Human Networks: reflections on our media and marketing training

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- By Gabriella Razzano

In spite of the importance of our work for the public, South African non-governmental organisations (ngo's) are notoriously bad at both conveying the message about their cause, and conveying the message about themselves. For the past two years, thanks to the support of our friendly funders at Indigo Trust, a group of South African ngo’s has been hard at work trying to remedy this. I took an opportunity to reflect on some of these lessons last year, but last week marked the final of the one-on-one sessions we have been undertaking with the fantastic Katie Findlay and Nicky Cosgreave of Edge Digital in Cape Town.

While I now know how to do Facebook boost posts (easy and cheap) and the strength of placing a period before your @mentions on Twitter (genius), the most profoundly important part of the exercise has been building a network of colleagues – and this network is a profound marketing tool as well. Our partners at Fundza Literacy Trust, People’s Assembly, AfricanLII and SAFLII, Code for South Africa and RLabs have become our new cohorts, and each is doing spectacular work that we will continue to shout loud about.

It goes beyond just talking about each other’s work though: specific partnerships have arisen because of this group. For instance, Adi of Code for South Africa and Marlon of Rlabs will be guest speakers at the super interesting NetProphet Conference Edge Digital are helping to organize at the beginning of August (check it out here). Edge Digital were also instrumental in helping to forward ODAC’s vitally important Blikkiesdorp Campaign, where we sought to forward the housing and information rights of a group of citizens that have been unforgivably shunted aside in City planning. SAFLII and Code for South Africa have also begun working together, among many other shared activities between members.

And even more importantly, these are very real and human connections that are built. We were able to share in the excitement of Katie’s little one, and the sadness of seeing one or two of our colleagues move on to greener work pastures. These human connections drive us, and strengthen the very network that can help us to advance the causes we hold so dear.

Bringing together the right people at the right time is how you change the world. That is, at its heart, what we have all been working toward – so we should continue to do it together.

'Is Blikkies home?' A documentary about access to information

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“Is Blikkies Home” was filmed throughout the course of 2015. The aim of the documentary is to follow the process that the residents of Blikkiesdorp went through, together with ODAC and a coalition of organisations including The Right to Know, The Development Action Group, the Community Law Centre and the Legal Resources Centre to gain access to information from the City of Cape Town about the plans for their housing and relocation.

Located 30km from Cape Town on the N2, Blikkiesdorp, which means Tin Town in colloquial Afrikaans, is a temporary relocation area that was created by the City of Cape Town in the 2007 as a temporary place for people with housing problems.

The houses at Blikkiesdorp were meant to be used for a period of 6 months and yet some of the residents have been living in the houses for over 7 years. Made from tin, the houses have no indoor shower, bath, toilet facilities or insulation and are therefore either very hot in South Africa’s summer, or freezing cold in winter. As there are no indoor ablution facilities, up to 10 residents have to share outside ablution structures that often don’t work, and are rife with diseases.

The residents of Blikkiesdorp have been moved from their previous communities to the area as a temporary housing solution. The community is made up of a variety of different people that were moved to the area by the City of Cape Town due to ‘emergency situations’, including victims of xenophobic attacks, unstable housing structures or are people that were previously homeless. Many residents have been moved far away from their previous employment locations and have subsequently lost their jobs, resulting in the fact that in 2015 73% of residents have no form of formal work or income.

The documentary tells of the residents’ journey to gain access to the information around the plans the City of Cape Town has for them, where they are going to be moved, and when.

This is the story of the Blikkiesdorp community:  


 Part of the Blikkiesdorp community’s key concerns are the plans by the ACSA  to expand and improve the runways. The Memorandum of Agreement between the City of Cape Town and the Airport Company sets out a plan for the development of alternative accommodation for the Blikkiesdorp residents – but there seems to be no plan to deal with the increase in noise from airport – which will exceed international guidelines and will affect nearly 400 000 people. The major problem with the plans in the MOA is that the City has no trime frame for moving the community.

To see what areas will be affected see our article: How will Blikkiesdorp be affected by the new Airport.



(Photo credit: Images kindly supplied by Lizane Louw: Photojournalist and Documentary Photographer. To view Lizane's website click here, to visit the Blikkiesdorp community Facebook page click here.)


How will Blikkiesdorp be affected by the new Airport

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The residents of Blikkiesdorp have been working on a yearlong campaign to gain access to information about the City of Cape Town and the Airport Company South Africa’s plans for their relocation.

The Blikkiesdorp community is made up of people that were previously moved to the area by the City of Cape Town as a temporary housing solution: however they have now discovered that the City of Cape Town has further plans to move them and yet none of the members of the community had been consulted or informed of these plans despite it being their right to know if they are to be relocated.

A large aspect of the Blikkiesdorp community’s concerns are the plans between the City of Cape Town and the Cape Town Airport to expand and improve the airport runways. With ODAC’s help, the Blikkiesdorp Leaders (the Blikkiesdorp community’s elected representatives) learned of a public meeting about the development plans for Cape Town’s Airport, and while attending that meeting discovered that while an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was being conducted, the Blikkiesdorp community had not been taken into account in this report as they were thought to be moving any way.

