Cape Town Project Centre Context


To be the most prepared for our project work in Maitland Garden Village, it is not only necessary to do basic background research by analyzing relevant documents written by professionals, but it is equally__if not more__important to obtain valuable information and insight from senior WPI students who have participated in past projects at the Cape Town Project Centre. Rather than starting from scratch, we can learn from both the successes and difficulties of past teams to plan more efficiently and to ultimately be more productive once in Cape Town. The first-hand experience of these students in Cape Town communities makes them some of our absolute best resources during our preparatory term.

In 2007, as part of WPI’s Global Perspectives Program, the Cape Town Project Centre was established in Cape Town, South Africa as an addition to the existing two-dozen project sites located around the world. Most unique to the Cape Town Project Centre is the focus on the inner workings of the lively and culturally rich communities and the opportunity to work closely with these community members to collectively improve their living conditions. Over the past five years, students, in collaboration with faculty advisors, NGOs, and community members, have worked to strengthen the community pertaining to features such as economic development, buildings, energy, education, and communication methods. Award-winning project work has been done in the areas of water and sanitation and urban planning.

In 2009, a WPI student group entered Monwabisi Park with the mission of improving the public and private structures located throughout the community. Calling themselves the buildings group, part of their research involved the creation of a detailed plan and building proposal for a community centre. Focusing mainly on the actual structure of the community centre, the team also had a small write up on some of the logistics and basic management of the community centre. Our group has analyzed their work on the CTPC website and found some key themes discussed below that we hope can further our own research.

And then, in 2011, a project group of five members worked to strengthen the Maitland Garden Village (MGV) through the creation of the Green Light Project, a community development program that focuses on the greatest interests and skills of the youth. Our group is very fortunate to be able to learn about our project from the members of this team via personal collaboration as well as their documented proposal and website. Because last year’s MGV group essentially set the stage for our project, they are very big part of our story. The following is a thematic description of what features from the building’s group and last year’s project we believe can be applied to our own. Visit the 2009 Buildings and 2011 MGV team’s project websites.

Buildings: Logistics

The 2009 Buildings group believed that in order for their project to be sustainable, the community members needed to play an active role in the development of the community centre. This will empower the residents and give them new basic skills. The group goes on to describe the different levels of community involvement (consult, involve, collaborate, and empower) that need to be achieved if the project is to be a success. These are ideas that relate directly to our project. In the developmental plan of the implantation of a community centre in Maitland Garden Village, we will place a large emphasis on community development and participation. We are looking at the possibility of creating a project that is even more community driven than the Buildings project. The WPI Buildings team was partnered with EcoBEAM, a building company who required skilled laborers to do their work. We will not have a partnership similar to this, but will rather focus on how to complete a project that focuses most of its attention on strengthening the MGV community through SAL learning. More on the logistic of the Building’s group project click here.

Buildings: Management

The 2009 Buildings group studied the management of the Indvolu Project in order to get a better understanding of how a community centre could be run. They began by looking into the employment process. They discussed the dangers of not having a fair employment system, leading to jealousy and animosity between community members. They hoped to address this issue by creating an unbiased employment committee that will not only hire the people, but make sure they are well trained and fit for the job. These are small things that we will need to keep in the back of our head when outlining our management system for MGV. A tight knit community with little crime, MGV is still a community full of people, and people can get jealous and angry. We are going to MGV in hopes to strengthen the community; therefore we need to take caution in how we go about doing this. Working with our sponsors and the community as a whole, together we can learn the best way to create a fair employment system.

The group goes on to talk about the various positions that will be available at the community centre, such as teachers, nurses, volunteers, and other trained staff members. Each person will have an important role in the development and sustainability of the centre. We too will need to think about how the employment system could be set up in a MGV community centre. Do we want all volunteers or paid workers? Do we have a way to pay workers if we chose that route? How would we create a fair and unbiased hiring system? Who would oversee this entire system? These are questions that began arising as we read through the Building groups website. Again, these are questions that we aren’t looking to find answers to ourselves. It is our hopes that the people of the community can find these answers with our help and support. It is a two way learning street, and through SAL, the different groups in this project will come together to find answers to these questions. More on the groups idea on building management can be found here.

Buildings: Finance

Finally, they briefly mentioned the financing of the centre. They looked into a few different options such as donations from private parties, financial assistant from the government, and charging minimal fees for the use of the community centre. Again, we will need to start brainstorming our own methods for the finance of the MGV community centre. Will we have a fundraising committee? Will we need to get outside help? These are problems we will address with our sponsors and other interested community members. As mentioned above, this isn’t a project where we do all the work and make all the decisions. Rather, it gives us a chance to learn about these important themes and together, with other stakeholders, learn how to address them. More on how the Building’s group addressed these issues can be found here.

