Emergent Models for Basic Services that Support Community Resilience

24 July 2017 | Lauren HermanusSean Andrew

On 12 July, we convened people from diverse organisations in South Africa for a dynamic, creative conversation, unpacking the potential of distributed, green business models to deliver sustainable and equitable energy, water and waste management. Our workshop was held at the MTN Solution Space, a hub for social innovation learning located within the UCT Graduate School of Business.

The workshop goal was to connect actors, ideas, conversations and work that trying to better understand and support new, bottom-up ‘green’ responses to energy, water and waste needs, in diverse communities in South Africa. Together, we sought to ask how these new green business models emerging in the public and private sector do already and could still build resilience capacity. The aim of connecting these perspectives was to surface key questions, challenges and opportunities that could be explored further after the day’s session.

The workshop was oriented around three exciting projects:

  • The Sun Exchange, a crowd investment platform enabling international investment in small-scale solar projects for companies, communities, charities and other organisations (e.g. schools) in SA and other African countries.
  • Zonke Energy, a pilot-stage project delivering basic energy access on a pay-as-you-go basis in an information settlement on private property.
  • Genius of Space, a completed government-led pilot-stage biomimicry-inspired community infrastructure project delivering solid waste and wastewater management in an informal settlement, which is ready scale up.

Each of these projects was represented by a project lead. Other workshop participants included local and provincial government officials, representatives from WWF South Africa, Sustainable Energy Africa, the Energy Research Centre, as well as practitioners focused on public infrastructure, community participation, urban planning and sustainability.

Participants mapped out existing initiatives, organisations and policies that enable these innovative green business models to support resilience, especially in the context of increasing urbanisation and growing informal urban settlements. We also identified disabling conditions, as well as gaps in the system that needed to be filled by government, businesses, NGOs or communities.

Each project leader put forward a key challenge that they are facing as they move into the next phase of developing or implementing their model. They were able to draw on the collective expertise in the room to respond to these questions through rounds of focused engagement and exchange.

We asked, what roles, relationships, partnerships and resources are required to stimulate new forms of investment, action and access?

Key themes that emerged included the role of local governments and these are changing in response to shifting economies and climate. There was also a focus on finance and how this needs to change to enable social-purpose innovation. Another key issue was how individuals and organisations could harness new technology to respond to resilience challenges in the absence of major political or institutional support.

The day after the workshop, we travelled to Langrug, an informal neighbourhood in Franschoek, which is the location for the Genius of Space Project. We had an opportunity to engage with project leaders from the community and see this green business model in action.

We are in the process of writing up the lessons, insights and questions that have emerged from our research so far. The report, as well as other research will feed into work with J. David Tàbara and the whole GreenWin WP7 team to identify requirements to implement a possible ‘Restorative Economy’ (RE). 

Lauren Hermanus and Sean Andrew, Associates at University of Cape Town African Climate and Development Initiative

For more information about the workshop, click here.