ACSA had made plans to move sections of the community, starting with the Freedom Farm residents as they were in the way of the new runway.

The community called for transparency of the plans and for the release of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the City of Cape Town and the Airport – it was this pressure that resulted in the approval of the release of the MOA by the major of Cape Town.

The MOA sets out the plan for the development of alternative accommodation for the residents – but there seems to be no plan to deal with the increase in noise from airport – which will exceed international guidelines and will affect over 387 000 people and 177 schools.

An additional problem with the plans in the MOA is that the City of Cape Town intends to move the residents to an area that will still be affected by the high levels of noise. Through their campaign to gain access to information and greater government transparency, the community now knows what the City’s plans for their future. But they still do not know when they will be moved, and how they will be affected by the noise from the airport.

To see what areas will be affected fill in your address or drop a pin on your location:



Noise and the way it is experienced is very subjective, and while the overall community attitude about a noise level is usually what is reported, some individuals will be much more sensitive, and others much less sensitive to the sound in question.

The effects of nose exposure:

Noise exposure has been known to induce tinnitus, hypertension, vasoconstriction, and other cardio vascular effects. Beyond these effects, elevated noise levels can create stress, increase workplace accident rates, and stimulate aggression and other anti-social behaviors.

The most significant causes are vehicle and aircraft noise, prolonged exposure to loud music and industrial noise. Research into the effects of noise have been extended beyond auditory effects to include non-auditory health consequences. Hypertension is the most biologically plausible effect of noise exposure and noise seems to cause a number of the biochemical and physiological reactions, including temporary elevation of blood pressure, which can be associated with other environmental stresses.

To find out more about Blikkiesdorp watch the documentary here: Is Blikkies home? A documentary about transparency and access to information

(Development credt: The Airport Noise app was developed by Code4SA. Click here to find out more about the Code4SA organisation.)


South Africa's 2015-2016 African OGP Agenda

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Yesterday, 29 October 2015, ODAC were honoured to attend the Grand Opening of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) at the exquisite Belles Artes, Mexico City. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the hundred in attendance with a focused and clear vision of how South Africa will hold the position of Chair of the OGP in the upcoming year (the full text of his talk is already available here).

There were very many interesting takeaways, However  for ODAC in particular, it was the mention of the African Peer Review Mechanism that piqued our interest, given that today at the OGP Summit in Mexico at 3pm in Room Bernardo Quintana we will be presenting a panel (alongside Henry Maina of Article 19 and Thokozani Thusi of Public Services and Administration) entitled: "The OGP and Other Mechanisms: Competition or Partners?". Ramaphosa stated:

"We believe there is a lot we can learn from how the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) conducts its business and ensures open, collegial, and equal participation of countries that partake in it.
Through the African Peer Review Mechanism, the African continent contributed significantly to the formulation of the goals and targets of the UN 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. History calls upon all of us to respond to people’s basic needs such as food, water, sanitation, healthcare and education."

The happy co-existence of mechanisms has not always be 'given' by different critics. Yet, particularly as the incorporation of the Sustainable Development Goals Agenda 2030 has been such a focus of this Summit, considered insight needs to be provided. It was with this in mind that ODAC completed a comprehensive piece of research into the question. Our main takeaways were:

  1. The OGP has a particular - and necessary - focus on transparency and the forwarding of accountable government.
  2. Review mechanisms can be harmonised, but particularly if - when commitments under the OGP are drafted - there is adequate consultation and considered incorporation.
  3. The focus on the improvement of the provision of data through the OGP can directly contribute to the measurement of indicators in other systems.
  4. There is a systematic series of questions, revealed in the report, that can assist in determining how different mechanisms might complement and differ.

For more insights, join us today at 3pm in Room Bernard Quintana.



Blikkiesdorp Documentary Launch

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A conference is being held by ODAC today, the 23rd, at the Townhouse Hotel titled: “Alternative accommodation” in South African constitutional law – Does Blikkiesdorp meet the standard?” Symphony Way Temporary Relocation Area, otherwise knows as Blikkiesdorp,  was built in 2008 by the City of Cape Town with the goal to fulfil the City’s constitutional obligation to provide adequate accommodation in the case of evictions or emergencies and to facilitate informal settlements upgrading.

The structures are called Bliks by local resident. Is what local residents call ‘a blik’ acceptable alternative accommodation? The units in Blikkiesdorp are built up in a block structure of 18 blocks, which are separated by dirt roads. Most units are prefabricated steel framed units complete with internal thermal insulation. The material is not only very easy to break into, which contributes to the already high crime rate, but it also lacks insulation: Blikkiesdorp is known among the residents to be either extremely hot or extremely cold. Is that acceptable?

We will be using this event as an opportunity to launch a short documentary documenting the work over the last year to access information on the future of Blikkiesdorp at 4pm today. We will share this here soon!