South African Shack Dwellers International Alliance: A year in review


Socio-Technical Support
Broadly, Architect’s (in South Africa at least), are trained to translate the requirements of a client (in many forms), while taking into account as many factors (your own intuition and preferences included) into a technical product.
From my experience from working in complex developmental or advocacy environments this broad definition of the role of Architect, planner or engineer (Spatial Practitioner) as a ‘designer’ or ‘professional’ shifts more into a facilitative mode.
This position still requires the analysis, thinking and acting tools that the professional training gives, but calls on the practitioner to also transverse many different cultural, economic and disciplinary background with empathy, much patience and a willingness to let go of strategic aspects of control.

The role of socio-technical support is not to completely give into the complexity of social or development processes, but to look deeper and find the unseen connection between technical requirements and the larger picture while still meeting the needs of the individuals (or community) at hand.

I have recently stepped out of my role at the Community Organisation Resource Centre(CORC), where I worked as socio-technical support to the social processes conducted by the South African Shack/Slum Dwellers International Alliance(SASDI) who are the South African affiliate of the Slum/Shack DwellersInternational (SDI).

This role of socio-technical support had me advising, documenting and facilitating the technical projects that make up the 6 rituals of the SDI:


the rituals in action
These projects were specific technical projects put forward by residents of various informal settlements in Gauteng that required intermediary technical support in their longer development goals and varied from tap fixtures to lighting solutions to meeting halls.

the constant contrasts of working in informal settlements

the People’s Housing Process in action
Temporary housing solution after an illegal eviction



working to articulate the needs of different settlement groups

CUFF Projects in motion
These projects are funded by a trust overseen by elected members of the SASDI called the Community Upgrade Finance Facility (CUFF). Residents are required to identify a project, work with the socio-technical professional to determine a design and a cost get this initial concept approved by the CUFF board, then save 10% of the project cost as a community to be able to begin implanting such a project.

savings schemes by FEDUP ladies

This process is intended to bring residents together around a tangible output that benefits the community as a whole, and create a platform for the community to engage local council through demonstrating their organisation and mobilisation towards larger development goals in their future.

engaging community around CUFF projects
common need for water access
post eviction response


My year at the SASDI took me across a broad range of projects, and exposed me to the complex political and social difficulties involved in informal settlement development, as well as the working of such a large and reaching alliance of Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO’s) and Community Based Organisations (CBO’s) that make up the SASDI.

community meetings

informally squatted warehouses

temporary housing solutions

leadership meetings


eviction aftermath

current sanitation

I have recently, stepped out of the alliance, in order to better position myself outside the complex social and political working of such an organisation to be in order to provide the niche socio-technical support and capacitation of young professionals and students through the initiative 1:1 (1 to 1) -Agency ofEngagement while working at the University of Johannesburg as an independent researcher and part time lecturer.




As 1:1 we plan to not only work with the alliance and other indivuduals or organisations on specific socio-technical and research projects but also help facilitate students and young professionals to get involved with the SASDI and other NGO’s working in this sector in South Africa, while developing this additional role for Architects in South Africa.

student intern in the field
students in research