Jozi@Work: Co-production between Citizen and City
Tariq Toffa, Johannesburg Community Manager
Announced in 2013 by the mayor of Johannesburg in the State of the City address, at the center of the new 'Jozi@Work' concept and initiative is empowerment and co-production, whereby citizens become active participants in the service delivery process of the state rather than passive recipients only, and in so doing can begin to shape the future of their own outcomes. The concept has already been used in similar forms in many countries.
Specifically, by the close of the current mayoral term in 2016, Jozi@Work plans to allocate over R1 billion (US$100 million) or seven percent of the City's total budget in City contracting (made up of ten percent of all City contracted services, ten percent of repairs and maintenance, and five percent of all capital spend) to an estimated 1,750 new and existing community-level co-operatives and enterprises. This, it claims, will support 12,500 livelihoods over the next year and create 40,000 new jobs by 2016, and thereby make a significant change in poverty, inequality, and unemployment realities in the city. Another aspect in which it also hopes to effect change is in maintaining and improving service standards and quality across often sharply contrasting neighborhoods and communities.
The Jozi@Work initiative arises in the context of Johannesburg's strong and enduring correlation between un/under-employment (one quarter of all working age residents, or over 800,000 people, failed to secure a livelihood in the city in 2011) and the wider range of sobering poverty indicators, such as below-average income, poor health outcomes and mortality rates, lack of access to education, and poor living environment standards. Such indicators also indicate deeper, cyclical social realities, since an over two-thirds majority of those living in conditions of poverty amongst the city's most deprived communities are youth, with up to half of these living in informal circumstances.
Although other City plans, such as the 2040 Growth and Development Strategy and the wider 2030 National Development Plan, address aspects of this unemployment-poverty correlation in advocating that economic inclusion in the short to medium term must be spearheaded by small and medium sized enterprises, 2005-2013 data indicates that the small, very small, and micro sectors are shrinking across the country in terms of their total employment contribution. This also reflects wider trends: concentration of value chains, increasing returns to business models that privilege larger firms across both the public and private sectors, narrowing of labor absorption into larger industries, and the structural skills gap which is a key constraint in increasing labor force participation in the city and the country generally.
Jozi@Work, thus, is an innovative and commendable initiative by the City; but beginning just recently, at the time of writing it still remains largely a project in the making. If Jozi@Work will indeed bring small, new and existing community-level co-operatives and enterprises to City projects, it stands to reason that a sister initiative could also be formalized and launched that does the reverse, bringing the City to community level initiatives (perhaps 'Work@Jozi'?); and together establishing a basket of focused support for creating and growing small and micro enterprises, both in real terms and in the public imagination.
Despite the fleetingness and apparent inconsequence of terms in political office, with benchmarks typically set within these terms rather than in real terms, launched by the Johannesburg's mayor Jozi@Work is further indication that citizen-focused, city-shaping projects — especially those that would make a change to the status quo — need to be supported by political will and ethical imagination. The 'polis', after all, is politics. Close.
Photo credit: City of Johannesburg
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