Know Your City Touches Down in Botswana

by James Tayler



As of 2017, the Botswana Homeless & Poor People Support Federation has organized 106 groups in 6 cities and towns. Thanks to impressive organizing by the Botswana federation, it was able to negotiate the development and signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Francistown City Council in 2016 to launch a Know Your City campaign. This year saw the federation organize to turn words into reality. In May 2017, the federation organized a learning-by-doing peer-to-peer exchange to bring their Namibian, Zimbabwean, and South African comrades to Francistown to kick-start the citywide profiling and mapping effort.


The collaboration exhibited during the exchange was impressive. Local community members, the Botswana federation, local tribal authorities, Francistown City officials, Botswana Statistics, and slum dwellers from Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe all gathered to kick-start the profiling of Francistown settlements. The learning-by-doing approach favored by federations throughout the SDI network ensured learning was practical and action-based. The teams learned to use GPS devices and tablets as they did the work, ensuring they tested their knowledge in real time and produced results as they learned. The teams uncovered hidden informality manifested in backyard shacks and considerable sanitation deficits in many areas.


The Know Your City campaign is off to a great start in Botswana. Meetings have been held at the national level with the federation and its peers from SDI to work towards replication of the Francistown MOU at national scale. Impressive commitments by various national government offices to work together and ensure they harmonize and streamline information gathering in low income areas has encouraged the federation that Know Your City has landed at an opportune time. The MOU signed in Francistown and the one in development at national level outline a commitment to implement a number of innovative, precedent-setting pilot projects (supported by the federation’s Bhabhanani Urban Poor Fund) emerging from the needs identified in the Know Your City Campaign.

The Botswana slum dweller federation efforts contribute to improved city resilience by demonstrating effective mechanisms for community to engage government through Know Your City, the promotion of active citizenship among the urban poor, the building of cohesive communities, and support to collaborative urban planning.

This post is part of a series of case studies from our 2017 Annual Report titled ‘The Road to Resilience.’ Emerging from the field of ecology,  ‘resilience’  describes the capacity of a system to maintain or recover from disruption or disturbance. Cities are also complex systems and a resilience framework addresses the inter- connectedness of formal and informal city futures. Moreover, it enables a nuanced reflection on the nature of shocks and chronic stressors – recognising that the latter are particularly acute in slum dweller communities and that this critically undermines the entire city’s economic, social, political, and environmental resilience.As with personal resilience, city resilience demands awareness, acknowledgment of reality, and a capacity to move beyond reactivity to responses that are proactive, thoughtful, and beneficial to the whole. The most enlightened individuals and cities will be those that understand their responsibility to the most vulnerable and to the planet. Our 2017 Annual Report showcases some of SDI’s achievements over the past year on the road to resilience. Click here for the full report.