Communication in Upgrading of the Informal Settlement of Monwabisi Park through the Indlovu Project

Communication is a crucial part of the rintro4edevelopment process, especially when the redevelopment process begins with the community.

This allows for a collaboration between the community, experts in respective fields, and us as students to establish a redevelopment plan that satisfies everyone’s needs. Current informal settlement upgrading in South Africa has followed a pattern of demolishing existing shacks and replacing them with a prefabricated housing solution that was developed without community input.

These solutions are ineffective because much of the housing is left vacant and the sense of community, a valuable part of their culture, is lost. To change this ineffective cycle, the Indlovu Project is working to involve the community in the ecologically friendly development occurring in Monwabisi Park. In order to effective, this process has a need for communication among WPI teams, their sponsors, and the community.intro1

Working with the six co-researchers proved to be a success, but learning to communicate across cultural and language barriers was a challenge. At the beginning of our work with the co-researchers, ideas were difficult to communicate. Silence was a common response to questions in the initial stages of our research. As trust developed and the co-researchers became more comfortable speaking consistently in English, communication increased.

Understanding and adapting to the nature of meetings and to the cultural and social behavior in Monwabisi Park was strenous for both WPI students and the community. This was eased by continual work with the co-researchers, since we both learner the best means to communicate not only with each other, but with the community as a whole.

The goals of our project were to:intro3

? Begin a flow of communication throughout the process of redevelopment

? Understand how information about the redevelopment process should be shared with the community to include them

? Establish a capacity of local residents to share their goals for redevelopment

? Develop a co-researcher program with members of the community to build trust and increase interaction with the community while exchanging knowledge.

Through working toward these goals, we examined the difficulties of cross cultural communication and the social implications of redevelopment. The co-researchers worked with us in meetings, surveys and interviews to gain the community’s opinion on redevelopment as well as to gather demographic information. These activities offered them a creative outlet through charette style planning, and a television show. We found the co-researcher program to be a crucial part of every team’s work and extremely successful. By first working with the co-researchers and establishing trust, we were able to expand our communication to include more of the community. We learned that people were very willing to discuss their hopes for Monwabisi Park, and embraced the idea of expressing themselves through a TV show, an interview or a forum. Future students, potential sponsors, and other interested parties will be able to use this program, along with our interview and survey data, to learn about Monwabisi Park before arrival. Once there, the co-researchers will be a valuable resource; their capabilities in surveying and interviewing could be expanded to the needs of those future developers.intro2

This report discusses the evolution of the co-researcher program from its beginning stages to a successful mode of communication, analyzing the process we took to identify the most successful means of cross cultural communication.

Meet the Team

For more information:

2008 Communications Team Executive Summary