure of the ISN is divided into community, subregional, regional, provincial, and national levels. As Nkokheli stated:

“The community leadership is accountable to their community because wherever they go—like when they go to meet with the City of Cape Town—they have to come back and report to the community. If you don’t do that, you’re not accountable. Every leader has to go back and report to his community.”
Furthermore, to ensure transparency and accountability, community leaders are driven by what Nkokheli calls a “community mandate”—the specific needs, goals, and interests that the community leader advances on behalf of the community:
“If you don’t have a community mandate that is going to drive you, when someone doesn’t have a mandate, who is going to hold you accountable? But if you have a mandate, this is very important to you.”
  • Availability and Commitment
When projects are initiated, Nkokheli recounted that communities often first ask:
“‘When is this project going to start? The second question: how many people are going to be employed? Then the community says, ‘Please, leadership, make sure that our people are benefiting from the project.’”

When communities ask questions of their leaders, leaders must ensure that their actions align with the collective interest of the community.

  • Love 

Nkokheli emphasised the necessity of love and compassion in the ISN: “Whatever we do, we do it with love. Without love, you can’t build an organization.”

  • Trust

Finally, Nkokheli spoke of the trust that communities vest in their leaders to advocate on their behalf: “We trust you [leaders] that you’re going to deliver.”

Understanding the Roles and Responsibilities of ISN Leaders

Next, Nkokheli proceeded to delve into the organisational structure of the ISN, detailing the roles and responsibilities of leaders on each of the five levels composing the movement.

  • Community level

On a community level, a minimum of fifteen leaders are elected to represent the community. If a community is large, it will be divided into a number of sections. The participation of community leaders is indispensable for the planning and implementation of a project in a community.

  • Subregional level

Nkokheli described:

“The subregion is where all the community mandates go. From there, the community mandates go to the regions. For example, here in Khayelitsha we’ve got 5 subregions: Site C, Site B, Enkanini, Endloveni and Strand. When they come together they form a region. If you are leading on a regional level or a subregional level, you’re not only focusing on your community, you’re focusing on Site B—you are a leader of Site B, not a leader of your community.”

When a community seeks to advocate its needs, it must first express them to local community leaders, who then conveys the community’s interests to the subregional leaders. In turn, subregional leaders “have the duty to go and put pressure on the regional leadership.”

  • Regional level
Similarly, on a regional level, Nkokheli emphasised that leaders must be accountable not only to their own communities but to the entire region:
“I want us to think about our communities, but once you are serving on the subregional or regional level, you are not thinking about your community alone… On a regional level, your focus is on all of Khayelitsha.”

Regional leaders, in turn, report to the provincial leadership.

  • Provincial level
Currently, the Western Cape provincial leadership is composed of eight active members (including Nkokheli himself). When provincial leaders are elected, representatives from all regions must be present. Once again, Nkokheli emphasised the misperception that an individual from a certain community serving in the provincial leadership represents their respective community—which is not the case. While a leader might be inclined to serve the interests of their own community, like subregional and regional leaders, provincial leaders mustn’t focus on the needs of their home community alone:
“Look at me: my community has many problems. But my focus is not on my own community, but on the Western Cape at large.”
  • National level

While a national leadership structure does exist, the ISN largely operates more locally, spearheaded by the provincial leadership. Nkokheli articulated: “You have to have a strategy to be in or lead this movement.” Integral to this strategy, according to Nkokheli, is understanding the dynamics between community movements (like the ISN) and politics. Nkokheli stated:

“It’s important for us as a social movement to be just a social movement, not to be a political movement. You don’t talk politics, you talk community development.”

Project Development Step-by-Step: From community mandate to project realisation

1. “You can’t do anything in any particular community without consulting its leaders”.The active engagement and participation of community leaders is the cornerstone of initiating and implementing an upgrading project. Furthermore, communities must demonstrate readiness and commitment by developing savings schemes. Nkokheli emphasised: “You can’t just want a project without community savings. How can we approve that project without community savings?”

2. Next, on a subregional level, decision making must involve representation from each affected community. The subregional level is highly important, as the subregional leaders are responsible for reporting back to their communities. In turn, the communities must articulate their needs and interests:

“The community has the responsibility of giving a mandate to these people. If a community says, we want a project, they tell the leadership, ‘We want re-blocking,’ and then the leadership should come here in the subregion and say ‘Our community wants a project.’”
3. Next, the subregional coordinator is responsible for approaching the regional leadership. For example, the subregional coordinator might say:
“‘In our subregion, we’ve got 6 communities that are requesting a project. They’ve done profiling, enumerations, and they’ve started their community savings.’ The duty of regional leaders is to come to the provincial level and say, ‘In our region, we’ve got 15 community that want projects.’”
At this point, a decision must be made: how many settlements can be supported. Based on that evaluation of community preparedness, technical feasibility and local government engagement, CORC becomes involved in the project planning process, advancing towards the next steps of project implementation. After Nkokheli explained these steps, he opened up the forum for questions, conversation and debate. Concluding the session, Nkokheli remarked on the power of collaboration in leadership structures: “When you bring different leaders together, you find something and you learn something.”

