Planact held a conference: ‘NGOs as Innovators and Agents of Change: a history interpreted by development practitioners’ in August 2006. The conference sought both to reflect on the organisation’s history and the relevance and impact of NGOs today.

NGOs as Innovators and Agents of Change: A History Interpreted by Development Practitioners

Conference held by Planact on August 4-5, 2006

Hosted by: the Centre for Urban and Built Environment Studies at Wits University

Sponsored by: Anglogold Ashanti, Cordaid, and Misereor


  • The World of the USN
  • NGOs Oiling the wheels of participation – Ismail Davids
  • Planact’sContribution to the Integrated Development Planning – Tshetlha R
  • Planact’s ‘One City’ approach and the developmentRoland Hunter, Pascal Moloi & Rashid Seedat

Summary Report: August 2006

Section 1: Background

Planact was 20 years old in 2005. To mark this anniversary a research project into the history and practice of the organisation was undertaken. The intention was to unearth both personal and intellectual perspectives on Planact’s philosophy of development, its work, and its influence. In the process of looking backwards, the hope was to also chart a future for Planact, and provide specific guidance and direction for similar South African civil society organisations involved in development. The project therefore intends to use a documentation of Planact’s history and project experience as a way of exploring the important contribution NGOs and CSOs have made and are making to development in South Africa.

The project consisted of three distinct activities:

  • Research by Development Works on Planact’s history, including interviews with key people associated with Planact such as staff, partner communities, and donors. This is being written up in a “Planact Way” report by Development Works.
  • A conference entitled “NGOs as Innovators and Agents of Change: a history interpreted by development practitioners” that brought together development practitioners in South Africa – those specifically associated with Planact over the years, as well as those from other NGOs and CSOs undertaking similar work, in addition to interested researchers and policy makers within government, the donor community, and other developmental agencies.
  • Production of a publication based on the presentations from the conference for information-sharing in the sector, and to improve current organisational practices to meet future challenges. It is hoped that the publication in a book format will make a contribution to the role and place of civil society in the growth and management of towns and cities.

This summary report focuses on the second component of the research project, the Conference. The Conference was sponsored by and co-hosted by the Centre for Urban and Built Environment Studies (Cubes) at Wits University.

Section 2: Programme overview

The conference was held over two days (4 and 5 August 2006) in the John Moffat building at Wits University and was divided into five sessions namely: the Opening Session, Democratisation and Local Government, Policy Development and Advocacy, Organisational Development within a Changing Environment and Land, Housing and Services.

Section 3: Opening session


Eight presentations were made during this opening session, with the opening addresses providing the current context in which NGOs operate. An update of what current work Planact is involved in was then given. In reflecting back on Planact’s achievements the research paper on Planact’s history was presented as well as a history of the Urban Sector Network (USN), to which Planact was affiliated. Lastly a donor (Misereor) perspective was provided reflecting on their experience of working with Planact in South Africa.

Alan Mabin (former Planact Board member and currently Head of the Wits Planning and Architecture Department) welcomed everyone to the Conference at Wits. Jackie Lamola, the Planact Board Chair, provided the background as to what the two days were intended to achieve. For Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in South Africa this is a critical time, with many NGOs having to close their doors. However the need for NGOs still exists, as despite considerable development many poor communities still need their basic needs met. The donor situation has changed and as such NGOs need to find new ways of funding themselves. This may require NGOs reconsidering their role. The two days are therefore aimed at reflecting what the NGO sector has achieved, its impact and how to move forward. Lechesa Tsenoli (Member of Parliament, Chair of the Portfolio Committee on Local Government and Chair of Khanya-aicdd) called for NGOs to relook at their strategy, relationships and tactics, while intensifying the struggle and campaign for poverty alleviation. Kumi Naidoo (Secretary General of Civicus) noted four challenges for NGOs within the current context. These are that NGOs are critical of government for operating in silos whilst failing ourselves to make the connections for more integrated solutions; that NGOs need to consider whose mandate they are serving; that NGOs need to resolve who they engage with or not, and that NGOs now need to be smarter about how they source work and resource their work. Becky Himlin (Executive Director of Planact) provided an update of Planact’s work currently. Planact is involved in four programmes namely: community development; local governance / capacity building; research and evaluation and policy and advocacy.

