CTPC Context

Ever since its inception in 2007, the WPI Cape Town Project Centre (CTPC) has focused on sustainable informal settlement upgrading initiatives.  Throughout these efforts, a philosophy for successful implementation of all projects has been developed.  Under its current iteration, it is known as Shared Action Learning (SAL).  Within SAL, one of its most important concepts is the idea of connecting. When developing a plan to execute during our time in South Africa, it is crucial to understand and develop a connection with the community we will encounter.  What is its history? How attached is the community with its traditions and customs? How can these traditions affect the community dynamics throughout the upgrading process? These are some of the questions that need to be answered to create a project that can achieve long-term sustainability.

Besides drawing connections to a community’s past, SAL also acknowledges the connections the CTPC has to make with its own past and context.  From past project experiences, the centre’s project teams are more than likely to find themselves in unexpected and unfamiliar situations.  For five years the CTPC teams have been dealing with unforeseen events, making these previous projects crucial assets in developing each new wave of projects. Through SAL, we hope to jointly develop ideas and strategies that will help improve current communication flow within Langrug.  We will work with the co-researcher group to develop strategies that will make them serve as better bridges between different stake holders within the settlement and outside of it. For this,  analysing similar projects in Monwabisi Park and Langrug itself will provide invaluable information.   Due to the important involvement with locals, these project teams are often faced with vague information about their tasks until their arrival in Cape Town.  Learning from their experiences can help our theoretical work by making us prepare for things others have seen on site. They can also provide examples of effective tools that can be used in our interactions with the co-researchers.

EndloviniTV, for instance, was the culmination of the 2008 Communications project in Monwabisi Park (Angulo, Jenkins, & Perrone, 2008)   . The co-researchers learned how to use a camera to report and present information and issues they felt were important to highlight in their community. This allowed them to experience a connection with other community members while presenting the issues of Monwabisi Park in a new, clear way. This work suggests that technology and visual media can prove effective tools in developing new dynamics between the co-researchers, the community and the issues that need to be presented.

Effective communication strategies and techniques are important to determine the desires and needs of the people, but they also have the potential to alter a community’s perception of itself (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1993)   . In 2010, a WPI team collaborated with the Monwabisi Park settlement to profile and classify the assets contained within the community. By looking for assets rather than only focusing on limitations, a new perspective on being a member of Monwabisi Park was revealed (Wakeman, Seed, Minor, & Coleman, 2011)   . Not only did the profile include material assets, but the skills found within the community were also highlighted.  By having the co-researchers share the important assets of their community with the team, they were able to articulate and present these in way they had not used before. This could give a new light on how to use these assets for future projects in Monwabisi Park. Similarly, an assets-based approach to our work in langrug could highlight the tools that are present in the settlement.

Our project focuses heavily on providing support for the co-researchers in Langrug throughout the incremental settlement upgrading process and other community initiatives.  Therefore, it is important to develop a strong connection between the co-researchers and ourselves.  In 2011, the WaSHUp team in Langrug documented the evolution of their relationships with the co-researchers including how they managed to break down cultural and communication barriers.  The team eventually achieved successful communication with the co-researchers through comprehensive explanations of the purpose of each step of the work process, engagement of the whole team in brainstorming and manual work to build teamwork skills (Siemian, Shooshan, Sheppard, & Kenney, 2011) . Their experience highlight the need we will have to develop strong relationships with the co-researchers as soon as possible. This can be done by applying some of the techniques the Wash team used in their work. The analysis of these previous CTPC projects allows our team to build upon five years of knowledge and experience to be more effective in our own work.