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Activating Local Platforms for Urban Equality in Freetown

Above image: The Community Learning Platform meeting at Cockle Bay, Image by KNOW Team, 2019


In June 2019, KNOW Research Fellows Emmanuel Osuteye (WP1), Camila Cociña and Stephanie Butcher (WP4) were in Freetown, Sierra Leone for fieldwork. The visit was a follow up on the initial scoping work conducted in October 2018, and presented an opportunity to interact with the local platforms of stakeholders that had been activated at both the community and city-wide scales to work with the Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre (SLURC) in advancing the urban equality agenda. The visit was also an opportunity to participate in the conference “Urban Transformations in Sierra Leone” organised by SLURC.

In partnership with the SLURC team, two workshops were conducted in the informal settlements of Dworzark and Cockle Bay to interact with the respective community platforms (appropriately called the “Community Learning Platform” – CoLP). The cardinal aims of the workshops were:

  • To assess changes in the objectives and expectation of the platforms for the KNOW project;

  • Understand further community mobilisation strategies and spaces for capacity building;

  • Assess and understand the potential of communities to leverage on agency, knowledge and experiences to draw on external support, particularly from international development agencies;

  • And to document the process and approaches of co-production, highlighting community perspectives on the value and utility of their knowledge

Both platforms albeit in their initial stages of regularising meetings, had made some significant progress in expanding the criteria for the selection of representatives, in that process ensuring that they accounted for the social diversity of constituents within the communities, including gender, disability, employment and different age groups.

The KNOW and SLURC researchers with members of the Community Learning Platform meeting in Dwozarck, image by KNOW Team, 2019


The KNOW and SLURC research teams furthermore paid visits to selected members of the established Freetown KNOW “City Learning Platform” (CiLP). This was to continue the dialogue on the objectives of the platform in advancing an Urban Equality Agenda in Freetown. During the visits, in-depth interviews were conducted with representatives of the Ministry of Land, Country Planning and Environment, the Centre for Dialogue on Human Settlements and Poverty Alleviation (CODOHSAPA), the Disaster Management Department (DMD), the Development Planning and Management Department of the Freetown City Council, and the leadership of the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDURP). The interviews with these selected stakeholders were particularly useful in documenting the history and trajectory of policies, practices and events that relate to informal settlement housing and upgrading needs. As well as the observed shift in government discourse from mass evictions to “upgrade where possible, relocate where necessary”.

The KNOW and SLURC teams also visited the Mayor of Freetown, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr (OBE), building on the relationship the KNOW programme has developed with her office. The visit allowed us to discuss further some substantive details of how the SLURC-led City Learning Platform under KNOW, could make a meaningful contribution to the ‘Transform Freetown’ development agenda that is championed by the Mayor’s Office. The visit also provided the opportunity for the research team to interact with a section the Transform Freetown delivery team.

The KNOW and SLURC researchers with the Mayor of Freetown, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr (OBE) and part of her team, image by KNOW Team, 2019


The courtesy call to the Mayor also provided an opportunity for the KNOW team to discuss and invite her to participate in a session about Partnerships for Urban Equality at the next UCLG World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders, to be held on Durban South Africa in November 2019, which will be curated by KNOW.


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