This project was developed by the DSD DESIS Lab in partnership with the Leverhulme Trust. Achieving Inclusive Cities through Scaling up Participatory Planning in Africa project was led by Professor Diana Mitlin and Dr Philipp Horn from the Global Development Institute at the University of Manchester.

The Scaling Up Participation in Urban Planning Project was conceived as a co-productive working project for academics, grassroots movements and local NGO’s to work through an action research methodology that proactively support the practices of community-based organisations working on informal settlement development in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

Each country team consists of a university partner, an NGO and a grassroots community-based organisation. These team run their projects separately but meet once a year to connect and share insights on their experiences in supporting informal settlement development. The project has produced a working paper, co-produced by all partners, and will culminate in a symposium at Manchester University in 2019, where all partners will meet with various to reflect on their experience and findings.

Participatory planning has long been on the periphery of urban development. Achieving inclusive cities through scaling up participatory planning in Africa aims to develop the knowledge needed to move from participatory community-led neighbourhood planning to city-scale planning processes.  In recent decades the world has experienced unprecedented urban growth. According to the United Nations 4 billion people, or 54% of the world’s population, lived in towns and cities in 2015. That number is expected to increase to 5 billion by 2030.

Urban growth has outpaced the ability of many governments to build infrastructure and, in many towns and cities in the global South, provision for housing is inadequate. Consequently one in three urban dwellers live in informal settlements. Issues of insecure tenure, poor access to basic services, and insecure livelihoods are all prevalent. Although local government may have the desire to improve the situation they are, in many cases, under-capitalised and under-capacitated. Existing planning legislation and practices remain incapable of resolving such issues therefore local residents try and resolve these themselves. Their efforts are, however, fragmented and localised.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the resulting Sustainable Development Goals vow to end poverty, to achieve gender equality and ensure liveable cities. Multi-disciplinary approaches that build on local action and create strong partnerships are needed in order to advance initiatives and to address the UN Sustainable Development Goals to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all and to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

This commitment to ‘leave no-one behind’ highlights the importance and strengthens the significance of citizen involvement in urban development. Academics seek to contribute to new solutions and approaches to problems faced by the residents in informal settlements. Universities have an important role in generating, analysing and monitoring data that can be used by policy makers. However this should be done in collaboration with local government, local residents and organisations. Citizen involvement and public participation in policy-making and programming should be nurtured and encouraged.

Read more about the project here.