Implemented project: re-blocking in a section of Khayelitsha Site B

Project in action: Khayelitsha Site B’s nearly complete new community hall

Community leaders in Khayelitsha Site B at the learning space

 

Alliance mobilises street dwellers & teaches students in Manchester, UK

By CORC, FEDUP, ISN 2 Comments

By Ava Rose Hoffman (on behalf of CORC)

From 8-12 March 2016, the South African SDI Alliance participated in a learning exchange in the United Kingdom with students at the University of Manchester and community organisations in the Greater Manchester area.

Left to right: Charlton Ziervogel (CORC), Alina Mofokeng (FEDUP), Nkokheli Ncambele (ISN) in Manchester

Left to right: Charlton Ziervogel (CORC), Alina Mofokeng (FEDUP), Nkokheli Ncambele (ISN)

Members of the of the South African SDI Alliance, community leaders Nkokheli Ncambele (ISN), Alina Mofokeng (FEDUP) and support professional Charlton Ziervogel (CORC) engaged with postgraduate students at the University of Manchester’s School of Environment, Education and Development participating in a course on Citizen-Led Development. In the course, students study inclusive, pro-poor, participatory community development approaches. The course highlighted methodologies practiced by SDI and collaborating organisations including developing savings schemes, federation building, community mobilisation, enumerations, engaging with the state, and building partnerships with NGOs, academic institutions and governments.

Arriving in Manchester as Community Lecturers

During the week of lectures at the University of Manchester, Nkokheli and Alina taught students about the ways in which the urban poor in South Africa are uniting, mobilising, organising themselves around savings contributions and building partnerships with local governments and institutions.

Reflecting on the experience of teaching students in the course, Nkokheli described the importance of public participation when professionals engage with communities:

“The professional likes to ‘do’ for poor people. That’s the first challenge. It’s a challenge on both sides because communities don’t want someone to decide on their behalf, and the government doesn’t want to listen to poor people because they say that they’re uneducated. That’s why we always try to change that mindset… It’s important to come to the people and listen to what they want. You use your professionalism to help them to achieve what they want.”

Nkokheli facilitates a community gathering with informal settlement leaders in Khayelitsha's Site B

Nkokheli facilitates a community gathering with informal settlement leaders in Khayelitsha’s Site B

Mobilising Manchester Street Dwellers & Community Movements

In addition to lecturing the students, Nkokheli, Alina and Charlton visited community groups each day, ranging from homeless support organizations to squatters occupying empty buildings to women’s income generation groups. Additionally, they participated in a half-day workshop with local community groups on 8 March 2016.

Meeting with community group Moms Mart in Wythenshawe

Meeting with community group Mums Mart in Wythenshawe

During the visits, Nkokheli and Alina described how they personally came to be involved in their respective movements, ISN and FEDUP, and then proceeded to discuss how to self-organise and start savings contribution programmes. Upon learning about how savings schemes operate in South Africa, some community organisations were receptive to the idea of starting similar savings groups of their own.

While many of the challenges that organisations and movements face in the UK are different from those encountered in the South African context, Charlton described that “what these groups needed was people to inspire them to get organised.” Referring to a past exchange with SDI back in the 1990s, Frances, a leader from one participating group, the Teeside Homeless Action Group (THAG), articulated:

“Our contact with groups from South Africa, Zimbabwe, India, etc. helped THAG to develop ways of working that matched our ethos of self-help and user involvement.  One person I spoke to on a number of occasions was Sheela Patel (SPARC, India) who liked the way THAG was working but she warned that unless we were careful we would attract large scale funding, end up with offices full of technology and lots of staff but would lose touch with our reason for existence – helping homeless people. Her warning went unheeded and it was not until 2010 that I saw what THAG had become – offices, technology, lots of staff but I had no contact with the homeless.  Since that time THAG has offloaded staff got rid of electronic gadgetry and went back to the things we did best – work with the homeless and help them to help themselves.”

This example, Charlton described, captures the richness of the network’s knowledge.

Nkokheli with fellow ISN coordinators and Provincial Minister for Human Settlements in Cape Town

Nkokheli with fellow ISN coordinators and Provincial Minister for Human Settlements in Cape Town

Furthermore, Nkokheli highlighted the importance of building solidarity, not only by creating networks among the poor but also by forming partnerships with local governments and institutions (including universities). Nkokheli described,

“By forming partnerships with other institutions, it makes government listen to the people.”

In particular, Nkokheli saw a great deal of potential for low-income communities to build partnerships with the government in Manchester given that the government issues small grants to the unemployed, which could serve as the foundation for a savings contribution programme. Nonetheless, Charlton observed that funding is limited and many people are falling into poverty in Manchester, thus to to “get ahead” it’s critical for people to organise themselves.

Reflections on Teaching and Mobilising

Charlton described that it was very significant to expose students to a different type of urban planning process given that “the opportunity to influence future urban planning has always been something that we try to achieve through CORC.”

Alina speaks to fellow FEDUP members during savings mobilisation

Alina speaks to fellow FEDUP members during savings mobilisation

Nkokheli emphasized the key message that ISN and FEDUP sought to bring to community groups in Manchester:

“The people need to network, to discuss the issues, to make sure that they’re initiating projects and also forming partnerships with the government. This was the message that we wanted to send to the people in Manchester.”

The two primary points of action that Nkokheli sought to reinforce were

  1. community organising in order to project the voices of the urban poor, and
  2. developing savings schemes.

Nkokheli described:

“What we tried to convey in Manchester is that poor people mustn’t tell themselves that they are poor and they can’t do anything. So, they need to start collecting information and organising people, making sure that they are saving so that when they go to the government, they go with something. We are trying to change the system of ‘taking’ to a system of ‘supporting.’”

