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Urban culture, democracy and governance labs

  • Amount funded: £60,000
  • Year: 2022
  • Duration: 24 months
  • Locations: South Africa
  • Grant stream: Open grants call

South Africa’s constitution provides for policy making to be the result of collective and inclusive public processes, however many citizens face barriers to effective participatory governance, including a lack of accessible platforms for engagement.

Project partners
Sibikwa Arts Centre
Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA)
Department of Sport, Arts and Culture (DSAC)
South African Cities Network (SACN)
South African Local Government Association (SALGA)
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How we are helping

Supporting our partners to create an ‘Urban Lab’ to explore cultural and creative approaches for generating public response to local policy. It will encourage the use of creative tools to empower active citizenship and strengthen the involvement of civil society in governance.

About the project

Many citizens in South Africa are ill-equipped to participate in policy processes due to limited knowledge, budgetary constraints and poor language and literacy skills. Culture is recognised as an effective mode of engagement—particularly for collective empowerment—yet very few South African municipalities include culture in their Integrated Development Plans. Spaces that are easily accessible to communities for ongoing cultural participation are limited.

Project partners Sibikwa will lead this project to promote the integration of culture in local policy and practice, empowering citizens to be active in civic life at the local level through cultural and creative approaches. It will seek to enhance dialogue and understanding between communities, the cultural sector and local authorities. The project will serve as a pilot to determine the effectiveness of an ‘Urban Lab’ approach for developing a context-specific and culturally sensitive participatory governance framework, drawing on outcomes of Sibikwa’s previous SA-EU Dialogues and making use of creative tools to empower active citizenship.

This will be achieved through:

  • Launching ‘Urban Labs’ in three wards in Ekurhuleni to explore cultural and creative approaches for a pragmatic public response to local policy.
  • Creating a participatory legislative theatre performance intervention which will lead to the collective identification of key social issues, motivating the local populace to generate relevant legislation, and create innovative theatrical methods to involve even more people in democratic processes.
  • Facilitating quarterly meetings for 30 civic, academic and government stakeholders comprising discussions, creative workshops and think tanks.
  • Developing a programme of creative and dialogic mechanisms to promote active citizenship and diverse civic participation in urban development decisions and activities.
  • Building a network of academic, private, community and government stakeholders to act locally and collectively.
  • Establishing a context-specific and culturally sensitive urban culture, democracy and governance lab framework that may be scaled countrywide.
  • Encouraging dialogue and engagement around decision making processes, active citizenship principles and the strategic policy recommendations from SA-EU Dialogues using a range of creative techniques including creative writing, visual art making, improvisational theatre-making and Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed approach.

As a result of this project, it is anticipated that there will be improved processes of civic consultation enabling citizens to contribute to evidence-based urban development decisions and action plans at the local level.

Project Partners
Sibikwa Arts Centre

Sibikwa is a multi-disciplinary community arts centre contributing to community development and democratising access to culture by advocating for the role of the arts and culture in education, community building and local government policies. Sibikwa provides arts education and accredited training, stages productions and hosts advocacy projects including the SA-EU Dialogues, focusing on community arts centres and related cultural governance policy, while contributing to the strengthening of relations between South Africa and other countries on the continent and globe.

Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA)

CoGTA serves a mandate of developing and monitoring the implementation of South Africa’s national policy and legislation at provincial and local government level while developing, promoting and monitoring mechanisms, systems and structures to enable integrated service delivery.

Department of Sport, Arts and Culture (DSAC)

The national and provincial South African Department of Sport, Arts and Culture is established to transform the delivery of and support the development of sports, arts, culture and heritage in South Africa by ensuring equitable access and contribution at all levels of participation.

South African Cities Network (SACN)

SACN is an established network of South African cities and partners that encourages the exchange of information, experience and best practices on urban development and city management.

South African Local Government Association (SALGA)

SALGA is an independent association of all the 257 South African local governments which has a mandate to represent the interests of these local governments and support the strategic developmental goals.

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