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Co-Creating City Wide Learning and Capacity Building in Freetown

Freetown, the capital and main urban centre in Sierra Leone, forms part of the global network of cities of the KNOW project. This partnership builds upon a long-standing collaboration between the Sierra Leone Research Centre (SLURC) and The Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU). In the context of the KNOW programme, SLURC is developing a research and capacity building project entitled: “City-wide Learning Platform in Planning Equitable Urban Development in Freetown”.

[Above] Knowledge in Action for Urban Equality team with the Mayor of Freetown Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr Mayor of Freetown working together to #TransformFreetown with the Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre


This project will build upon the previous experience of SLURC developing Community Action Area Plans (CAAPs) in two informal settlements of the city: Dwazarck and Cockle Bay. In each of these settlements, SLURC in collaboration with representatives of the Federation of the Rural and Urban Poor and residents will develop an Informal Settlement Profile, combining activities that involve capacity building, participatory research methods and conventional qualitative and quantitative methods. A third CAAP will be produced for the settlement of Portee-Rokupa. As part of the project, and as a way of sharing lessons from the process and to scale-up these experiences, SLURC is setting up a City Learning Platform and the consolidation of three Community Learning Platforms from the settlements selected.

In this context, part of the KNOW team visited Freetown in October 2018, to discuss and consolidate the work of the city team in collaboration with Working Package 1 – City knowledge co-production – and Working Package 4 – Translating research into practice. The visit included a series of meetings and site visits, working together to define the plans and next steps, as well as a strategy to strengthen the impact of the project.

As part of the activities, the team held meetings with steering committees in Dwarzarck and Cockle Bay, in order to evaluate the process of engagement that had already taken place between these settlements and SLURC, and to allow the residents to share their expectations and recommendations for the KNOW project. These meetings were an opportunity to setting up the bases for the Community Learning Platforms. The aspirations shared by the residents will constitute a key aspect for the design and implementation of the project, and an ethical commitment towards them. Their expectations included aspects regarding the generation and sharing of more information about the settlements, co-learning and creating capacities within the communities, increasing the diversity and participation within the local platforms, and having tools to move the CAAP forward.

KNOW and SLURC teams in the field conducting community meetings

[Above] KNOW and SLURC teams visiting community partners in the field

Additionally, the visit was an opportunity to convene the first meeting of a Local Impact Advisory Group, which included representatives of the communities, the City Council, Ministries and NGOs. During this meeting it was agreed to set a City Learning Platform, a space for learning and sharing, in which different actors can gather to discuss experiences, coordinate and develop proposals for the upgrading of informal settlements in the city of Freetown. Subsequent to this, the team held a meeting the Mayor of Freetown, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, to discuss how the platform could fit within the agenda championed by the Mayor’s Office, called the Transform Freetown Framework.

Freetown City Learning Platform Flyer- Click to download

Freetown faces enormous challenges in terms of urban equality, that range from access to basic services such as water, to issues of risk management – which dramatically gained public attention after the 2017 mudslides –, to challenges related to health and sanitation – which urgency became evident when various informal settlements were seriously affected by the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and 2015, as a result of the existing vulnerability and inequality. Through the strengthening of democratic spaces at different scales that allow policy dialogue, the institutionalisation and scaling-up of participatory planning methodologies, and the enabling of concrete actions, the KNOW project seeks to foster pathways to urban equality in Freetown.

KNOW and SLURC team at a Local Impact Advisory Group (LIAG) Meeting

[Above] KNOW and SLURC team at a Local Impact Advisory Group (LIAG) Meeting


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