Global acclaim for local NPO

“Learn as if you could never have enough of learning, as if you might miss something.”


Local NPO  Asiye eTafuleni (AeT) have received much recognition for their work in recent years.

Leaders of AeT Richard Dobson (a KZNIA member) and Patric Ndlovu, have been involved in the Warwick area of Durban for over 10 years, where they have innovated to facilitating communication between local authority officials, academics, urbanists and activists.

They are still involved in the area, and with the formation of AeT, they have been able to apply the lessons learned further afield. They believe that learning never ends, and they will be holding courses on “Design with the informal workers utilising public space” through the KZNIA in April 2012

They advocate thoroughly consultative and participative processes with urban informal workers, and their learning and achievements have been recognised as globally relevant examples of good practice. In essence, they apply horizontal learning processes as opposed to an authoritarian approach.

Cities don’t make people poor; they attract poor people. The flow of less advantaged people into cities from Rio to Rotterdam demonstrates urban strength, not weakness.”

Edward Glaeser, Triumph of the City

Back to their recent achievements: AET was recently recognised by the Smithsonian-Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum in their Design with the Other 90%: CITIES exhibition. This is an exhibition that turns conventional notions of design on its head by acknowledging the often overlooked urban strength  to which the urban poor in cities contribute. It has been on display at the UN Visitors Centre’s Gallery in New York until January 2012, and thereafter travel further afield within USA.

The Smithsonian Channel, another component of this major exhibition, sent a film crew to South Africa to prepare  a half hour cable TV feature on Warwick which included interviews with Durban architects commissioned by the Warwick Junction urban renewal project. This  has been shown throughout the US  since November 2011. From AeT’s perspective, the documentary filming provided an invaluable opportunity for reflection; both on the past achievements, and also on the relevance of the work in relation to the exhibition theme.

On November 3rd this year, in Joburg,  they were also awarded the Investing in the Future and Driver of Change 2011: Civil Society Award from the Southern Africa Trust and Mail & Guardian, which is one in a series of awards designed to recognise companies, civil society organisations and individuals from across the Southern Africa region, believed to be making an impact on the lives of people living in poverty, through the development and implementation of effective public policies and strategies.

The winners were selected on the basis of their answers to questions like these listed below. Try answering these of your next built project! See AET’s full report here.

  • What makes your project a driver of change?
  • How does your project demonstrate a holistic and proactive approach?
  • Is the project aligned to government’s development strategy?

Most recently, AET has participated in the South African Informal City Exhibition, run by the Architects’ Collective that has been on display in Newtown, Johannesburg . The concept behind the exhibition and seminar was to examine the challenges and opportunities presented by  informality, for both private and public development, with a primary focus on people,  their skills and the inputs they are able to offer. Twenty projects from across the country were featured in five categories: In Situ Upgrading, Catalytic Projects, Un-built Projects, Backyard Interventions, and Inner City Informality.

And at COP 17, the team was running a ‘Friends of the Recyclers’ event adjacent to the ICC in Durban, where the public was invited to learn more about the livelihoods of informal recyclers, and their positive impact on the environment and contribution  to the green economy.  AeT has been commissioned by Imagine Durban to implement a pilot project that has been testing strategies to enhance the livelihoods of existing inner-city recyclers.

Their course on “Design with informal workers utilising public spaces” takes place on April 4.


A whole lot of hot air

So with the upcoming CPO 17 conference right here in the heart of KZN there is a lot of hype about the future and what we can all do to save it. Some ideas put forward are simple and take a push from everyone to make them happen (eg “reduce, re-use, recycle!”) and some ideas are just plain crazy. Like using air to fuel a car.

Click on the image to find out more.

Speaking of which, are you going to the UIA Sustainability Conference around the built environment response to climate change?