In reflecting back, Lauren Royston (former Planact staff member and currently Principal at Development Works) presented the Planact Way research paper. Over the 20 years of Planact’s existence there has not been a ‘Planact Way’ as such, as there has been too much change and varied accounts of the periods. There have however been areas of consistency in community development, local governance and democracy. Three things have ensured Planact’s survival namely its adaptability, its areas of work and the knowledge that it generated. Ultimately the Planact Way is about knowledge and a community of people and how this knowledge has been transmitted by Planactors as individuals into many spheres of influence. Monty Narsoo (former COPE Housing staff member and currently independent consultant) provided a history of the USN. The role of the state has played a very important role in the way in determining the way in which the USN behaved. Pre-democracy USN affiliates were involved in resistance activities against the state, then during the transition the USN played an important role in laying the groundwork for change with the state. The USN then got actively involved in delivery for the state in the RDP years, and now is focused on reflection and change. It is currently a very different context in which NGOs need to carve a way for themselves. Klaus Teschner (representing Misereor) reflected on the important role that NGOs have played and continue to play in overcoming mainstream approaches and testing new approaches. In this regard NGOs have an important role to play in bringing the urban poor into the inner city, in assisting the poor to access appropriate urban land and in dealing with urban poverty.


The people dimension and how important an asset this is was highlighted in the discussion. The people and their knowledge gained through working in the NGO sector and where this has taken them and development, is far bigger than anything that has been captured. Also the fact that things work in cycles (resistance, transition, RDP, consolidation and now possibly back to resistance).

Section 4: Local government session


Presentations started by looking back on Planact’s influence on local government. To demonstrate Planact’s influence pre-democracy, Pascal Moloi (former Planact staff member and currently Managing Director of the Resolve Group) delivered a joint paper (Roland Hunter and Rashid Seedat were co-authors, both former Planact staff members and Director of Finance and Director of the Central Strategy Unit in the City of Johannesburg respectively) on Planact’s influence on the “One City” debate and the experience of working in local government for the City of Johannesburg. In the past it had been about overthrowing the state, and now it is about working with the state. There was no Planact Way as such, but Planact has had a big impact. A number of Planact staff played a very important role in transforming local government. This was because people learnt very valuable skills in working for Planact including change management, strategic planning, financial sustainability as well as principles such as equity, good governance, and engagement. Considering Planact’s role post democracy, Rebotile Tshetlha (former Planact staff member and currently a manager at Ernst & Young) considered Planact’s role in developing and rolling out Integrated Development Planning (IDP). The development phase involved Planact facilitating engagement between government and communities. Planact was also involved in drafting the IDP Handbook and undertook nationwide training of councillors, municipal officials and community leaders on the IDPs. This period was successful because Planact was at the forefront of the thinking; Planact had the right people to take this forward and were properly equipped. Challenges facing NGOs currently are the reassessment of the relationship with government, ongoing training and the capacity building of staff, transitional leadership, loss of staff, lack of financial resources and new legislative requirements. Seana Nkahle (former Planact staff member and currently National Programmes Manager at the South African Cities Network) spoke about the need for good governance in making cities more governable. A number of players are necessary to make good governance happen, and civil society plays a critical role in this. However for all parties to be engaged requires participation and this is not happening despite having supporting legislation. It is critical to work with community leadership but how to get this organised is not yet resolved. Lastly, Ismail Davids (Executive Director of the Foundation for Contemporary Research (FCR), a USN affiliate) examined the role of NGOs in promoting community participation since 1994. Space for invited / structured engagement (“invited spaces”) has been provided through the ward committees and IDP forums however, this form of participation has not been all that effective. “Popular spaces” have been created by communities coming together to protest about the lack of service delivery. NGOs need to continue to play a role in ensuring better citizen participation at the local level, recognising both types of participation as legitimate.


