SDI affiliates continued to work closely with academic institutions to co-produce knowledge through undertaking collective planning studios. SDI’s position is that these types of engagements expose students and academics to informal knowledge and conditions that call into question existing presumptions, planning frameworks, infrastructure standards and laws. Through this experience the capacity and knowledge of slum dwellers as capable actors in developing upgrading plans and precedents for their own communities is illustrated. Collective studios are the first step in training the next generation of planners who will one day become officials shaping the development and inclusivity of cities. If practical collaborative studios (between planners and the urban poor) become embedded in University curricula, inclusive planning practices can become the norm rather then the exception.
“In communities we know the number of settlements, services and origins of the people. We know how they spend their money and how they would like to develop their areas. You cannot plan from the office but if you go to the ground and speak to people and learn from them it can help you plan better.” – Katana Goretti, Ugandan Federation
Reforming the manner in which planning students are educated is one step towards shifting planning paradigms in Africa. On this basis SDI entered into a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Assosiation of African Planning Schools (AAPS) in 2010, promoting co-operation between country affiliates and local planning schools. The MoU recognizes that the most effective way to change the mindsets of student planners is to offer direct experiential exposure to, and interaction with the conditions and residents of slums. In this manner students will be exposed to the value of informal knowledge and community participation in planning for settlement upgrading. During this period SDI affiliates and AAPS have conducted six collaborative planning studios in which students, staff, and urban poor communities engage directly in data collection, analysis, and the development of upgrading plans. Studios have taken place in Uganda, Malawi (two), South Africa, Kenya, and Namibia. In many cases local government officials have been invited to witness studio outputs and participate.
In Kampala, Uganda a studio with Makerere University planning students led to detailed reports reflecting informal challenges and upgrading plans that were submitted to local governments. During the studio the Ugandan Federation referred to themselves as “community professors.” Two concurrent studios took place in Blantyre and Mzuzu, Malawi. In Nancholi, Blantyre Federation members worked closed with the University of Malawi-Polytechnic to identify upgrading priorities and develop plans for improved circulation and drainage. In Salisbury Lines, Mzuzu, poor drainage and groundwater pollution were key priorities around which collective planning took place. In South Africa, students spent six months developing upgrading plans in conjunction with residents of Langrug informal settlement in Stellenbosch. In Gobabis, Namibia, students from the Polytechnic of Namibia undertook a site analysis of the Freedom Square informal settlement. Loraine, a community member from Block 5 in Freedom Square noted:
“The site analysis brought to light to how I see my surroundings. I learned how to use a GPS as we were doing the mapping. I also got to see which areas are suitable to build my house on and which aren’t, in order to avoid flooding, during the rainy season.”
It is important that studios become part of annual university curriculums, entrenching new approaches to planning over a sustained period and encouraging the participation of city governments. In all the aforementioned countries commitments have been made to replicate the studio process. Across the SDI network affiliates are exploring these types of engagements. For example a further studio recently took place between the Zambian affiliate and the University of Zambia in Lusaka. The municipality is looking at the possibility of implementing some of the proposals that emerged and has pledged to quicken the process of declaring the targeted settlement a legal residential area, as it is currently an illegal settlement under the 1975 Town and Country Planning Act.
In February 2013 a further planning studio was organised between the South African communities of Mshini Wam, Shukushukuma, and Ruo Emoh and architecture and planning students from the University of Melbourne to investigate new solutions for informal settlement upgrading and housing development. In Shukushukuma, plot sized placeholders were cut to scale and laid out on an aerial photograph. The location of visible infrastructure was mapped, such as electricity poles, toilet blocks, and water taps. The Mshini Wam group looked at alternative typologies for densification and formalisation after re-blocking projects. A visual fly through model was created, building on the new layout of re-blocked settlement.
During the year a German Agency for International Co-operation (GIZ) sponsored initiative was also undertaken to investigate the conditions for successful projects and partnerships between local government and urban poor communities. The report produced drew on experiences in Harare (Zimbabwe), Pune (India) and Kampala (Uganda) – locations that were visited by the investigating team. The team consisted of David Satterthwaite from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), Celine D’Cruz, an SDI Coordinator and co-founder of SPARC, and Sonia Fadrigo, a Core Monitoring Team member.
In 2013 SDI affiliates continue to consolidate partnerships with academic institutions with the goal of cementing collaborative efforts (e.g. planning studios) within university curriculums. SDI’s strategic medium term goals recognise the value of producing citywide data about informal settlements. Data can be used both to engage government and to assist in implementing projects that move beyond single settlements and tackle poverty at scale. Urban planners, architects, surveyors, and managers can, and must, play a vital role in critically engaging with this data. By accepting the validity of such data (and assisting in its co-production) academia can add both political and practical value increasing impact and scale.
To read more about SDI’s partnerships with academic institutions, check out our Annual Report.