Primary Project Focuses

Key Outcomes

Working within the Langrug Partnership

Our Langrug Project Team had the opportunity to work alongside a unique and capable informal settlement partnership in Langrug as they sought to implement community-driven upgrading initiatives. We were met with many unanticipated challenges: social tensions, cultural differences, and varying degrees of commitment that threatened to overcome the ambition of all of the stakeholders. However, through building relationships, improving communication, and persevering together, we collectively overcame these obstacles and built Phase I of an innovative water and sanitation facility in only a few short weeks.

A Unique Partnership

In 2011, an unprecedented Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Municipality, the NGO’s SDI/CORC and the Langrug community. CORC is a subdivision of SDI that specialises in working with informal settlements to support community-driven upgrading processes. This was the first instance in the country where a community-based, model partnership was formally agreed upon (Vandenberg 2011). This partnership received national attention at the 2012 South African Planning Institute Conference where the partnership won an award in the Community Outreach category (Mxobo 2012). This praise was largely due to the establishment of the Langrug Working Team, where various community leaders are actively involved in Langrug’s upgrading alongside the Municipality and CORC. WPI entered this partnership in 2011. While the partnership model for community leadership has many benefits, there also exists complex sociocultural dynamics that present both opportunities and challenges.

Challenges within the Partnership

According to various newspaper articles and reports from last year’s WPI Langrug teams, Langrug was moving forward and making great strides in community-driven upgrading alongside a strong partnership  (Vandenberg 2011; Kenney, et al. 2011). Because of this, we anticipated working with a motivated, proactive community with the support of the Municipality and CORC. Upon arriving in Langrug, however, we found ourselves in the midst of a tense social dynamic in a partnership that had inadvertently lost momentum.

WPI’s Opportunity

It appeared to us that all of the pieces for a strong partnership were present, but something was preventing those pieces from coming together. Underlying communication issues hindered project progress and community satisfaction. In realising that the partners were struggling to maintain momentum, we saw an opportunity to help fortify the partnership through proactive planning and participation in various upgrading projects. All agreed our preparation, ideas, and willingness to work hand-in-hand could serve as a spark to reignite community-driven upgrading in Langrug, while we also learned from our local colleagues.

Evolution of the Langrug Team

The 2012 Langrug project was the result of a merger between two discrete teams, WaSH and Communications, which were formed during the preparatory term. The Communications team planned to aid in strengthening the Langrug partnership and the internal Working Team relationships through Shared Action Learning and team-building activities. The WaSH team planned to design either a multi-purpose WaSH centre or a small WaSH station in a reblocked area of Langrug, building off of the work of previous Cape Town Project Centre teams, most notably the 2011 WaSHUp project. Both teams also emphasised the importance of community involvement and multi-stakeholder cooperation in informal settlement upgrading.

Upon arrival in Langrug, however, it became apparent that our time would be best spent working as one unified group. The first meeting we had with the partnership demonstrated Langrug’s urgent need for some sort of physical implementation and improved communication. The partnership had reached an impasse after losing the momentum from the 2011 projects and was struggling to move forward. It appeared as if nothing could be implemented unless the partnership was fortified, while the partnership could not be strengthened without something physical being implemented. These two issues were not dichotomous, as was previously thought, but were intertwined and dependent on one another. Observing these complicated realities solidified the need to refocus and reorganise into one motivated team, combining the knowledge of both teams with that of the Working Team members in order to help revitalise the partnership.

Shared Action Learning

A unique approach, known as Shared Action Learning, was used throughout our entire project to help us connect and collaborate as a group, as well as plan and accomplish achievable goals. This approach was drawn from an action research methodology created specifically for the Cape Town Project Centre (Jiusto, Hersh & Taylor 2011). Through continuous cycles of observation, planning, acting and reflecting, we collaboratively dealt with many of the dynamics discussed throughout this summary.