Community based planning refers to the participatory process whereby local knowledge is packaged into an action plan. This approach builds on the agencies of poor communities and the local knowledge produced through the various rituals of the South African Alliance. Rather than waiting on government to develop plans for the community, communities lead the initiative by prioritising development interventions, settling disputes and conflicts, and eventually coming up with a comprehensive development plan. These plans have the potential of bring key stakeholders and roleplayers around the negotiation table. Some community plans focus on securing tenure – which involves auditing land ownership, brokering alternative solutions to evictions, and negotiating preferred future scenarios – while others upgrade their settlement leading to incrementally securing tenure. Some communities develop layout plans for water and sanitation services; others require the rearrangement of shacks to utilise their living space better and provide space for emergency services in fire and flooding prone areas. Community-initiated plans empower the citizen-resident and sets up possibilities for “co-producing” collaborative approaches to informal settlement upgrading.
Only the residents can produce an accurate socio-spatial map of an informal settlement, because only they understand the social interactions with spaces. CORC supports communities in translating often hand-drawn drawings and maps into spatially referenced Geographic Information System (GIS) database which is linked to the enumeration data. Through the enumeration process, spatial boundaries are often constructed by capturing existing boundaries on a community drawn map. These boundaries are demarcated via footpaths, points of interest (e.g. churches, crèches, shebeens), environmental dimensions, and so forth. After the community decided on the spatial boundaries and allocated enumerators to these blocks, detailed spatial maps of the blocks are hand drawn and shacks are measured. With the assistance of CORC, these maps are then digitised, and enumeration data is geo-spatially referenced to shack numbers. The GIS maps are then printed and disseminated, and becomes a live document which is continually updated with new inputs.
The spatial map becomes a negotiation tool for communities to demonstrate the existing assets and opportunities to their local governments. By partnering with local governments, community plans are made compliant with business plans requirements for accessing housing and informal settlement upgrading, and infrastructure development capital subsidies. Plans are also incorporated in the formal planning procedures such as Integrated Development Plans (IDP).