Project Outcomes

Forming a team between WPI students and K2 community members and building relationships between all partners: Creating a working team dynamic is an important aspect of any project. It is essential to build relationships from the beginning of the project. By establishing trust, members of the team can feel more inclined to voice their opinions and a broader perspective on ideas will be gained. From the beginning of our project in October, there have been around 6-8 consistent K2 community members that have been working with us. Mdu, Mabie, the two community leaders, and Ficks, an active community member in the group, were our major point of contact with other community members as well as the major contributors of the team. At first, it was difficult for us to make a connection with our extended group of co-researchers. For a while, we did not feel like a cohesive team. A few weeks into the project, we made another strong effort to know them better through playing games and just having fun. After this day, we really bonded and finally felt like we were one team The use of big paper to engage the whole group to participate in big discussions proved successful in getting everyone to contribute.

We consulted CORC throughout the entire process of design for the hall and they provided vital feedback. During our last few weeks, we made the transition from working in the settlement to working exclusively at CORC with the community coming there to work with us. Thembi, Thandeka and Moegsien provided guidance with needed forms/paperwork as well as facilitating important discussions with community members. Sizwe was also a very important member of the team, helping us to communicate our ideas with community members and providing his own valuable input.

Planning for a Community Hall: This process consisted of the following steps:

  1. Identified the need for a community hall
  2. Identified a location for the structure
  3. Made sketches and a scale model
  4. Made a final design and budget
  5. Made a construction team and a construction plan

Co-researchers were essential in all of the steps mentioned above. We appreciated their input as they would be the ones to use the community hall. They were the main actors in deciding on the location of possible sites for the hall. They analysed the pros and cons of each site and settled on the location next to Mdu’s house. Sketches and a scale model were made with the community members to better visualize the structure. From there, we created a final design along with a budget. Although this design did change multiple times throughout the first few weeks, the community and team came to a final decision to proceed further with the design chosen.

 Designing and Modelling for Community Hall: The final design of the community hall was developed through sketching and modelling sessions with community members, so that they could play an active role throughout the design process, from inception to creation. The team produced a final design, a bill of materials, and ordered a shipping container. Community leadership had expressed the concern that community members needed a tangible change in order to contribute towards the 10% community financial contribution. For this reason, all partners agreed on dividing the building project into two phases: the first being the shipping container and the sencond being the extended structure. The extended structure will be made of IBR and wood and will be constructed by community members who have qualifying experience in building shacks.

Advancing the plans for Phase 1 of the Community Hall: This phase consisted of the delivery of a 6 metre-long shipping container into K2. The rest of the structure would be built adjacent to the shipping container later on. Our team worked with community members to obtain quotes from different companies, get the site inspected, look at shipping containers for sale, and work on the logistics for getting it delivered.

Developing a Management Plan: Along with the designs for the physical structure of the community hall, our team also worked to begin a management plan for the facility. We consulted with community leaders, Mdu and Mabie, as well as community member Ficks to understand how they wanted to run the hall. As a result, we identified the need for a management team and came up with potential roles including a caretaker, a financial officer, a maintenance officer, and an outside liaison. Together, we also drafted the initial operating rules and a tentative schedule.

Building a movable playground: With the help of K2 community members, our team designed and built a semi-permanent playground made of tires. This process included painting the tires and bolting them together. Its purpose was to provide a simple, safe space for kids to play and participate in early childhood development programmes facilitated by Sikhula Sonke, while also being movable for possible future plans in the area. K2 community members were essential in sourcing materials locally and keeping costs low.

Painting taps and toilets: During the construction of the tire structure, community members began to paint taps and toilets with the extra paint left over . They also left their handprints on the walls they painted. This was an easy and fun way of getting everyone involved and produced an unanticipated tangible improvement that brought colour to the community.

Helping meet the Community Financial Contribution Challenge:

CORC and ISN have a payment policy when working with communities in informal settlements that requires the community to pay 10% of the total cost of the project, while a CORC-affiliated “City Fund” pays the other 90%. The financial contribution is designed to assure that communities are committed to the project and feel ownership of upgrades made.