From Nairobi to Cape Town: Learning about Upgrading and Partnerships with Local Government

By CORC, FEDUP, ISN, Learning Exchanges, SDI No Comments

By Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)

From Ghetto informal settlement in Nairobi, the Kenyan SDI Alliance together with an official from the nearby Kiambu County Government visited the South African SDI Alliance on a learning exchange in Cape Town from 22 – 25 February 2016. Community leaders and an official from Ekurhuleni Municipality, near Johannesburg, also joined the group.

The purpose of the exchange was to share experiences regarding informal settlement upgrading, partnership formation between community movements and local governments, project planning, preparation and mobilisation processes. Kenya’s Federation, Muungano wa Wanavijiji has been supporting Ghetto community in obtaining tenure security and identifying housing beneficiaries. Currently the settlement is set for the final phase in a government-upgrading project that requires re-planning its public spaces and houses, a familiar process that the South African Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) and Informal Settlement Network (ISN) call “reblocking”.

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Priscilla, community leader in Sheffield Road speaks about reblocking

With introductions and an overview of the SA SDI Alliance on the first day, the visitors shared their key learning interests as relating to

  • Partnership Formation between communities themselves and between communities and local governments
  • Upgrading Processes – how communities organise themselves during upgrading, how technicalities in construction and implementation are dealt with, the role of project funding and community saving

Savings and Income Generation

With savings as the core practice of the SDI network, the afternoon visit took place at a FEDUP savings and income generation group in Samora Machel, Philippi. The group explained how its FEDUP membership enabled individuals to access small loans from the Federation Income Generation Program (FIGP). With a particular set of criteria for loan access, repayments and additional loan cycles, the group had established a number of small businesses such as beading, second hand clothing, fried chicken or locally tailored clothing.

The meeting sparked an animated discussion on how savers could maintain their momentum and interest in savings, especially after receiving a house or an informal settlement upgrade upgrading can be seen as fulfilling the “immediate savings purpose”. A loan group member explained that she viewed saving as valuable backup to draw on when problems arose. In Kenya, members became tired of “saving for nothing” – they therefore began using their savings in smaller projects while waiting for larger projects to occur. The Kenyan visitors further noted the value building trust between members through administering loans to small groups of five savers.

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Mary Wambui (Kenya SDI Alliance) and John Mulia (Kenya Official) look at FEDUP savings book

FEDUP Income Generation businesses in Samora Machel

FEDUP Income Generation businesses in Samora Machel

Reblocking in the City of Cape Town

Over the next two days the group traced re-blocking projects and informal settlement upgrading projects in the municipalities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch.

In Cape Town the SA SDI Alliance used its first re-blocking projects in Joe Slovo and Sheffield Road settlements to build a partnership with the City of Cape Town to jointly pursue future upgrading and reblocking projects. As a result the City adopted reblocking as a policy, an indicator of increased intent to engage with community-led processes. In Sheffield Road the group saw how reblocking establishes access routes, courtyards, increased space for communal water and sanitation installation as well as safer public open spaces. Since reblocking, the community has successfully negotiated for electricity installation.

Courtyard in Sheffield Road after reblocking

Courtyard in Sheffield Road after reblocking

In Sheffield Road: Rashid and Samuel (Kenyan Federation) in discussion with Lulama (ISN leader for Philippi region)

In Sheffield Road: Rashid and Samuel (Kenyan Federation) in discussion with Lulama (ISN leader for Philippi region)

Mtshini Wam was the first settlement that was reblocked in partnership with the City of Cape Town in 2013. While walking through the settlement the group noticed the improved differences between the projects: the layout of Mtshini Wam enabled 2 households to share water and sanitation facilities. Noticeably, a number of residents had self-built a second storey on to their structure after having participated in a community design process for double storey units as further development after upgrading. Through persistent negotiations after reblocking, the community received municipal electricity and ground levelling to mitigate flooding. ISN National Coordinator, Mzwanele Zulu, explained that such incremental upgrading contributed to incremental tenure security.

Double storey structures in Mtshini Wam

Double storey structures in Mtshini Wam

In Flamingo Crescent, the most recently upgraded settlement (2014), community leader Maria Matthews introduced the group to the settlement’s reblocking experience: engaging fellow community members to save, planning meetings with the City and community participation during reconstruction. Due to its enumeration figures and the reblocked layout, the community succeeded in negotiating for individual service installation and electricity per re-blocked household (1:1 services). Flamingo’s site was levelled with all access roads paved and named before erecting the reblocked structures. The visitors saw that for the SA Alliance, upgrading / reblocking is a cumulative experience, with consistent improvements in new projects based on past project learning.

“Reblocking made a big difference, but upgrading is far from over,” Maria Matthews explained. “We have many social and health problems remaining here.”

(Maria Matthews, Flamingo Crescent Community Leader)

Arrival in Flamingo Crescent

Arrival in Flamingo Crescent

After reblocking in Flamingo. 1:1 Services per household.

After reblocking in Flamingo. 1:1 Services per household.

Upgrading in Stellenbosch Municipality

In Langrug the group encountered an example of partial reblocking in a settlement about ten times the population size of those in Cape Town, with about 4000 residents. Community leader, Trevor Masiy, traced the settlement’s partnership with the SA SDI Alliance and the joint partnership agreement with Stellenbosch Municipality, which informed the settlement’s upgrading initiatives in drainage and storm water projects and two Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Facilities. Trevor also highlighted the challenges experienced by disrepair of past upgrading projects. He therefore emphasised the value of community involvement not only in project planning and implementation but also in maintenance.

