Cities in South Africa attract large numbers of inhabitants seeking opportunities, improved livelihoods and higher average incomes but Cities have limited capacities and resources to meet these needs. Community engagement represents an opportunity for local and district municipalities in South Africa to connect and build strengthened relationships with communities. This is to understand their needs and implement sustainable programmes which respond to those needs, in collaboration with community members as they understand their context better than anyone else.
Community safety is a painful and inflammatory issue, as experiences of crime and unsafety lead to trauma, fear, anger, and frustration. Community engagement has become progressively challenging as communities have become increasingly frustrated over service delivery, and relationships between local government and communities have become conflicted and difficult to manage. This gap between local government and communities has also resulted in flawed planning processes where community voices are not heard, and projects and programmes do not reflect their needs and aspirations; and where consultation becomes seen by officials and communities as a tick-box exercise rather than as something that will generate a richer, more valuable strategy. As a result, projects and interventions are rejected (i.e., vandalised or ignored facilities) by communities, and so the relationship becomes even more difficult.
What is the purpose of this Guidebook?
The purpose of this guidebook is to provide simple principles and practices which can: strengthen relationships between government and citizens; enable effective participation in development activities by communities; strengthen service delivery; protect and promote stability with communities; and potentially support a shift of our national development path in local environments across the country.
It recognises that urban safety is a complex field, an output of transversal activities touching the mandates of a range of local government departments and units. Urban safety addresses factors contributing to vulnerability, exclusion, poverty and suffering in South Africa. It is the outcome of education, health, economic, childcare, community development, transport and law enforcement policies. Those tasked with consulting on Urban Safety have to respond to complex social circumstances.
Who is the guide for?
This guide is developed for use by urban safety practitioners but will also be useful in any community engagement setting. All development and service delivery processes are complex and will benefit from the inclusive, principled approach outlined here.
Content of the Guide
Principles of Community Engagement
Principles of Community Engagement discusses the importance of engagement for social cohesion, peace building and improved planning. It emphasises the importance of inclusion (youth, women and minorities such as people with disabilities, LGBTQI+ people, foreigners etc.); understanding the context (who to engage, where to hold the engagement, when are people available to engage, how to frame the engagement, what forms of communication are appropriate etc.); and how to manage expectations and disagreements throughout the engagements.
Communication provides tips on body language, managing difficult behaviours or disagreements, how to speak (avoiding technical language/ jargon, awareness of language barriers), how to listen, how to present yourself (e.g., what not to wear to avoid creating barriers with community members, the importance of greeting and connecting through conversation).
Case Studies include the End Street North Park pilot project in City of Johannesburg, a multi-stakeholder and evidence-based development process that improved the safety of the park and its surrounds, while also promoting social cohesion and vibrancy in the community (Safe and inclusive parks in the Johannesburg inner-city – Be inspired – SaferSpaces); as well as the Mamelodi East: Proud of My Town initiative in City of Tshwane, a multi-stakeholder, public-private-partnership initiative that has improving local safety and increasing socio-economic opportunity through capacity, among others.
Steps in the design of a community engagement process
Other tools in the guidebook include worksheets on Community Engagement Data Management, Community Engagement Invitations, Visioning Exercises, and Community Engagement Evaluations.
Please find the guidebook here.
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