The Urban Governance Programme seeks to make a constructive contribution to the system of local government in South Africa, in particular the ambition to make local government developmental in its orientation, practice and outcomes.
Thus, the programme has a particular interest in innovative models for equitable service delivery and meaningful participatory local governance and building communities of practice in this regard. The programme has a strong focus on knowledge sharing, learning exchange, networking and collective engagement.
Formulation of a conceptual framework and guidelines on behalf of the Department of Constitutional Development for use by municipalities and civil society organisations, 1997-1998.
Isandla Institute participated in a multi-disciplinary team that provided policy and programme design support for US-AID to develop a U$12 million five year programme to support government-civil society partnerships, 1999.
Isandla Institute assessed IDPs in the Free State and Northern Cape Provinces. The work comprised of an in depth analysis of the actual role that IDPs play in government, 1999.
Isandla Institute carried out a national assessment of training requirements for Public Private Partnerships in 1999.
Isandla Institute developed a set of recommendations on the promotion of municipal-community partnerships (MCPs) as an alternate service delivery option to conventional public-private partnerships, 1999.
A conceptual framework and practical guidelines were drafted for Department of Constitutional Development, 1999.
Isandla Institute drafted a national policy framework on local economic development designed to increase the capacity of municipalities to work with local stakeholders and establish economic development strategies. The input paper was used as a basis by DPLG to draft the official government policy, 1999-2000.
As part of the Local Government Support Programme Isandla Institute lead the design of a ‘knowledge bank’ to ensure that the lessons emerging from the various pilot projects and change processes in local government are readily available and systematically disseminated, 1999-2000.
Isandla Institute provided technical support to design and roll-out a major support programme of US-AID aimed at strengthening the democratic contract at local level through capacity building of municipalities and meeting the basic needs of the poor, 1999-2000.
Isandla Institute conceptualised and facilitated the programme of this conference for senior municipal representatives from the Western Cape on behalf of the provincial Department of Local Government and Housing, 2007.
Input papers prepared for the national Department of Provincial and Local Government as part of the government’s review of local government. The papers dealt with service delivery, Local Economic Development, community participation and crosscutting issues (gender, youth, children, the elderly, disability, HIV/AIDS), 2007
Isandla Institute coordinated a book project aimed at reviewing lessons and challenges in institutionalising developmental local government. The project included a national conference in 2006 and resulted in the edited volume Consolidating Developmental Local Government: Lessons from the South African Experience in 2008 (Juta Press). ISBN: 9781919895048
Isandla Institute conceptualised and coordinated the inaugural Governance Summer School for 150 senior local government councillors and officials from municipalities in the Western, Eastern and Northern Cape, on behalf of the Western Cape government, 2008.
Isandla Institute, in partnership with PDG, prepared an input paper on the role of provincial and local government in poverty reduction, which was one of five commissioned papers aimed at informing a provincial anti-poverty strategy of the Western Cape government, 2009.
Isandla Institute co-hosted an international workshop for local champions of public participation in Southern and Eastern Africa in November 2009. The workshop culminated in a policy seminar with South African policy audiences. The project was a partnership initiative with the Citizenship Development Research Centre (UK) and was officially endorsed by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.
In the period 2011/13, Isandla Institute focused on the politics of local governance in an effort to enhance prevailing perspectives on local governance, which tend to be preoccupied with the challenges, weaknesses and opportunities of formal spaces of public participation. The project focused on the three-way interface between state, party and civil society. A key premise underpinning the project was that, albeit in different ways, both the state and political parties tend to posit themselves as the ‘rightful’, if not sole, custodians of citizens’ aspirations and interests. This, combined with a general retreat by civil society organisations/the non-profit local governance sector from what is considered ‘political society’ (in particular the space taken up by political parties) means that the essence and vibrancy of local governance is jeopardised. Project activities included research, roundtables with relevant stakeholders and advocacy.
In 2012/13 Isandla Institute developed a proposition/methodology to establish collaborative planning structures, at project and city level (also referred to as ‘Planning for Informality’). This stems from earlier work on the concept of ‘networked spaces’, mooted by the organisation in 2011, as a vital addition to the current institutional repertoire to facilitate participatory local governance and development. The project was guided by a Technical Steering Committee consisting of representatives from national government (Departments of Human Settlements, Cooperative Governance, Treasury), municipalities and CSOs.
In 2013 Isandla Institute started an initiative to conceptualise a civic academy, as mooted in the draft National Development Plan. The idea behind the civic academy is that through direct community involvement in neighbourhood planning and city planning, neighbourhoods and cities become more inclusive, liveable and sustainable. The civic academy seeks to develop structured learning opportunities to strengthen community activism and leadership in the interest of achieving better spatial outcomes in poor urban settlements; it also seeks to facilitate learning between representatives of municipalities and communities. Isandla Institute has engaged in iterative processes of research, consultation and proposition development to develop the concept and build broad-based support. This is an ongoing initiative.
Between 2016 and 2018, Isandla Institute partnered with Afesis-corplan, BESG, the Heinrich Böhl Foundation Southern Africa Office and Planact to implement the project ‘‘Accounting for basic services: Tackling the inadequate use of resources by municipalities and building a rights-based approach to service delivery’. The project focused on using budget analysis and budget expenditure monitoring as critical tools for community empowerment, advocacy and accountability, aimed at improving municipal service delivery. Isandla Institute provided overall research and learning support to the project and was responsible for distilling lessons for policy uptake, amongst others. The two-year project was funded by the European Union.
Isandla Institute designed and implemented the first phase of the InTAcT Project on behalf of the Cities Support Programme of National Treasury. The aim of the project is to advance accountability, integrity and transparency in decision making processes related to land and infrastructure development in the metropolitan municipalities of South Africa. The team led by Isandla Institute developed and implemented diagnostic assessments of integrity, social accountability and transparency practices in cities. The team also produced a knowledge repository with tools, case studies, guidelines and other knowledge products (www.intact.org.za). The project, which ran between June 2017 and July 2018, was executed as a partnership project with Strategies for Change.
Further details on the InTAcT Project can be found at www.intact.org.za
Since January 2009 Isandla Institute hosts the Secretariat of the Good Governance Learning Network (GGLN), a national network of NGOs with an active interest in local governance. The main purpose of the GGLN is to facilitate knowledge sharing, peer learning, knowledge production and advocacy aimed at strengthening meaningful participatory local governance. Amongst others, the GGLN produces the annual The State of Local Governance publication, focusing on pertinent themes such as leadership, social accountability, responsiveness, and so on.
Further details about the network, its membership and its work can be found on www.ggln.org.za.