Walking through partially reblocked section of Langrug.

Walking through partially reblocked section of Langrug.

View on to Langrug

View on to Langrug

Water and Sanitation Facility in Zwelitsha section, Langrug

Water and Sanitation Facility in Zwelitsha section, Langrug

Partnership Meetings

Two separate partnership meetings with Stellenbosch Municipality and the City of Cape Town allowed the visitors and two visiting officials an insight into the practical workings of partnership building and project negotiations. The partnership meetings in Cape Town and Stellenbosch focussed on updating all gathered on current project progress and discussions on renewing and continuing the partnership relationships. Discussion highlights included:

Cape Town

  • Alliance emphasises that its partnership focus with the City is not only reblocking but also informal settlement and area-wide upgrading

Stellenbosch

  • The muincipality explained that reblocking is not just about structure upgrades but about enabling basic service provision
  • The municipality spoke about its partnership with Langrug and SA Alliance as fluid, moving towards different ways and means of reaching a common goal
Partnership Meeting with Stellenbosch Municipality in Franschoek

Partnership Meeting with Stellenbosch Municipality in Franschoek

Alliance begins Cape Town partnership meeting in song in Bosasa Community Hall, Mfuleni

Alliance begins Cape Town partnership meeting in song in Bosasa Community Hall, Mfuleni

Reflections and Learnings

On Upgrading:

  • “We have been focussing on permanent houses. This can become strenuous for communities because it demands resources and scaling up. But our thinking has changed when we saw how reblocking has attracted government attention. (Rashid Muka, Kenyan Federation Leader)
  • “In Kenya we always thought that upgrading means erecting permanent structures. I am learning about incremental upgrading – something I’d like to take home” (John Mulia, Kiambu County Government, Kenya)
  • “The value of an incremental approach is that you don’t start with the end product (a house) and impose it on a community. Upgrading is not only housing. You can be in a temporary shack and as long as you have opened up spaces to basic services, then that is upgrading.” (Mary Wambui, Kenyan SDI Alliance )

On Building Parternerships

  • “What is key in achieving a relationship with a municipality? Involving the community, drafting good plans and implementing precedent setting projects that can influence policy, especially if there is no policy yet” (Sizwe Mxobo, CORC Technical Support)
  • Strong social movements that know what they want are important in building partnerships. They can remind municipalities about their commitments” (Nkokheli Ncambele, ISN Coordinator Western Cape)
  • “We want to pull stakeholders together and understand how to journey together. We want to be able to say this exchange gave birth to some of the lessons we learnt. What has come out clearly is the value of learning by doing.” (Rashid Muka, Kenyan Federation Leader)
Group gathers in a courtyard in Sheffield Road

Group gathers in a courtyard in Sheffield Road

On Community-Led Engagement

  • In this exchange I understood a lot about talking with communities. Government needs to understand the value of partners coming on board. The government of Kenya has made many plans but the community needs to point out what they want and need, not us the government. A project becomes sustainable when it is community driven.” (John Mulia, Kiambu County Government, Kenya)

How Mpumalanga Youth Create Change, Acquire Land and Income

By FEDUP No Comments

By Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)

FEDUP's KwaNdebele youth group in Mpumalanga

FEDUP’s KwaNdebele youth group in Mpumalanga

For Sylvia Mduli South Africa’s Youth Day on 16 June 2014 was energising and inspiring. She recounts how the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) gathered seventy FEDUP youth coordinators from across the country for a workshop in Durban. Discussions focussed on the youth’s experiences on the ground, their challenges and how they could use FEDUP’s mobilisation tools to organise themselves, build partnerships and influence change in their lives and communities.

“When I went to the youth exchange in Durban I saw how active other youth groups were and how they ran their youth activities. So I wanted to start my own youth group. Since then we have grown a lot and our members are doing many activities including income generation. Our challenge is that we need land for a youth office so we can do our work. We asked the FEDUP mamas to help us organise a partnership meeting with the local chiefs and councillor so we could share our work and negotiate for land”.

(Sylvia Mduli, Mpumalanga Youth Coordinator)

Sylvia Mduli (far left) with fellow FEDUP youth coordinators

Sylvia Mduli (far left) with fellow FEDUP youth coordinators

The meeting took place in early December 2015 in KwaMhlangu and was supported by long-standing FEDUP coordinators Nomvula Mahlangu (Mpumalanga) and Rose Molokoane (National). The group introduced itself to the listeners present, speaking about membership, its momentum of gathering savings and their income generation initiatives. Sylvia explained that the group’s struggle for land was based on the aim of building their own houses. Their immediate priority, however, was acquiring land for a youth office that would be a space for gatherings and income generation activities such as beading or storing recyclables.

“In 2015 our group had 62 members – 40 women and 22 men. We saved a total of R 15 970. As a group we do daily savings and collect them from each member during door-to-door visits. We also do stokvel and birthday party savings. We meet every fortnight and exchange ideas. This is how we started recycling cans, bottles and boxes and selling them to the depot. We used our recycling income to organise an end-of-year party We also use our earnings for more income generation – some members have a hairsalon, utshisa nyama [street barbecue] or do beading.   We also have a small catering business with 22 chairs that we rent out. We bought them for R40 each and rent them out for R7 each. You know we are always fighting for the money. Its not easy but we are trying!”

