Civic Network Study

Lead: Dr Henrik Ernstson Project manager: Rory Liedeman Funders: Formas in partnership with the African Centre for Cities at University of Cape Town

The urban environment is often on the front pages of South African newspapers. And perhaps even more so in Cape Town. If struggles to access electricity, sewage and water capture headlines one week, it is baboons, fynbos and ‘alien’ invasive plants another; or the struggle to protect recreational space at Princess Vlei, or food security at the Philippi Horticulture Area. The matters of concern vary greatly—from a having a quite place, to direct livelihood questions. The urban environment is a matter of concern and contestation.

Having interviewed 120 civil society organizations between March and July 2013, the study is probably one of the largest interview-based urban social network studies undertaken in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. It will help to shed light on the role of civil society in a postapartheid and highly segregated city and how alliances and networks can influence the urban environment. But also the role of civil society organizations in local democracy.

The primary aim of the study is to increase the understanding of the role that civil society plays in shaping the urban environments. This can either be through directly engaging in urban and green spaces, for instance in planting fynbos, trees or saving habitats for animals, or through raising awareness of injustices of urban planning. A specific aim is to better understand how the ‘web of relations’ that civics build over time, itself forms a back bone to take action and placing new topics on the city’s agenda. But also to create certain autonomy for civil society in relation to the state and private actors. The final aim is to better understand how the collaborations between state and civil society is played

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Funders & Partners