“The African Centre for Cities recently launched a new CityLab on “Urban Violence, Safety and Governance”.  Led by Dr Mercy Luthango-Brown, this CityLab is supported by the German Development Cooperation (GIZ) as part of the Inclusive Violence and Crime Prevention Programme (VCP).  The CityLab has a particular interest in the effectiveness of upgrading of informal settlements as a response to violence and the improvement of safety within settlements and aims to facilitate regular engagement between academics, officials and practitioners working in the field. The “Urban Violence, Safety and Governance” CityLab provides a platform where major theories, research findings and issues around violence, community-driven upgrading, design and public space will be discussed and debated

In April a group of academics and practitioners met to discuss the role of social cohesion in violence reduction. Presentations were made by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR), the Human Science Research Council (HSRC) and the African Centre for Cities about their respective projects which are concerned with understanding the role of social cohesion in building effective community-centered processes for the improvement of safety.  This meeting raised interesting questions about issues of definition and measurement in relation to social cohesion, how to build social cohesion and the impact of externally driven interventions, like an upgrading project for example, on levels of social cohesion within communities.

These and other issues will be further explored in the next meeting which will be held on the 26th June; the theme of which is “Integrated, Participatory Upgrading – Knowledge, Policy and Practice”. Here participants will bring their knowledge and experience to bear on for example what exactly constitutes an “integrated” approach to settlement upgrading and whether there are any good models to draw on in this regard.