(Sylvia Mduli, Mpumalanga Youth Coordinator)

Mpumalanga youth collect door to door savings

Mpumalanga youth collect door to door savings

Rose Molokoane (Left), Nomovula Mahlangu (Right)

Rose Molokoane (Left), Nomovula Mahlangu (Right)

Together with the chiefs and councillor the group inspected a large piece of land, a portion of which was promised to the youth in a prior meeting. Sylvia emphasised the success of the youth group’s meeting with the elders who agreed to sell a portion of land to them. They also supported a FEDUP by joining the FEDUP funeral scheme and requested that the youth group present their work to youth in the chiefs’ area. The councillor indicated his interest in engaging with the youth as a group that could mobilise the entire community.

“We now need to make a proposal to the chief and continue to save. It will be local elections soon so there will be a new councillor. This can be difficult but we will continue to talk to the new councillor. I have learnt that there are some organisations that you join and at the end you get nothing out of them. But with FEDUP it is “work for work”. “

(Sylvia Mduli, Mpumalanga Youth Coordinator)

Regional chief addresses the group.

Regional chief addresses the group.

In a country that has an “urbanising and youthful population” the priority of building South Africa’s youth is evident (see the National Development Plan (NDP)). While the youth-oriented lens of the NDP focuses on improvements in critical educational, social and economic indicators, the building of self-reliant youth movements is essential, especially in urban and rural poor contexts. FEDUP coordinator, Rose Molokoane underscores the point:

“We need an organised youth that is able to create an agenda of change in their lives. Our children grew up seeing their mothers create impact and opportunities for the poor in their communities. We are pulling the youth next to us to learn from us. To draw in the youth is to create the next level of leadership. There are so many service delivery protests in South Africa and it is heartbreaking to see the youth leading them. We need to groom new youth leaders that want to learn about new avenues to negotiate with the state. Because of unemployment we advise them not to sit down and wait for the work to come to them.”

FEDUP’s Yona Yethu Youth Group Tackles Unemployment in Gauteng

By CORC, FEDUP, ISN No Comments

By Motebang Matsela (on behalf of CORC)

Yona Yethu is a group formed on 25 April 2013 by eight youth members of the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) who reside in Blue Gum View section of Gauteng’s Duduza informal settlement. With the aim of changing  their environment the group formed a non-profit organisation that goes under Yona Yethu, with a membership that has increased to 42 dedicated individuals.

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Yona Yethu Background

The sprawl of unemployment within this community led the group to come together and address unemployment in an effort to alleviate poverty, drug and alcohol abuse. This motivated the group to make a difference within their neighbourhood, hoping to extend their initiative to the greater community, in time. While other youth point fingers at the government, blaming it for unemployment in townships, Yona Yethu thinks of different ways of tackling their social concerns.

Yona Yethu Projects

Cleaning of dumping site
The group started with cleaning and clearing an illegal dump site situated near their settlement. They first mobilised each other around environmental concerns and lack of recreational space. Secondly, they created an opportunity to generate income through recycling,  a car wash and waste & refuse management initiative which includes bin cleaning, arts & crafts and landscaping. Initially the funds generated were utilised to register this entity legally as a cooperative with the relevant department or institution. Presently the income is directed towards savings. The savings are timeously utilised for operations and purchasing of new materials where deemed fit.

Fighting illegal dumping brought about a concern for the environment and taking actin to ensure the safety of children who were often seen  playing in the rubble and refuse that posed health and safety hazards. The team embarked on cleaning those sites to create what they regarded as an informal community park. The social spaces that they managed to create through beautiful landscaping has been their response to the lack of recreational spaces in their township, for the youth and adults to enjoy equally.

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Yona Yethu won the Botho ke Bokamoso Award (Humanity is the Future Award) for the best new project in 2014, hosted by the Ekurhuleni Metro Municipality. This award was accompanied by a prize of R50 000 shared amongst two groups. They have managed to build a working partnership with the Municipality which is committed to giving ongoing support through agricultural training programs. With this skills training the members are looking at developing food gardens to sell freshly harvested produce which will be used as a form of income generation and to tackle youth unemployment.

Added to this commitment, the waste and refuse management team receives training which supplies them with refuse bags and other materials to conduct their work. The municipality has also scheduled a new training for the youth which will focus on water and sanitation with the possibility that after completion of training the youth will get employment from the relevant department.

Duduza resident, Innocent Ndlela, said he is very proud of what the young people are doing for the community while also making ends meet at home. He encouraged them to continue doing a good job that benefits the community:

“I like that they are fighting against one of the biggest challenges in our township which is illegal dumping. Many residents, including children have been sick as a result of the filthiness in the dumping sites next to our homes. It is not always up to the government to create jobs but the youth needs to stand up and pave their way to success.”

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The hard work conducted by the team has lured external stakeholders  like Valley Steel to support the team with protective gears such as gloves,boots and overalls that will be useful in the daily activities of the group.

Recycling

Moreover, this team has been attracting the interest of other external stakeholders like Valley Steel which supports the team with protective gear like gloves, boots and overalls to conduct their daily activities. Interested parties like this were drawn in by the efforts put by Yona Yethu. It was evident that there are concerned citizens of South Africa   making it easier for support to come.