After agreeing on a final price of R78, 000 for the entire Hall (R22, 000 for shipping container and R56,000 for a custom-built hall, the community calculated that each household would have to pay R20 for complete construction. This budget did exceed preliminary expectations, but CORC decided to keep the price for community contribution the same instead of raising it to the more accurate one. While our co-researchers were ready to pay their part of the initial 1,400, they struggled to obtain financial contribution from the rest of the community, even for just Phase 1 alone. Collecting money from the whole community came with many challenges. Giving up R20 meant going without a meal for some families, other community members felt that they would not use or need a K2 community hall, others still expressed that they would not contribute money to the hall until they saw a physical change. These reasons made it difficult for the community leaders to collect money, despite their initial optimism. After weeks of trying to reach the R1,400 goal, the WPI team, CORC and the community members designed a flyer to put under people’s doors to help develop excitement and understanding about the project

Shipping Container Ordered: The last week working at CORC the community raised enough contribution to order the shipping container. Because of the time of year, the company will be shutting down for the holidays, so the container will not be delivered until January.

Drafting a Workbook and a Proposal: The team put together two documents: workbook, which gives details on the process of designing and implementing plans for a community hall, and a K2 Community Hall Proposal, which documents the planning process.We created a proposal for CORC to submit to the City Fund Application. It included plans for the design, construction and management of the facility. It also included detailed hand and computer drawings that were submitted with the proposal. The workbook gives insight into working with our sponsor CORC. Its purpose is not only to give K2 a plan for construction after we leave, but also for CORC and the WPI Project Centre to share with people who find themselves working on similar projects in informal settlements. The workbook provides a generic set of steps for upgrading processes in informal settlements, based off the insights we gathered from working in K2, past WPI proposals, and working with CORC.

Facilitating Community Engagement in Upgrading Processes: A Reflection

The goal of this project was to empower the members of K2 to more actively participate in upgrading processes. To do this our collaboration with K2 community members proved paramount. In our team of co-researchers, three of them stood out from the rest: Mabie, Mdu, and Ficks. They proved to be pillars of our project as they were always communicating their ideas and voicing the opinions of the rest of the group and the rest of the community. Mabie stepped up as a community voice. Although comparatively young (30 years old), he is recognized as an emerging leader. The path he travels is not always so smooth. Having four children and an unstable housing situation, Mabie is constantly pulled in all directions. Even with all of the complications of his life, Mabie played an essential role for the duration of the project. He received much of his advice from the older community leader Mdu, also a man of many aspects. Balancing his family, his position as a community leader, and his starting-up bakery, he certainly has his hands full. Ficks was the creative mind of the team. He encouraged the rest of the team to reflect on important themes such as the location of the community hall, the size of the structure, the management plan, and reduction of costs. As a team, we feel we were able to support these individuals in their ongoing efforts to rally others in their community to get more involved.

Engagement with the community in upgrading informal settlements is important for sustainability and our own learning experience. Without the input and contribution of the K2 residents, whatever change is made would be foreign to the community and therefore may rapidly decline. Designing and executing a plan without community input is a process ISN and CORC avoid, and they instead strive to achieve community upgrades through collaboration with all partners. ISN works by the motto, “nothing for us, without us,” which illustrates the need for involvement. Our team has borrowed this idea and incorporated it into our project.

Throughout our seven weeks, we learned that engaging with community members is about primarily about listening, but also sharing our insights when appropriate. Our first engagement entailed a series of introductions between both teams. We learned that you are never too far ahead in your project to go back to the basics and have some fun with the team. We also collaborated on the planning process for a community hall. Through this process, community members were able to give input and make decisions that affected both their lives and their community.

Empowerment itself is not a concept that can be taught or forced on an individual, but rather can be presented as an opportunity attainable through persistent personal and collective effort. At the inception of our project, we sensed most of our co-researchers were less invested in the project than our community leader colleagues were. Because of this we facilitated new actions aiming to instil confidence and interest in community members. Ideas like building a scale model, field trips to other informal settlements and open discussion with big paper were powerful and helped provide a sense of perspective to our project. In our time with the community, a budding interest blossomed into sincere activism, leading us to believe a change has been made. We acknowledge the challenging task put upon community leaders and CORC to build from the momentum created during our time here. However, working with this small group we noticed their drive to make a change in their community and we feel confident they will continue to implement effective changes in K2. We are also hopeful they will construct, maintain, and expand their community hall and look forward to following the progress of our project in the future.