In a nutshell
The project aims to do a systematic analysis of the impact of informal settlement upgrading on the quality of life of informal settlement dwellers post-upgrading with a specific focus on how the nature and extent of violence and violent crime have changed and whether or not there has been an improvement in safety in the settlement. A specific focus of the project is to study the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) programme as one methodology for violence reduction and the improvement of safety through investment in public infrastructure and other social and economic interventions.
What we do
This project has three components which are closely connected and feed into one another.
The first is a research component which involves an in-depth comparison of three different upgrading projects in order to assess how the VPUU methodology compares to other upgrading approaches in terms of violence prevention and improving the safety of informal settlement residents.
The second is a CityLab entitled “Urban Violence, Safety and Governance” which consists of bi-monthly seminars where major theories, research findings and issues around violence, community-driven upgrading, design, public space and social activation are discussed and debated amongst a wide range of role-players including officials from all spheres of government, academics, students and civil society groups.
The third element of the project is a four day training workshop aimed at local government officials to enhance their knowledge concerning effective methodologies and approaches for improving safety through upgrading. The content of this training course will be informed by the research findings as well as deliberations and key discussion points from the CityLab seminars. Field visits to VPUU sites will also be used to provide insights into the VPUU methodology and lessons.
The project is supported by the Inclusive Violence and Crime Prevention (VCP) programme which is implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.
How we do it
The project is based at the African Centre for Cities, part of the CityLab programme. This project follows the methodology and approach of the CityLab programme which is based on the co-production of knowledge between a range of role-players and experts. The bi-monthly CityLab seminars for example are regularly attended by academics, government officials and practitioners like Habitat for Humanity, People’s Environmental Process (PEP), Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) and Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) for example.
Before commencing research in a particular settlement, care is taken to consult with the community leadership and other members of the community, to present the project to them and to get their permission to enter the settlement and conduct the research. We also link with community based organisations and other organizational structures in the community in order to get their support for the research.
What we have achieved
Thus far the research has been completed in one of the three settlements and fieldwork is about to commence in the second one. In the first settlement in-depth interviews and focus group discussions as well as a crime mapping workshop were conducted with residents. During the crime mapping workshop the residents pinpointed crime and violence hotspots in the settlement before and after the upgrading intervention. Interviews were also conducted with a social worker and a community development worker to get their perspective of the challenges which this community faces in terms of violence and crime and how things have changed since the settlement was upgraded.
Four CityLab seminars were held over the course of the year covering a range of topics like the role of social cohesion in violence reduction, what integrated, participatory upgrading entails, how to mainstream safety in informal settlement upgrading projects as well as the role of early childhood development and youth development in understanding and breaking the cycle of violence and crime.
What we have learned
The research findings and CityLab discussions are providing interesting insights into the multifaceted nature of violence and crime and the complexity of informal settlements. The research has also revealed interesting findings about how the nature, perception and concerns over violence, crime and safety differ from settlement to settlement.
Whereas in one settlement there might be great anxiety over gang-related violence for example, in another settlement, violence and crime might not be the overarching concern. Here the issue of safety might be much more linked to concerns over environmental hazards such as fire and flooding. This can be ascribed to the broader social and spatial contexts, within which settlements are located, the nature of the upgrading intervention as well as the process of formalisation and its consequences.
This confirms once again that communities are different and that the context changes from settlement to settlement and therefore a one-size fits all approach is not advisable. It also confirms the need for more participatory and integrated approaches to get to grips with what the real needs and aspirations of a particular community are.