By Barry Pinsky, Executive Director
The Equal Spaces Project in South Africa recently launched three “Learning Hubs” with over 30 participants in three South African cities. Two of us also connected by skype from Canada. The new video-conference facilities are hosted by the National Association of Social Housing Organizations (NASHO) in Johannesburg, and two social housing institutions – Communicare in Cape Town and SOHCO in eThekwini.
Speaking from the NASHO offices, Julie Shouldice, Head of Cooperation in South Africa for Global Affairs Canada noted that “While social housing seems to be a bricks and mortar business, it relies very much on exchanges, interactions and collaboration. The learning hubs will allow for many more opportunities to meet. Canada is very proud to be part of this project and appreciates the hard work done by many others to get it going.”
Anthea Houston, CEO of Communicare, pointed out that “This is an important moment for social housing to thrive in South Africa. There has been a shift in awareness about the social injustice of locating people in dormitory suburbs while well-located social housing is combatting the legacy of apartheid planning. The learning hubs should accelerate this work by helping people learn from other experiences in the country.”
Smangele Moloi, Manager of Social Housing from the City of eThekwini reinforced the importance of social housing in the face of rapid urbanization and its link to the New Urban Agenda that emerged from Habitat III. She is “looking forward to using this new technology to work together.”
John Mofokeng from NASHO and Jo Ferris-Davies from the Rooftops Canada Equal Spaces team, also outlined plans for Learning, Innovation and Networking programs using the three hubs. One of the very exciting ideas is to help all categories of social housing employees to meet, share experiences and develop new ways of going about the business of providing decent, affordable housing. Due to the costs of travel, this has often been restricted to senior managers, but can now include other staff such building supervisors, community development workers and credit controllers.
Not unexpectedly, there were a few technical glitches and everyone needs to get used to the technology. An upcoming workshop to share ideas for a gender equality strategy for the social housing sector will be a good test. We’ll let you know how it goes in our next post.