On Friday 31 January, the University of Westminster hosted the final dissemination event for the ISULabaNtu research project to mark the release of the academic findings from the project.
The dissemination event communicated key project findings to a primarily non-academic audience, including policy makers working in the field of Urban Regeneration, Low Cost Housing, Environmental Management and Sustainability. The event included short keynote presentations, a panel discussion, a site visit to a London-based social housing development and an open discussion.
The ISULabaNtu project used participatory action research methods, working alongside members of the community in Durban, South Africa, to improve dwellings with poor housing, limited services and environmental hazards.
The event was attended by South African external stakeholders and project collaborators from Ethekwini municipality (Human Settlements Unit), eThekwini Water and Sanitation and South African Shacks/Slums Dwellers International (SASDI) alliance.
The project team presented current issues and approaches around informal settlement upgrading in the eThinkwi municipality, with a specific focus on incremental upgrading. The booklet on “Grassroots approaches for Informal Settlement Upgrading: A Practical Guide for Communities” was also formally launched, paired with a video documentary entitled “Living in Havelock informal settlement”, which informed the dissemination event and activities in Durban.
A common message during the event was that informal settlement is not just technical provision of housing. Strategic partnerships between communities, community support organisations, local authorities and the private sector are critical to achieving innovative solutions that integrate self-building and housing construction with infrastructure delivery, environmental management systems, waste/wastewater management and livelihood and community development.
Talking about the event, lead researcher Dr Maria Christina Georgiadou, Reader in Applied Management, said: “It is very exciting to see the journey of ISULabaNtu over the past four years. For us, meaningful community participation is key, and it involves accepting informality and working with it, instead of finding ways to eradicate it.
“We have been working extensively with three communities in Durban and we hope to carry on our efforts through a next round of funding including the potential implementation strategies in the incremental upgrading of Havelock case study.”
Dr Georgiadou was recently awarded £10,000 under the University of Westminster Sustainable Cities and the Urban Environment Research Community. This funding will act as seed funding for a large Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) application by July 2020.