Two academics from the School of Built Environment and Development studies (BEDS), Dr Claudia Loggia and Mrs Judith Ojo-Aromokudu, recently presented preliminary project findings of ISULabaNtu (a project on informal settlements upgrading) at a side event of the United Nations-Habitat 9th World Urban Forum (WUF) conference in Kuala Lumpur.
The theme of WUF was “Cities 2030, Cities for All: Implementing the New Urban Agenda (NUA)”, with a focus on the New Urban Agenda as a tool and accelerator for achieving Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Loggia described ISULabaNtu as a collaborative project led by UKZN and the University of Westminster (UK), in collaboration with University College London (UK), the NGO uTshani Fund (SA) and the eThekwini Municipality.
‘The overarching aim of this study is to uncover the benefits and challenges of moving towards a more participatory, incremental approach focusing on construction management and integrated environmental managements systems, which can enhance quality of life, livelihoods and, ultimately, community resilience and self-reliance’.
‘ISULabaNtu seeks to enhance skills, explore indigenous knowledge and share lessons between communities and local and national authorities and research institutions. The core vision is to re-examine informal settlements through the lenses of the community and co-producing inclusive approaches for the upgrading of informal settlements,’ she said.
At the event, Loggia (Principal Investigator of the SA team of ISULabaNtu) presented key findings from Phases 1 to 4 of the study, focusing on the Community Engagement strategy, challenges and opportunities of community led-approaches and strategies for co-producing knowledge and mapping urban transitions through community participation.
Loggia’s interactive presentation was followed by a panel discussion with selected experts in the areas of urban regeneration, housing policy, community participation and environmental management. The panellists were Faizal Seedat (eThekwini Municipality, Informal Settlements Unit), Rose Malokoane (Slum Dwellers International) and Nomali Zondo (South African Federation of the Urban Poor).
Ojo-Aromokudu chaired this panel discussion focussing on the most effective format that the ‘Collaborative Toolkit’ (Phase 5) should have in response to both Community and Municipality requirements.
‘The panel agreed on the need for a collaborative and inclusive toolkit as a structure that connects all key stakeholders and that shares co-produced solutions for upgrading. Overall, the project team had very positive feedback on ISULabantu, particularly with regards to the co-production approach,’ said Loggia.
The discussion concluded with the importance of gathering qualitative data through a meaningful collaboration between local Governments, NGOs, CBOs and research institutions, while enhancing self-organisation practices of communities towards a more incremental and participatory approach.
The two academics argue that a community-led approach and the existing gaps between local government and informal settlement communities revealed by their study, may be used as a platform for developing a new grassroots-based framework for upgrading informal settlements in South Africa.
‘The ISULabaNtu project recognises grassroots approaches as key strategies to build sustainable and resilient cities (sharing the inclusive NUA vision, based on participation and people-centred approaches),’ they said.