Act 1 Reflection

The first two weeks were certainly surprising. We had expected to integrate ourselves and our work into the community with relative ease. However, while they did accept our presence, they did not approve the project. This was largely due to the many complications we faced during our first two weeks on site.

The first issue was the fact that we did not have co-researchers to interact with, something that the project team was very dependent on. The co-researchers had to be elected by the community, but the meeting took nearly two weeks to schedule. That meant that most of the community integration plans could not be executed, being replaced instead by canvassing interviews of the entire settlement.

There was also little clarity on the scope of the project as defined by our sponsors. The original plan was to consolidate all four settlements into 7de Laan, with the expectation that reblocking could occur and improved shacks would be provided where needed. We were also told that consolidation was not required for the project – if people did not want to move, they would not be forced to do so. Information in later meetings contradicted these principles. It took until our meeting with the subcouncillor to determine the project’s scope and requirements. That lack of confidence made it much more difficult to do our work, since we could not adequately communicate the project specifics.

Despite these challenges, we were able to make good progress in the first two weeks. We successfully identified many of the needs and skills present in the community, and were able to map and evaluated the situation in 7de Laan before beginning to work with the city engineers.

Unfortunately, the community did eventually decide not to go forward with the project. There were a number of factors that contributed to this – there was no leadership structure present in the community, which made it more difficult for the community to mobilize for this project. There was also a strong desire for formal housing rather than upgraded shacks, which made people less willing to engage in the upgrading process. The housing issue was compounded by the upcoming local elections, which brought increased political activity to the communities.

Moving Forward

With our original project gone, we will have to focus on finding a new place to work. There were several potential locations, each in different stages of the upgrading or reblocking process. To determine where to go, our sponsors and ourselves will have to evaluate each settlement. One of the key considerations in this decision will be which projects relate to the two weeks we already spent in 7de Laan. While we will not be starting at square one, we will still have limited time to engage in the new settlement, wherever it may be.