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This book is a product of collaboration between the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation and Gauteng Provincial Government. It is an attempt to engage conceptually and practically with ideas of urban innovation and is also intended as a way to bring the younger generation into the discussion around urban innovation in South Africa. The Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation made an open call for young researchers to prepare research papers on instances of urban innovation in South Africa or internationally. It was a competitive process and nine young researchers or research partnerships were selected for the task. They were each required to document a case of urban innovation and explore the transferability of the innovation to a South African context. For most researchers this was their first opportunity to prepare material for publication, and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation provided support through a mentoring process. The researchers were provided the opportunity to present their case study material at various stages in the research and writing process, including at the Colloquium on Urban Innovation held in October 2015 (Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation and Gauteng Office of the Premier, 2015). There was also a rigorous process of review, editing and revision. The case studies are highly varied and the approach taken to review the submission also differed between researchers.

Chapters 1 and 2 of the book provide a broad frame for the work the young researchers undertook. Chapter 2, prepared by Geci Karuri-Sebina of the South African Cities Network, extends the conceptual framing offered in this chapter. With a focus on urban social innovation, it explains the various ways in which urban innovation has evolved across different regions of the world. Together, these initial chapters provide the context for the descriptive and analytical work of the young researchers. Chapter 3 by Thembani Mkhize follows this introduction. The eKhaya Neighbourhood City Improvement District in Hillbrow, Johannesburg is identified as innovative practice and the author argues that the success of this initiative is a challenge to academic work that is often critical of regeneration projects in the inner city. In Chapter 4, Jerome Kaplan considers the Great London Mayor’s Housing Covenant exposing the innovative way in which a private sector developer has taken up the opportunities it offers to significantly expand the delivery of affordable urban housing. In Chapter 5, Bronwyn Kotzen and Samuel Suttner explore the extent to which Cosmo City, a large mixed income residential development on the edge of Johannesburg, has contributed to post-apartheid urban transformation. They also offer their own innovative evaluation method that accommodates paying attention to the disposition of the residents in addition to the conventional assessment of material benefits.

Drawing on a South African example of design and management, the Diepsloot Memorial Park, a large new cemetery in Johannesburg, Tsepang Leuta in Chapter 6, addresses the vexing question of why an apparently innovative project did not receive the expected uptake and community support.

In Chapter 7, Julia Letang investigates the way in which the San Francisco Commuter Benefits Ordinance of the State of California in the United States of America, incentivises the use of public transport in the city; and evaluates the possibilities for transferring this mechanism to the very different institutional, regulatory and social context of Cape Town in South Africa. Chapter 8, by Novak and Glanville, draws on experience and international case studies in Costa Rica, Sri Lanka and Egypt to propose an approach to waste management in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Chapter 9 by Nonjabulo Zondi, explores the Nairobi ‘matatus’ as an innovative example of paratransit that may be adapted to improve the mobility of the urban poor in South African cities. In Chapter 10, Adoné Kitching and Chido Muzondo of Isandla Institute in Cape Town consider the possibility of introducing the Civic Academy as a model for enabling and strengthening the participation of communities in urban transformation processes in South Africa. In Chapter 11, Azra Rajab reports on the proactive responses to the servicing needs of informal settlements. In Chapter 12, the editors provide a synopsis of the lessons learned from the various case studies. Based on a formula to expand the urban innovation ‘pipeline’, it considers its composition that comprises the implementation of the creative idea, its initial impact, the replication of the idea and its extended impact.

The editors use the findings to frame proposals for further partnerships around urban innovation. The book includes compelling case studies, albeit a small fraction of the many instances of innovative urban activity that exists across the world. They should be regarded as illustrative cases studies that offer insight into the wider process of urban innovation, suggesting not only specific practices that may, or may not, be worthwhile for South African cities. Significantly, they also signal ways in which an innovative institutional milieu could be produced in an array of contexts.

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