The recycling program includes the collection of recyclable materials which the group  sell to recyclers once a certain amount is reached. This is done through their waste & refuse management activities, where they identify any recyclables from households refuse bins before the Municipal waste removal teams collect the contents in the township on Tuesdays. As soon as the municipal collection is done, the group washes the bins and fits them with a new refuse bag as a service to those willing to pay for it. The charge for cleaning in R20 which rises to R30 with an addition of a refuse bag. The income generated is reinvested back into the business, some saved and some is used to pay wages to those conducting the work.

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Art Work
Unemployment drove the youth to come together and share their skills and knowledge in order to create employment for themselves.  The members have different skills and interests, though all aimed at one goal.  This has allowed the group to be involved in different projects such as performances, making arts and crafts. Regular meetings to collect creative ideas and share thoughts and skills in the process are an important feature.  The money made is invested back into the business for equipment and materials, and the rest follows similar processes as mentioned above.

Their artistic ability is evident on a daily basis through art installations created with the ones partaking in the landscaping through artefacts like water fountains. Hlabane Mokoena, a member of the organisation, also pointed to the installation of a self-built water fountain at the park.

“With the different skills that each one of us has, we work together to provide the community with what is useful to them. We also make profit from self-made wire-cars. One of our challenges are residents who undermine us ” said Mokoena. Others give discouraging comments, doubting our ability”

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Car wash
Not far from the park is  a car wash that the group has opened with the aim of generating income. This was one of the initial ideas the team identified as a income generation method, that is still operational till today. The car wash is actually one of the profitable undertakings by this team as it generates a large amount without a high initial capital cost. The car wash employed four of the Yona Yethu members who are committed daily to the operations and bookkeeping as needed. The team is then paid from the profits that it generates. One challenge experienced with this particular business is the competition the group faces as there are many carwashes operating in the surrounding area. This means that they have to work hard to uphold a good reputation and strengthen their marketing.

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SDI, WIEGO & Avina: Growing a Global Coalition of the Urban Poor

By CORC, FEDUP, ISN, SDI No Comments

By Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)

Piesang River – the home of the South African Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), a meeting place filled with sounds of Portuguese, isiZulu, Spanish and English,  a place filled with expectations of what a four-day learning exchange might hold for its participants – representatives of urban poor networks from across Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil and South Africa. Are there joint mobilisation strategies? How does each movement build partnerships? And what does advocacy from the perspective of community leaders look like? These questions shaped the purpose of the four-day learning exchange from 21-24 September in South Africa’s east coast port city, Durban.

WEIGO EXCHANGE

The participants included community leaders and supporting organisations from

  • the Brazilian Alliance of Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI)
  • the Ecuadorian Waste Picker Network
  • the Ecuadorian Network for Fair, Democratic & Sustainable Cities
  • the Association of Recyclers in Bogota, Colombia (Asociación de Recicladores de Bogota)
  • Fundacion Avina in Peru & Ecuador
  • Women In Informal Employment : Globalising & Organising (WIEGO)
  • Asiye eTafuleni in Durban (AeT, network of informal workers)
  • The South African SDI Alliance as hosts: Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), Informal Settlement Network (ISN) and Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC)

What brought together representatives from such different locations? Their affiliation to SDI (Brazil & South Africa), WIEGO (Colombia & Asiye eTafuleni, South Africa) and Fundacion Avina (Ecuador). All three are global movements of the urban poor. Although their approaches may differ, SDI, WIEGO and Avina share the vision of building equitable, just and inclusive cities. The learning exchange was convened by Cities Alliance, of which WIEGO and SDI are both members. Envisioned as a two-part exchange, the first was hosted by SDI in South Africa, while the second will be hosted by WIEGO in Colombia.

The exchange focussed on exposing the visitors to the South African Alliance’s approaches to- and outcomes of community organising. This included a visit to housing and informal settlement upgrading projects, a savings scheme, conducting practical data collection, a partnership meeting with government and getting to know the context of informal workers.

A People’s Approach to Housing and Upgrading

Visiting a people driven housing project at Namibia

Visiting a people driven housing project at Namibia Stop 8 settlements

While each movement shared its main focal areas and organisational approaches in presentations on the first day, a real sense of getting to know each other occurred through questions and anecdotes that opened windows into personal and collective experiences:

“In Colombia waste-pickers have been organising for more than 30 years – recycling is an option for poor people who are old or don’t have access to jobs. I was displaced during the war. My husband was killed by guerrilla fighters. Through recycling I was able to support my family” (Ana Elizabeth Cuervo Alba, Colombia)

“As waste pickers in Ecuador we lobbied the government to a point where we now have a national agreement that pays waste pickers for recycling” (Elvia Pisuña, Ecuador)

“Urban informal workers usually face extreme challenges with people resisting their presence in public spaces .We called ourselves, Asiye eTafuleni because it means – come to the table. Let us negotiate for the inclusive future of the working urban poor. “ (Richard Dobson, Asiye eTafuleni, Durban)

Incidentally, Piesang River also displays the fruits of FEDUP’s militant negotiation with national government around housing delivery. FEDUP leaders explained that the vast housing settlements in Piesang River and Namibia Stop 8 (a further area visited that afternoon) are a result of their success in convincing government to grant members direct access to their housing subsidy. This enabled them to self-build larger houses, culminating in the adoption of the People’s Housing Process (PHP) policy. Although it has not been without its challenges, PHP represents a breakthrough in altered approach from “delivery” to “collaboration”.