Steven Friedman (Research Associate at the Institute for Democracy in South Africa) as the respondent for this session questioned whether Planact was an organisation made up of smart people trying to save the world or was it about strengthening communities at grass roots level? Steven argued that formal participation (invited or structured) can never work as it should because the processes are structurally incapable of accessing poor people. The only participation that does work is invented / popular participation where citizens use their democratic rights to claim their rights. The question for Planact is whether the organisation is about being “philosopher kings and queens” or is it about working to strengthen the invented spaces.

The discussion that followed argued that it is not just the duality, there is more to Planact. Information makes you obliged to act, and democracy needs to be driven constantly. Working for an NGO inculcates the right to fight for certain positions in turning around the city for the better. It is about advancing the cause of social justice, and we act in accordance to where we find ourselves in a certain point of time. Participation is hard to get right, but it’s important so that better decisions are made and that there is community buy-in to decisions. Mass based organisations require the backing of technical skills if they are to take their protests further with officials. This means that NGOs still have a valid role to play. However participation does need to be framed in its limits as to what can be achieved. NGOs should use the Access to Information Act to play a stronger role in empowering communities with information. The question for Planact then is who it aligns itself with to project a shared voice?

Section 5: Policy session


Patrick Bond (former Planact staff member and currently director of the Centre for Civil Society) called for advocacy by NGOs to keep pushing the rights gate open in terms of moving to de-commodification and reviving engagement with the masses. This is needed because unemployment is increasing, social spending has decreased, many households have been disconnected from water and electricity and privatisation has been a disaster. Ahmedi Vawda (former Planact staff member and currently an independent consultant) noted that the key concepts for progressive policy formulation are citizenship, democracy and good governance, with communities moving from being passive recipients to active participants. The current context is very complex, and to navigate this complexity requires that NGOs become knowledge brokers / interpreters. This includes navigating the state. Breaking New Ground breaks from previous housing policy in that it allocates subsidies on an area wide basis rather than individually. Susan Carey (previous USN staff member and currently independent consultant) reflected on how NGOs have attempted to influence the Peoples Housing Process (PHP) policy. In an era of deal-making where the focus is on delivery, NGOs are not being engaged by government. This questions whether what NGOs bring is not perceived as valuable by government, in a lack of belief in what the PHP can deliver, the fact that NGOs require money, that NGOs are critical of government, that NGOs are no longer perceived as relevant and the fact that NGOs want to enter into real partnerships. Despite two years of active policy engagement, NGOs have met with little success in getting PHP policy changed.


In the discussion some of the frustration of engaging with policy by NGOs was expressed. The solution provided was for NGOs to make use of what they know in the system, negotiate their own deal, be smart and work the system and also for NGOs to use progressive court rulings to challenge the state. This should be the basis for an advocacy policy. Another view was that NGOs should support those communities protesting around service delivery issues, with information and negotiating/organising skills to create the necessary noise from outside to lend support to progressives inside government to make policy changes in their favour.

Section 6: Organisational development session


Marc Feldman (former Planact staff member and currently Principal at Development Works) shared the reflections of Planact when it started up. It was started by a group of passionate individuals as a service organisation for user groups. It was an intuitive process with people learning by doing. What the past could mean for Planact’s future is that Planact could be a place for creating unique knowledge through individuals or an institution that accumulates an independent vision and expertise. On reviewing the state of NGOs funding situation over the years, Christa Kuljan (former Director of the C.S. Mott Foundation and currently a visiting research fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies said in the beginning Planact was able to pick and choose funders until 1994. Post-1994 things got more difficult financially as many donors chose to enter into bilaterals directly with the new government. New legislation was passed to change local funding but the changes have only supported charities and not social justice causes. NGOs have had to more and more turn to government contracts, fees for service type of work. Alan Mabin (former Planact Board member and currently Head of the Wits Planning and Architecture Department) highlighted the theme of volunteerism and the important role this has played for the NGO sector over the years. Also that the urban development context globally where the wealthy are concentrated in zones of exclusion has led to a massive outpouring of frustration. The nature of urban environments is very confusing, and as such NGOs need to ask what the city is for? Who is the city for? What kinds of cities are we creating and what difference can NGOs make?