MGV: Methodology and Strategies

The foundational approach behind the development of the 2011 MGV team’s Green Light Project was the implementation of a strategy called Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD). ABCD counteracts the traditional strategy to revitalize urban communities by not focusing on the problems and needs of the community and solely relying on the help of outside agencies, but instead using a holistic approach by treating existing community assets as key building blocks in the development plan as well as involving local individuals, associations, and institutions for a more successful, sustainable solution. In simpler words, through ABCD, communities are essentially built from the inside out. This approach was very successful last year in using the community’s strengths and interests to ultimately create nine Green Light Project committees that have the potential to strengthen the community though personal growth, skills development, leadership and pride. Not only can we continue to apply the valuable ideas of ABCD in MGV to obtain helpful community information relevant to our project work, but we can also build off of the solid starting point we have thanks to the collection of existing community assets obtained from last year’s meetings. In particular, we can address the topics previously discussed using SLOT analysis, which reveals what the locals perceived as strengths, limitations, opportunities, and threats regarding the MGV community. You can learn about this discussion held last November at the meeting between the MGV team and the Youth Development Committee of the city of Cape Town here.

MGV:  Relationships and Communication

In order to involve the community and benefit from the ABCD and SAL approaches in MGV, we must first learn about the community dynamic in the area and discover which methods of communication work best to share ideas with community members effectively. The 2011 group provides useful insight as to how to inform the community of our intentions and project ideas. For example, for the 2011 team the most useful methods of communication in MGV were one-on-one interviews, focus groups, and community forum discussions. The group had much success especially through community forum discussions, during which they informally sat in a circle to freely discuss the project and to brainstorm and pool ideas together. Also, the small, close-knit community of MGV is significant in that the main form of communication among individuals is word of mouth, which will make it relatively easy to inform the community about meetings and to get word out about the Help Centre. The 2011 group mentioned that our sponsors Ronell Trout and Shiela Galant were very helpful last year in serving as community leaders who spread the word about the Green Light Project and group meetings. Moreover, the team established an even greater sense of trust between themselves and community members by restoring the playground area of the community crèche (a day care for young children) to show how much they care and are committed to their project work in MGV. Looking forward, it would be great if we could take on small hands-on projects such as this to develop a sense of camaraderie among our team and the community. You can see last year’s work done on the crèche here.

MGV: Venue

One of the most challenging issues to address in our project work is how we are going to go about finding a physical venue for the Help Centre. There have been past problems in the area concerning the logistics of building access and ownership. Although there are problems in finding a viable venue for the Help Centre, the crèche is an important symbol in MGV that represents what the community can achieve when they work together. The crèche, which was created and is currently sustained by the local people, is super important to our work in that the community has tangible proof that they are capable of making a difference and it is possible to one day have a flourishing Help Centre.

With speaking to the 2011 group, we also discovered that there are some potential venues in MGV. These include a small community centre that is already there, an abandoned building, a school, a church, and an empty field. The biggest challenges that we are expecting to face are getting access to these places and permission to use them. The government, owning these buildings and land, will become another key stakeholder that we will need to prepare to work with and learn from in order to create a successful project.

MGV: Funding and employees

A key factor in maintaining the sustainability of the Help Centre is the development of a working financial plan. Once again, guidance can be gained from the history of the crèche and how it is still in commission today. The crèche has been sustained with the help of several “actors”, including the Rotary Club, community fundraisers, donors from within and outside the community, teachers, and principals. The crèche has remained strong over many years because whenever groups of people need to rest, others take over. This concept coalesces with the ABCD and SAL strategies by involving many stakeholders in the development effort, mostly local individuals and groups. This multi-stakeholder approach has been crucial to the work of many past WPI project teams. With this in mind, an appealing idea is to possibly work together with the fundraising committee (one of the nine established Green Light Project committees) to develop a financial action plan to help sustain the Help Centre. The people in the committee obviously have a genuine interest in raising money for their community, so perhaps they could be real assets to the support of the Centre.


The work done by the Buildings and the MGV teams is an invaluable resource for our group in the planning process for establishing a sustainable MGV Help Centre. Not only can we can adopt their successful communication strategies to build strong community relationships, but we can also learn from the challenges they met, such as addressing the hardships encountered by the community in finding a venue for Green Light Project events. The community assets revealed through meetings conducted last year will serve as a basis for using ABCD and SAL in developing a sustainable Help Centre.


To learn about our sponsors, click here!