Multi-purpose Community Centre

During our initial meetings, the Working Team expressed high priority in the implementation of a multi-purpose centre (MPC). An MPC is a facility designed to provide the community with space for a variety of activities and services. The proposed facility in Langrug would include features that would benefit the entire community.

Importance of Implementation

The implementation of an MPC by the Municipality was anticipated by the Langrug community for the past two years. The Working Team was under immense pressure to begin construction as soon as possible due to the community’s deteriorating confidence in the partnership. Therefore, we felt that building an MPC would help to restore trust by demonstrating the capabilities of cooperation within the partnership.  Realising this potential, we collectively agreed that the MPC would be our major focus with the hope of constructing the facility during our time in Langrug.

Assessment of Needs

A major issue that has led to the failure of past initiatives within informal settlements stems from placing the goals of the provider before the wants of the community (Schouten 2010). Fully aware of this, we began by discussing Langrug’s needs with the Working Team in order to plan how this facility could best address these issues. The Working Team had already collected data on problems within the community, most of which fell into four main categories held as a priority by the Municipality: health, education, safety, and socioeconomic development.  A proposal was then drafted to present to the Municipality which satisfied their four major concerns.

Elements of the MPC 

  • Mobile clinic
  • Office space for HIV/AIDS support group
  • Soup kitchen
  • Reading room/library
  • Crèche
  • Adult education classrooms
  • Office for community leaders
  • Spaces for small shops
  • WaSH facility

This proposal not only outlined the need for the MPC to all of the partners but also helped the Working Team realise the importance of documentation. Keeping stakeholders continuously informed regarding new developments or considerations about a project is a vital aspect among multiple-stakeholder partnerships (Gerrits 2004). Helping the Working Team develop these skills was an important goal of our project as it fostered better communication within the partnership. Therefore, we hope that they will continue to utilise these skills as Langrug’s upgrading progresses.

MPC Technical Designs

Following this conceptual assessment, we shifted our attention to the design of the facility. While CORC and the Working Team had an existing design based on community input, we collectively agreed that a simplified version would expedite the implementation process. Although this simplified version was smaller than previous models, the MPC would provide sufficient space for all the key elements which had been outlined. The structure would resemble a pole barn with a sturdy, walkable roof to increase communal space. Safety was a major concern so we worked with a building inspector to ensure the Municipality’s approval. A Solidworks design was drafted to assist with the creation of a cost analysis and building timeline. One challenge we encountered was the cultural differences in work habits and construction techniques. Therefore, an important part in creating the building timeline involved discussing the plans with members of the Langrug Working Team, CORC, and the Municipality to gain insight into the local construction techniques.

Community Approval

Community involvement during informal settlement upgrading projects has proven to be an effective way of building sustainable projects (Manikutty 1997). Although the Working Team had collaborated significantly with the community in planning the MPC over the past two years, we felt that it was important to show the current iteration of the design. The Working Team held a community general meeting where they explained the designs and walked around the community gathering signatures to represent residents’ approval of the project.

Challenges of the Funding Agreement

With the design process and approval stages nearly complete, we began to discuss the cost share agreement for the funding of the MPC in terms of immediate construction and long-term management options. CORC was willing to share a large percentage of the cost but required a community contribution in order to draw funds from CUFF (Community Upgrading Finance Facility). WPI was willing to cover the remaining construction expenses, while the Municipality agreed to fund the long-term maintenance and management of the facility.

The Working Team, however, foresaw a significant challenge in the collection of the required community contribution due to the community’s previous misconception that the Municipality would fund the entire project. Without their contribution, CORC would be unable to fund their share, which meant that WPI would also be unwilling to contribute without full commitment of the partnership. As a result, the project came to a standstill, although the project is expected to move forward early in 2013, using the designs and plans we collectively prepared.