Looking back things have been presented with rose tinted glasses. There were also times of great tension. The rise and fall of NGOs can also be linked to the rise and fall of the civics. When the civics were strong, so were the NGOs. NGOs need to work with those that they share values with.

Section 7: Housing session


Simon Ratcliffe (Planact’s first employee and currently a management consultant focusing on energy issues) presented on behalf of a team consisting of himself, Marc Feldman (former Planact staff member and currently Principal at Development Works) and Colleen du Toit (former Planact staff member and currently independent consultant) about the experience of Planact working with the trade unions to get housing on the bargaining table. The method used by Planact was to provide information and to educate the trade unions as to their options. This led to a campaign for mineworkers for better housing. Paul Hendler (former Planact staff member and currently Director of Bagale Strategic Consulting Services) posed the question as to whether NGOs are relevant to the social housing sector for delivering at scale. The non-profit approach (housing co-ops) requires ongoing financial support for building institutional capacity. For-profit organisations have been much more successful because they have the right motivation. The social housing model has been problematic in South Africa; it needs to have appropriate subsidies and linked to a LED component to work. Two successful integrated developments have been the Oude Molen Eco Village and the Phillipi Sustainable Development Project. Julian Baskin (former Planact staff member and currently head of the Alexandra Urban Renewal Programme) spoke of his experience in Africa and now with Alex. Informal settlements are here to stay and this is not a problem, the problem is finding a way to add value. In South Africa the responsibility for housing has been taken away from people. Housing is not the problem, land is. It is also important to understand the needs of the people living in informal settlements. For some this is their home, they have no other place to go. For others this is temporary stop, with their real homes somewhere else and they just need somewhere cheap to stay, while they earn money to send home. The real challenge is to deal with the unemployed youth living in informal settlements, before they get into criminal activities. They should be engaged with, helped to find a job, supported in dealing with the urban environment. Nellie Agingu (former Executive Director of Planact) and Marie Huchzermeyer (Planact Board member and Associate Professor at the Wits School of Architecture and Planning) examined the issue of urban inclusion and the need for looking at new ways to ensure that the urban poor get included. Left to the market, the urban poor will never realise growth. Poor communities are beginning to say enough is enough and this provides NGOs with the opportunity to engage and offer technical support. This should be backed up by ensuring that the constitutional rights are enforced for poor communities. There is a need to shift from urban planning to urban management. Lastly, Becky Himlin (Executive Director of Planact) and Simon Mokgatle (ward councillor in Vosloorus, where Planact has been very active in PHP delivery) presented their experience of the PHP in Vosloorus. Through this experience Planact has developed a model for PHP which works. It requires the support of the municipality and that subsidies get approved timeously. NGOs provide capacity building for the community and technical support. Community members receive training and jobs get created. Other developmental issues are addressed through the process such as HIV / Aids, recycling and waste collection and poverty is alleviated. A big issue is the transfer of land as this can hold up the whole process, as without title deeds you cannot access the housing subsidy. The role of NGOs is particularly important, as most local authorities don’t have the capacity to deal with the intensive skills and leadership-building required for a successful PHP project.


The context has changed for NGOs. Before there was a common goal to overthrow the government and now it is about meeting individual needs. This requires an integrated approach dealing with all the developmental issues (urban land, HIV / Aids, crime and grime, transport, apartheid planning and spatial inefficiencies). In developing advocacy platforms it is necessary to gather a body of evidence and suggest clear actions for government. There is a call for solidarity on social justice issues, so that it becomes less about Planact Housing itself seems to not be the priority for urban development, and what does this mean for Planact? It was recognised that current thinking on informal settlements needs to be changed and that an intellectual policy on housing be created. Also that the mindset of poor people also needs to be changed, currently just waiting for government to deliver. An enabling environment for entrepreneurs needs to be created and for people to house themselves.

