Today Tanja Winkler, senior lecturer in Urban and Regional Planning, University of Cape Town, joined CORC staff and the Europe informal settlement leadership on a planning session at Europe, an informal settlement located in Gugulethu, just of the N2 national highway in Cape Town. The purpose of the planning meeting was to align the 2014 UCT Urban Planning practical learnership with that of the Europe community leaderships’s agendas in a “planning studio”. This studio will form part of the Master Students in Urban and Regional Planning curriculum, and have direct interactions with the community. The aim of the studio is to expose the students to alternative planning approaches when considering one of the most pressing challenges of our post-apartheid cities: urban informality in its various expressions. Moreover, the nature of the studio also means that technical support is given to the community’s plans for upgrading the settlements, and hence a two way beneficial relationship is established from where new tools of engagement with the state can be created.
The discussion included drawing experiences from the last studio, which was in 2011. Since that time, many dynamics in the settlement has changed. Read more about the interactions with the Europe community in 2011. Observations on a new planning practice from the 2011 experience included:
- Involvement of the government from commencement and the community can use the platform to engage with the municipality to solve the water and sanitation issues.
- Language barrier – this could cause communication breakdown between the students and the community.
- Sensitivity, the community and the leaders need to be aware that some of the students have never been to an informal settlement in their lives.
- The community needs to take charge of the project and they need to set their vision for the project from the beginning.
- Political climate- the leadership made it clear that the unstable political climate which caused disruptions in the past studio still exists but assured CORC and Tanya that the community now has a unified vision for the settlement.
- Commitment of the ISN and community leadership in leading the process, facilitating engagements between other stakeholders in the community with the students.
- Clarity on results expected after the studio, Tanya clarified that the students are town planning students and not engineers. Thus the expectations from the community must not be aligned to projects rather on the production of maps that can be used as engagement tools with the state.
This collaborative approach supports community initiatives by pairing technical support with social innovation through an engaging and co-productive process to create a shared vision. Community Studios are therefore spaces of collaboration, and some of the outcomes have included best practice case study research, graphic and drawing skills, conceptual designs, site analysis workshops, and facilitation of multi–stakeholder engagement. The collaboration works with community groups, local government and local non-profit organizations. Projects are accepted on the basis that there is a community involvement whilst matching the learning interests of students.
CORC and ISN will continue to share experiences on the 2014 Community Studios in the new year.