The Mainstreaming Urban Safety and Inclusion short course for practitioners took place from the 13-16 April 2015 at the University of Cape Town. This course was jointly presented by the African Centre for Cities (ACC), the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) Non-Profit Company and the Inclusive Violence and Crime Prevention Programme (VCP) of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). The aim of the course was to provide municipal officials and other practitioners involved in urban upgrading with information and the necessary tools to prevent violence and crime by intentionally planning for safety within upgrading projects. The course was attended by 18 participants from nine municipalities as well as officials from National Treasury and the Western Cape Departments of Human Settlements and Environmental Affairs and Development Planning. Municipalities represented include Breede Valley, Drakenstein, Saldanha Bay, Ekurhuleni, Nelson Mandela Bay, Buffalo City, Tshwane and Theewaterskloof.
The course programme consisted of an interesting combination of theoretical inputs, group exercises and a field trip. Day one laid the foundation for the four days with an introduction to key issues like urbanisation, informality, violence and violence prevention as well as the relationship between these. Day two focussed more specifically on upgrading of informal settlements and the application of upgrading as a tool to prevent violence by purposefully planning for safety. Participants were also introduced to the VPUU methodology which was the case study for the course. On day three participants went on a field trip to the VPUU upgrading projects in Harare, Khayelitsha as well as the Lotus Park informal settlement. Participants had a chance to spend time with each of the VPUU work stream leaders who carefully explained their particular area of responsibility and how this fits into the broader VPUU methodology. Participants were also introduced to the group assignment which was based on the Lotus Park informal settlement. They were divided into four groups and each group was tasked with designing an intervention for a particular public space within the Lotus Park informal settlement. Participants spent the final day of the course working on and presenting their group assignments. This allowed them to apply the concepts and learning from the course on a practical, real-life case study.
This assignment gave participants a further practical opportunity to grapple with and develop a deeper understanding of key concepts and processes which they had been introduced to throughout the course. These include for example the relevance of activation of public spaces to transform them into productive and safe spaces. Engaging the community in defining and designing the use of these spaces is of critical importance in this process. Another recurring theme which participants spent quite some time debating over the four days is if and how to adapt upgrading approaches and methods to respond to different contexts e.g. informal versus formal areas.
Participants’ evaluation of the course indicate its relevance and usefulness for acquiring new knowledge, providing a space for exchange of ideas and offering new concepts and tools which can be applied in their daily work. Another evaluation will be conducted three months after the course to assess the extent to which participants have been able to practically implement the lessons and tools acquired in their upgrading work. The success of this first pilot phase of the course and feedback from participants indicates a need for a future roll-out to other municipalities.