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The schoolbag from Rustenburg, and the project of Ethical Imagination

Johannesburg, 13 January 2015 — While there has been enormous technological innovation over recent decades, the idea of technology has also narrowed, in many cases now referring almost exclusively to information technology. But not only should the concept be broadened again, it should also strive to be contextually relevant and meaningful. Launched with a trendy backpack design, one young business named 'Rethaka' is part of a small but growing number of innovators in South Africa who are making technology speak the language of 'other' contexts. See more.

Jozi@Work: Co-production between citizen and city

Johannesburg, 24 December 2014 — There is a strong and enduring correlation in Johannesburg between un/under-employment and a wide range of sobering poverty indicators. Opening up opportunities for the former is therefore crucial to alleviating the latter. In a context of increasing returns to larger firms, narrow labor absorption into larger industries, low structural skills levels, and shrinking micro sector employment, the City of Johannesburg has introduced an innovative job support and creation initiative called Jozi@Work, designed to incorporate citizens into the service delivery process of the state. See more.

"I wish Joburg was New York": 'Sweeping' poverty in Johannesburg

Johannesburg, 25 November 2014 — While informal trade has always struggled to exist in Johannesburg, and remains so even after the 1994 democratic transition, this usually 'hidden' struggle was made plain when the City recently embarked on a plan to remove thousands of traders from the inner-city. Known as "Operation Clean Sweep," it provoked both outrage and support, raising questions of the policy and urban space status quo, and larger questions about what a democracy and a city is, and for whom it is. See more.

Walking between worlds: imagining infrastructure between Alexandra and Sandton, Johannesburg

Johannesburg, 13 October 2014 — The history of modern architecture and planning over the last century in South Africa is fraught with contradictions. Whereas modern city craft like concrete highways provided the apartheid state with a powerful vocabulary to keep communities apart, today it is transport infrastructure that is again invoked to connect the city together. Spatial thinking, imagination, and interdisciplinarity must be part of this process of imagining and building a different kind of city, for the segregated and unequal city cannot transform its future with the same tools used to create its past. See more.

Urban Challenges for Sexual and Gender Minority Refugees

Media coverage of conflicts and forced migration has created a stereotypical depiction of a "refugee" – a grief-stricken woman, holding a sickly child next to a tent. While we are all familiar with this image, it does not characterize most refugees. Read more.

The 'African City of the Future': Johannesburg's 2040 vision

Johannesburg, 15 September 2014 — Understanding the challenges of modern cites as resulting from complex and inter-related factors, the key innovation of Joburg's 2040 vision is to move away from a narrow sectoral approach toward a more thematic one, to which all targeted City interventions can aim. But high-level frameworks alone can never bring such a complex conceptual map into being. Enabling environments must be supported on a number of levels, as they filter knowledge both 'upwards' and 'downwards', build interdisciplinary capacity, and value creativity and spatial thinking. See more.

City Improvement Districts in Johannesburg: The neoliberal, safe, prosperous; and the informal otherwhere

Johannesburg, 25 August 2014 — With their theoretical underpinnings in American models of inner-city management and development, how relevant are "City Improvement Districts" to the social lives of Southern African cities? Unless such models can become more inclusive of informality and heterogeneity and create places of safety and opportunity for all, they may ultimately only further enforce fragmentation and tension in civil society. See more.

The awkward terrains of post-apartheid housing

Johannesburg, 8 July 2014—After two decades of democracy, the post-apartheid housing landscape in South Africa still reveals physical and social environments created within the compromised space of the inheritances of apartheid capitalism. This demands either a timely revisit of the pragmatic compromises on neoliberal terms initially made for South African democratization to work, or a higher order of involvement of institutions whose priority is the public good or, in the very least, they prompt reflection—not rhetoric—on the kind of post-apartheid society and spaces that are actually being shaped. See more.

Mapping the city for youth migrants

Migration has often been identified as a central component of urbanisation, and with the rise of a 'mobility' paradigm, whereby movement is recognised as a rising necessity, the focus is on why people move and the nature of such movement. Novel innovations now enable our speed of movement, while services and infrastructure continues to build networks between spaces, people, and opportunities. However, in the case of Sub-Saharan Africa the question has been raised on what happens when urban agglomerations hosting migrants fail to secure livelihoods (see Bryceson, 2011)? Research in migration showcases the articulation of circular patterns of movement, rising rates of return, and greater insecurities in whether goals are achieved. Such raises an additional question - to what extent are those using, adopting, and experiencing, migration becoming stuck within such a mobility paradigm? Further, what do migrants do to get them out of this trap and achieve aspirations? Read more.

Youth focus: can grassroots movements bring in girls' voices?

Data has emerged showcasing the latest trends of our demographic shift — the global population now articulates a 'youth bulge'. The UN-Population Demographic Profile (2010) show children, and 'youths', comprise 1.6bn, and 1.0bn, of the population in less-developed regions. The population is younger; and Sub-Saharan Africa is no exception. Attention is now turning to youths: what young people do, what opportunities they initiate for their families and nations, and what it means to be 'young' in the developing world. However, an important caveat requires recognition: the focus has been particularly male-focused. Our understanding of girls, within both public and private spaces, remains limited. Such is the debate in this blog post — if we are now looking at 'kids' in the city and development, what are the experiences of girls? What can we learn about the city through an engendered perspective? Fundamentally, who is responsible to grant equal rights? Two models of intervention are discussed be, each using alternative methods to provide rights for girls. However, each acts to reinforce the need to improve our understandings on 'being' a girl. Read more.