It is with great excitement that CORC reports on a year of memorable achievements on the part of the South African SDI Alliance. Slum dwellers, women savers, community leaders and NGO support staff have yet again collaborated to strengthen the voice of the urban and rural poor. In the past 18 months the Alliance have been building on our strategic vision of “Upgrading Lives, Building the Nation” and carrying forward our mission of building stronger communities to upgrade informal settlements. This report reflects the achievements of this strategy.
Since 2002, when CORC was formally registered, our core business has been the support and facilitation of learning and exposure through horizontal exchanges. This strengthens organised networks of the urban and rural poor, capable of driving their own developmental agendas. By 2009, ISN had mobilised more than 400 settlements across South Africa, FEDUP groups saved more than US$250,000 in daily savings, the FEDUP/ uTshani Fund alliance have become the largest People’s Housing Process (PHP) developers, and preliminary partnerships with municipalities were emerging around incremental upgrading of informal settlements. A working relationship has been established with the National Department of Human Settlements, the Ministerial Sanitation Task Team (MSTT) and the National Upgrading Support Programme (NUSP).
Leaders of ISN and FEDUP are advising at policy and implementation level. Within the settlements, committed mobilisers evolve into skilled community designers with a keen interest in replicating local successes to other communities and in strengthening the partnerships with local governments. A revised communication strategy brings these learning outcomes to the attention of national and international stakeholders, and aims to articulate an alternative paradigm in fighting the common enemy: poor service delivery, landlessness and homelessness, and dislocation from decision making.
The Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) provides support to networks of urban and rural poor communities who mobilise themselves around their own resources and capacities. CORC’s interventions are designed to enable these communities to learn from one another and to create solidarity and unity in order to broker deals with formal institutions, especially the State. During the reporting period we have seen the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) return to the practice of daily savings and recognising the savings schemes as safe spaces for women to get together, save for a purpose and a space where they can pool their collective resources to find solutions to everyday problems. Exciting stories are being told by members that we will share in this publication as well as on our website. We have also seen the steady growth of the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), which now has a presence in five of the major metropolitan areas. ISN community leaders have developed broad experience in forging partnerships with local authorities and have developed a set of tools to prepare communities for informal settlement upgrading. ISN is engaging local municipalities in developing an approach to integrated human settlements and are exploring viable alternatives to the current housing delivery model and to the ineffective top-down approach to providing basic services for informal settlements.
In the Municipalities of Stellenbosch and Cape Town the engagement have resulted in the signing of formal MoU’s. Going forward, the alliance launched the Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF) or “Masikhase” that supports small community led projects. Applications are being reviewed by the CUFF board, which is made up of a majority of informal settlement and backyard shack community leaders. Community savings form the backbone of this new instrument of pro-poor urban development. Now our next step is to replicate this facility at city level and to launch city funds that will support the community led upgrading projects, city wide, in partnership with government and the private sector. Building communities, building partnerships with government, and upgrading settlements are a long, difficult process. But it is those who live with the current conditions of informal settlements today that are most prepared to lead the way to a different tomorrow. In partnership with our city governments, communities are loudly saying:
We are now ready to upgrade lives, with what we have, where we are, and build the nation that had long been our hope and dream…