All development plans are designed to ensure the continuity of community. Only when communities drive and own their development agendas, and play an active role in the implementation of plans, can projects be truly sustainable. Implementation is the point of accumulation where all the community’s preparation – through mobilisation, enumeration, learning exchanges, savings, and design – come together in an executable and scalable solution to alleviating urban poverty, homelessness and landlessness, and offer solutions for livelihood and resilience.

Once development plans have been prepared, and negotiations around local issues have gained traction, implementation should happen with minimal disruption to the resident’s living environment. Space is created to ensure a continual learning environment through the ethos of “learning by doing”. Although the multi-party project steering committee guides project management and coordination the community is involved in each phase. In reality, as projects move to implementation, all stakeholders in the partnership will face difficulties that they did not anticipate. Just as communities challenge the planning assumptions of municipalities, projects help build the capacity of communities to be leading participants in both settlement-level and city-level planning.

Once transformation happens in one city, it can happen all over the country. Community leaders travel from settlement to settlement disseminating knowledge and catalysing change, turning situations of informality, insecurity and powerlessness into situations of agency and control, where poor people have a say in their lives and their cities.

Fostering inclusive, pro-poor and sustainable urban development can only occur when the resource base is shared and a vision of long term upgrading is adopted. This requires the fundamental inputs of community members into the allocation of state resources, opening spaces to influence policy deliberations and decision-making. The South African Alliance supports the notion of setting up locally rooted “urban poor funds” which acts as channels for funding upgrading over a sustained period. Such a clear political vision will mean that the shack resident becomes a citizen, shacks eventually become houses, and informal settlements are regularised and integrated in the spatial fabric of cities.

We are poor. We are homeless. We are excluded. But we are not hopeless. The government is not meeting our needs or addressing our concerns. We are capable of designing and building cities ourselves. We are capable of doing it better. We will transform development from the ground up.

See the projects section to see a number of project descriptions for both housing developments and in-situ upgrading of informal settlements.

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