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Informal Settlement Profiling for Urban Equity in Freetown

An extensive data collection exercise is currently underway in the Freetown informal settlements of Dworzark and Cockle Bay, led by SLURC and Architecture Sans Frontieres UK (ASF-UK) and undertaken by community members. Following on from the development of Community Action Area Plans (CAAPs) in the two settlements, using ASFUK’s participatory Change by Design methodology, the current data collection is building informal settlement profiles that will form evidence in support of the principles of the Plans.

Above: SLURC and ASF-UK data collection workshop in Cockle Bay, Image: Thomas Doughty, 2019


The whole process forms part of the Knowledge in Action for Urban Equality (KNOW) project in Freetown, seeking to deliver transformative research, and build research capacity to address urban equality. KNOW is a 4-year research and capacity building programme to promote urban equality in selected cities across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

This stage of the programme commenced in January with a five day workshop in Freetown for over 30 community members, community leaders, students and representatives from local NGOs and CBOs. It introduced participatory spatial research methods and explored how they can be used in Freetown to develop Informal Settlement Profiles, within an ethical framework.

A range of participatory tools were introduced, including transect walks, mapping, timelines, photo diary and ranking/prioritising. The tools combine manual and digital techniques to reveal the diverse needs and aspirations of the communities in which they are used. These were further developed and tested by participants in the field. Participants also developed a code of conduct, and considered effective methods for data management.

Twelve participants were then selected to receive further training before embarking on the current data collection – and have produced some fantastic outputs so far. The first stage of the data collection are transect walks across every zone in each settlement, in which a community member leads a group of data collectors on a walk through their zone, noting points of interest such as shared spaces.

Above: SLURC - ASF-UK Workshop participants developing and testing using the 'Change by Design methodology', Image: Thomas Doughty, 2019


Following the data collection, next steps will involve further developing ways to visualise and utilise the data to support the implementation of the CAAPs developed by each community. SLURC and ASF-UK will be convening an international workshop in July, bringing together local and international participants to spearhead this.

Meanwhile, SLURC joined other international KNOW partners in Havana, Cuba at the end of February for the second international dialogues in urban equality meeting, discussing the translation of knowledge into action.


This post was originally published in the Sierra Leone Urban Research and Development News, Vol. 7, March 2019, p. 3.

Further Reading/resources

DPU/SLURC Development and Planning in African Cities Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)

Workshop Reflections from Sophie Morley, Louisa Orchard and Niki Sole (ASF-UK)

Co-Creating City Wide Learning and Capacity Building in Freetown (KNOW)

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