‘What we live with everyday is not right’

Reflections from a creative story-based method to include citizens in implementing and monitoring the SDGs

By Nava Derakhshani and and Joanna Wheeler

The Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation (SLF) has been facilitating an action-learning pilot in a Cape Town township, Delft, for the past year. They have been working alongside a group who has named itself the Delft Safety Group. This was not an existing organisation and currently it is made up of about 15 loosely organised and concerned citizens from all walks of life in Delft including young people, self-defined citizen activists (concerned with security), members of the Community Policing Forum (CPF), and members of the Neighbourhood Watch Forum (NWF).

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The pilot is part of a three country process within the Participate initiative, member of the Together2030 initiative, that is aligned with the ‘leave no one behind’ framing of the SDGs, with a focus on SDG16 as a gateway goal for reaching positive change for those most marginalised. It aims to provide inspiration and impetus to those making decisions about how to implement and monitor the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It shows how local level experiences and ideas can contribute to greater accountability and ultimately to increasing the impact of policies and initiatives aimed at reaching the SDGs.

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Throughout the year, the work focused on how to make cities and informal settlements safer and more inclusive, taking as a starting point the extremely high levels of insecurity and violence that characterise daily life for many within townships and informal settings in South Africa.

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Implications of our findings for the SDGs

The findings from the research point to the importance of surfacing and exploring grounded realities in terms of understanding how to structure and design processes of monitoring and accountability that interweave the SDGs with local, and national government processes. And the issue of safety in the city is a good test case for how accountability at a localised level is needed to reach the SDGs. Issues of security within townships and informal settlements cut across and affect all aspects of people’s lives, in their homes, on the streets, for young and old. These everyday experiences also encompass interactions (or lack thereof) with the state, and in far too many instances citizens’ rights are undermined.

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For some of the most complex and pressing social issues facing South Africa, existing data sets are not sufficient to understand the problem or the possible solutions. The existing data sets reinforce silences and gaps, especially the perspectives of the most marginalised. The findings from Delft point to the importance of surfacing and exploring grounded realities in terms of understanding how to structure and design processes of monitoring and accountability that interweave the SDGs with local, national government processes.

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The use of images and personal narratives

Here are a series of quotes attached to drawings created by the Delft Safety Group produced through the research process. They articulate the frustrations and main barriers that Delft citizens face. In a previous blog we reflected on the importance of the process for creating these images for catalysing a collective claim, and the role of us as researchers who have facilitated this process. Each of these images conveys the emotions behind the title of the report which gathers the findings: ‘What we live with here is NOT right’.

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Dialogue to foster change

On November 28th, 29th and Dec 1st 2016 together with the Delft Safety Group and with support from UCT Safety and Violence initiative, we hosted a series of events with different decision makers and the general public to showcase their research and call for engagement at various levels. The first day, we focused on the future young people want in Delft, the second day we spoke about the partnerships needed for safer cities and the third day discussed police transformation. You can follow this conversation on #DelftLivesMatter.

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*Note on the authors

Nava  is a researcher at SLF as well as an ecofeminist, photographer and facilitator who has worked in urban and rural environments with farmers, activists and community members. She deeply values the arts and personal narratives and the power they have for emotive communications. She is hopeful that this work is used for positive change in Delft, the Cape Flats and all marginalised groups and individuals globally. Twitter: @SLF_RSA

Joanna is Research Associate at SLF. Her current research is on local power and violence in Cape Town, the relationship between citizens and informal governance in an urban context; and, on the role of participatory visual methodologies in citizen action. Other central research interests include agency and citizenship in contexts of violence, accountability and power, participatory research methodologies, communication for social change, and global collaborative knowledge networks. Twitter: @joanna_wheeler

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