Recycling Exchange

Informal Settlement Upgrading Plans at Mathambo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In contrast, community leaders of the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) elaborated on their difficulty in achieving breakthrough in municipal support for informal settlement upgrading. With over 2700 informal settlements in the country and an increasing housing backlog, the ISN supports communities with tools and plans for negotiating with local government around service delivery through incremental upgrading. During a visit to Mathambo settlement, community leader and regional ISN coordinator, Ndodeni Dengo explained that despite the settlement’s relatively small size, existing structures were located in high density to each other, with most not larger than 9m2 – and a deficit of water, sanitation and electricity services. The community had collected data about its settlement through a detailed household level enumeration that helped them negotiate upgrading plans with the local municipality. By using wooden boxes for planning a new layout that would enable service installation, the community established their ideal design for the upgraded settlement.

How do urban poor communities organise?

Over the next two days the visitors were introduced to the driving force behind FEDUP and ISN’s housing and upgrading projects: the practice of daily savings and data collection as tools for community organisation.

Explaining savings Kwa Bester

Explaining savings Kwa Bester

At Kwa Bestar savings group, the visitors saw that saving is not primarily about collecting money, but about collecting people. Savings groups are a space where trust is nurtured through daily saving, sharing needs and identifying common solutions. At present, the group of 39 active members has saved US$ 2800. It is also engaged in forming smaller saving units to access loans by generating income through small businesses. The keen involvement of young people aged 8 – 25 in the savings process was a special highlight. Once more it became evident that savings is about growing and enabling people, showcased by the rich dance, drama and music performances by the youth.

Youth savings group shares dance performance

Youth savings group shares dance performance

Where savings builds self reliance, data collection builds knowledge: upon arrival at Zikhali, a small, rural settlement in the northern sugar cane fields of Durban, Rose Molokoane, National Coordinator of FEDUP and SDI deputy president, explained:

“When a community knows clearly who they are, which are their problems, it is much easier to negotiate with municipal officials”

This is how data collection through settlement profiles (of a settlement’s history, infrastructure, conditions) and enumerations (detailed household level surveys) enables partnership with local government officials. When walking around the area, the group mapped the settlement boundaries and landmarks such as water and sanitation points on GPS devices while others spoke to residents, collecting household data by using the Alliance’s enumeration form.

GIS mapping in Zikhali settlement

GIS mapping in Zikhali settlement

 

Household Enumeration in Zikhali

Household Enumeration in Zikhali

Approaches to building partnerships with government

It is through savings and data-collection that SDI’s urban poor federations leverage partnerships: saving contributions show self-reliance and community will; settlement-wide data powers a community’s negotiation capacity. On day three the visitors accompanied the Durban Alliance to a meeting with the local municipality, province and a representative from national government, discussing the progress of housing and upgrading projects.

The South Americans perceived

  • A strong relationship with government officials
  • A measure of trust and flexibility in receiving visitors at the meeting
  • Political willingness to listen and debate

Insights from the South African participants

  • The perceived trust and partnership with Municipal Government was “built by doing”, demonstrating results and inviting the municipality to be part of the social process
  • Despite the working group and formally conducted meetings, the municipality often does not give prompt answers to the most urgent needs of communities

The visit to Asiye eTafuleni (AeT) added rich insight to the experience of informal workers and an added dimension to partnership building with local authorities. The group was introduced to AeT’s work in developing inclusive spaces that support sustainable livelihoods for informal workers. The shared realities of informal settlement dwellers and informal workers became particularly evident on a walk-about through the bustling Warwick market in Durban’s inner-city. For AeT and the SA SDI Alliance the encounter highlighted similarities and differences in approach but most of all established a platform for increased collaboration in the future.

Government Partnership Meeting

Government Partnership Meeting

View on to a section of Warwick market

View on to a section of Warwick market

 

Walkabout in Warwick Junction

Walkabout in Warwick Junction

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflecting, Learning and Joint Advocacy

With a rich collection of experiences and impressions, the group gathered on the last morning to reflect and share on the ….

  • Non-monetary value of savings. Savings are about collecting money and people (building social capital, trust, self-reliance)
  • Power of information: data collection is crucial for building self-reliance, identifying common goals and establishing negotiating power
  • Key role of women as cultivating transparency and accountability
  • Cultural factors present in South Africa: welcoming, joyful people, ability to join efforts and to coordinate
  • Youth work: value of young people generating and managing their own savings to use in initiatives of their choice (e.g. creative arts)
  • Global similarities in poor people’s struggles
  • Recycling as Income Generation: value in using opportunities around you (e.g. waste = recycling opportunity = income generation)
  • Increased awareness of interface between shack dwellers and informal workers

… and on strategies for the road ahead:

  • Mobilisation Strategies: Gain understanding of waste picker movements in South America
  • Building Partnerships: Plan further exchanges with local (i.e. national) counterparts of global movements
  • Prepare for Joint Lobbying at Global Events such as Habitat III.

As the global development community gears up for Habitat III, global movements of the urban poor are establishing a firm coalition. This learning exchange forms an integral part of that process, “allowing networks organised around livelihood and habitat to come together, share their experiences and strengthen their capacity to organise and advocate in favour of the urban poor” (Cities Alliance, Exchange convener). When speaking with a united voice, advocacy has the potential to influence policy discussions on increased collaboration between communities and governments.

