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Collaborative practice and the role of practitioners: A case study of Woodstock and Salt River

Written by the Development Action Group (DAG), Chapter 3 of the State of Local Governance 2017 covers DAG’s experience in facilitating community collaboration in Woodstock and Salt River. The Chapter highlights the methodological approaches for facilitating community collaboration and relationship building within and between government and civil society, and the dynamic tensions that often lie within and between these relationships.

Contemporary forms of participatory arrangements in South Africa have been dominated by mainstream conventional architectural and planning practices, which run the risk of being purely ‘tick-box’ exercises. In many instances, public engagement processes leading up to key urban development decisions have been dominated by middle class and or powerful local leaders with vested political interests. The lack of representation of the urban poor in participative forums seriously undermines the constitutionally envisaged aim of ‘deepening democracy’.

All these factors necessitate the need for innovative methodological approaches to promote collaborative relationships within and between government and civil society. The term collaboration as used in this chapter implies multiple stakeholders and role-players engaging in a process designed to influence decisions that affect them. The term stakeholder implies any individual or collective with interest in the outcome or decision made. There are many different objectives and circumstances that offer various stakeholders appropriate platforms to collaborate. The objectives underpinning the desire to collaborate may be motivated by the urge to force a particular position or could be a result of circumstances offering opportunity to influence and/or settle disputes.

Given the current development context of South Africa, collaborative relationships within the urban sector have the potential to influence processes to become more inclusive, integrated and sustainable. Collaborative practice is an important cornerstone to participation and engagement and requires skilled development practitioners to facilitate an equitable and inclusive process; this skill is acquired through reflective practice of practitioners often positioned within civil society organisations. In South Africa, many NGOs possess the relevant skill sets and expertise, gained from their active engagement in neighbourhoods as intermediaries (Adler, 2016; Architecture Sans Frontières-UK & Development Action Group, 2016).

This Chapter highlights methodological approaches for facilitating community collaboration and relationship building within and between government and civil society. Based on DAG’s experience in facilitating community collaboration in Woodstock and Salt River over the last three years, it highlights the dynamic tensions that often lie within and between collaborative relationships among citizens, civil society and the public sector.

Written by: Willard Matiashe and Naeemah Sadien 

A copy of Chapter 3 can be downloaded below.

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Sharing the common goal of promoting participatory, effective, accountable and pro-poor local governance, the network strives to provide an interface for civil society organisations to network and share information towards strengthening local democracy in South Africa.

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