“By referring to our connection with one another, WIEGO, SDI & Avina can make a strong case for a pro-poor agenda. Only if we come together as poor people we can show our governments that we are influencing their policies to meet the needs of the people. “ (Rose Molokoane, FEDUP Coordinator & SDI vice president)

Sharing Knowledge from the Bottom-Up: SDI visits Cape Town Learning Center

By CORC, FEDUP, ISN, SDI No Comments

By Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)

Horizontal learning exchanges form a significant pillar of bottom-up knowledge sharing and a mobilisation tool used by informal settlement dwellers across the Shack/ Slum Dwellers International network. Exchanges are a development tool, which

“help people deal with the root issues of poverty and homelessness and work out their own means to participate in decision-making which affects their lives, locally, nationally & globally. In exchange people are not being trained to do things. They decide themselves what to pick up and what to discard, by visiting others in the same boat. It’s learning without an agenda…on-site, direct from the source, unfiltered”

(Tom Kerr, SDI Secretariat)

In recent years the SDI network has streamlined learning and experience sharing from open ended exchange interaction to a city-level focus in which learning, capacity-building and monitoring is concentrated on four city-level centers of learning. These (Cape Town and Kampala, Mumbai and Accra) were identified due to their capacity to operate at the city scale and demonstrate productive partnerships with government. This blog focuses on a recent visit by the SDI management committee to the Cape Town learning centre, and engages with questions raised by community members around the nature of learning and knowledge sharing in the SDI network.

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Joseph Muturi, from the Kenyan SDI Alliance poses a question to FEDUP / ISN leadership.

The first morning saw national community leaders from the SDI Alliances of Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe join the South African Alliance , SDI President, Jockin Arputham, and deputy president, Rose Molokoane, in exploring the approach of community-driven process in South Africa. The South African community movements, FEDUP and ISN, spoke about their involvements in respective community projects relating to land access and negotiation, People’s Housing Process (PHP), security of tenure, ensuring access to basic services, informal settlement upgrading, and income generation projects.

When asked what FEDUP and ISN see as particular achievements, FEDUP’s regional leader in the Western Cape Province, Thozama Nomnga, spoke of the Federation’s Income Generation Program (FIGP), which is funded through a revolving loan fund established through FEDUP’s national savings. As much as the FIGP funds are drawn from savings, the program also grows FEDUP’s membership and strengthens savings practice as personal savings are a prerequisite to accessing a loan.

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Visiting a savings group and learning about FIGP in Samora Machel.

During the morning, the group visited a savings scheme in Samora Machel township in Cape Town as well as FEDUP’s Vusi Ntsuntsha group. After a warm welcome at Samora Machel, the savings group facilitator, treasurers and collectors spoke about the FIGP, how loan groups are formed, how loans are allocated and the respective finances are calculated. Savings group members showcased their small businesses – ranging from tailored shwe-shwe Dresses, to tuck-shop goods, beaded jewellery and crafts, fat-cakes and chicken. From Samora Machel the visitors travelled to Vusi Ntsuntsha group, hearing about the group’s successful negotiation for land, and the challenges ahead in terms of securing tenure and housing sites. Hassan Kiberu, from the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) motivated the group to keep unity and hope:

“By unity we win. When you give up you won’t win. We joined the Federation in Uganda because we have so many problems. Like you, there are many that we haven’t tackled yet. It is important that you are firm, don’t lose hope and keep on saving.”

Income Generation businesses by the Samora Macheal savings scheme

FIGP businesses in Samora Macheal.

The remainder of the day was spent in a packed community structure in Khayelitsha where representatives from more than 5 communities had gathered to share their experiences in informal settlement upgrading, community generated data collection, design, mapping, planning and negotiation with local government. The visitors were introduced to an area-wide upgrading approach around a wetland and the accompanying lengthy negotiations with local government. They also heard about a completed reblocking upgrade in Flamingo Crescent informal settlement and the process of planning for reblocking in three additional settlements.

In conversations and questions posed throughout the day – a recurring interest occurred among community participants concerning the nature of ‘learning’, the necessity for transparent sharing during  community exchanges and what it means to be an “SDI learning centre”. Joseph Muturi from the Kenyan Alliance’s Federation, Muungano Wa Wanavijiji, raised the value of sharing challenges as freely and as frequently as successes.

“How can we learn from each other if we don’t share our challenges? We know that we can learn from every SDI country. In learning centres there is something specific we can learn. But we don’t expect them to be perfect –there will always be challenges, and we need to learn from them.”

Community gathering in Khayelitsha on informal settlement upgrading.

Community gathering in Khayelitsha on informal settlement upgrading.

On this note, ISN shared the difficulties of navigating tensions between steering committees and communities, the rivalry between different civic organisations, varying levels of co-operation from Councillors and long delays by city councils that cause disillusionment in communities. Kenyan representatives spoke about their ability to secure tenure for 10 000 informal settlement dwellers through bio-metric data collection, using mobile phones – learnt from the interaction between Ugandan Federation members and their City officials. In reflecting on the exchange, Nkokheli Ncambele, provincial ISN coordinator, echoes the value of bottom-up knowledge generation in exchanges:

“It was very beneficial to be exposed to savings and the FIGP businesses – we managed to send a successful message to community leaders in Khayelitsha about upgrading and savings. We learnt how other countries use their profiling data to engage with the City. We need to do the same”.