Section 8: Concluding session

Closing Remarks

Jackie Lamola (Planact Board Chair) summarised the proceedings by saying that three issues remain. Poor people still exist, relationships between the state and communities have been built and that currently resources are dwindling for NGOs to continue doing their work. The context calls for NGOs to tap into the original passion and skills of people involved in the sector. From people’s thoughts and contributions an action plan is needed. Some of the things that could happen would be for Planact to hold seminars on particular issues and set up reference groups to support Planact on particular issues. Planact could start a newsletter to raise issues, and those that have left Planact to set up private companies should look for areas of work where Planact could collaborate with them. Planact’s current research capacity is very limited and this is another area where support is required. A Planact membership could be established where members make a monthly monetary contribution.


The impression created is that Planact  is in survival mode, and when this happens, you often lose the ability to think strategically. It was suggested that people go away and think about things and that Planact focus on why people came to this conference and tap into that energy. Before there was a common purpose that drove people. Planact needs to come up with a new reason for getting people together and energised to act. The link to the university is very important and this link should be strengthened, and used to create excitement.

Section 9: Recommendations and Conclusion

In conclusion, the following three recommendations are made:That the Conference be seen as the beginning of the engagement process with interested and committed “Planactors”. It is for Planact to get back to the people who attended the event and ask them for their reflections and for their suggestions on a way forward based on what they are willing to contribute. In particular, an opportunity should be created to fulfil the initial intentions of the final session, which due to time constraints, could not be addressed, namely to chart a way forward for how “Planactors” (the “diaspora” or the “alumni”) can be engaged in Planact again.

In recognition of the fact that people put time and effort into producing papers, and that this is a very useful collection of knowledge, the publication project should be attended to with as much urgency as possible. This will serve to celebrate Planact’s achievement and provides a visible product for the process. It will also contribute a collection of knowledge to the larger question of NGOs in development. There are four possible options for the publication that need to be investigated as a first step in this project, namely:

  • Publish the collection of papers in an edited manuscript
  • Self-publish the collection of papers in an edited manuscript
  • Publish the collection in a periodical or journal special edition
  • Publish the collection in a booklet form, perhaps a series of booklets.The following outline of the manuscript is offered as a contribution to the proposal to publishers:
  • Foreword (Planact)
  • Introduction: a short history of Planact (based on Development Works’ history report)
  • Local government (Edited local government papers plus a short overview of the section)
  • Housing (Edited housing papers plus a short overview section)
  • A general section (needs refinement, depending on final contributions) (Edited organisational and policy pieces, plus USN piece (Narsoo and Carey combined if USN agrees) plus short overview of the section)
  • Conclusion (suggest a co-authored piece which is based on the Development Works history report, plus a more general NGO perspective)

From the conference many suggestions and questions were posed for Planact. These have been summarised into key questions which development organisations needs to answer for themselves (see Annexure A). It remains for Planact to use this information to carve a way forward for itself. These questions and suggestions could usefully be a very direct way of taking the conference forward for Planact in a strategic session with Board and staff.

Annexure A.

Suggestions and comments made during the sessions have been captured as key questions that Planact needs to strategise on, and this will assist Planact in producing an action plan for going forward.

1. Whose interest do NGOs serve and to what aim?

There is a call to roll back the state as part of building a developmental local government. This provides space for NGOs, CBOs to play a role in building the capacity of communities to engage in developmental issues and demand that meaning be given to their constitutional rights.

There is a ground swell of frustrated people / communities as government programmes have failed to deliver. This could provide Planact with a potential client base, but Planact would need to evaluate their strategy and tactics for engagement.

Where do NGOs get their mandate from? NGOs have an ethical imperative to be publicly accountable. To whom is Planact accountable?

Is Planact about smart / middle class people with skills who are looking to save the world (“philosopher kings and queens”) or is it about supporting people driven processes and strengthening people at the grass roots level?

2. How do NGOs fund their activities?

Donor funding – which donors should Planact try and engage with? To answer this, requires Planact to relook at its relationship with the state, with communities and with donors. Also requires Planact intensifying its poverty alleviation campaign.

How should Planact go about sourcing work? Need to try and recapture spirit of the struggle when people supported each other, and were involved for a bigger cause.

Would NGOs consider approaching government for direct funding of NGOs as they do in India? If yes, what should we be asking money to do? And what type of relationship would we want with government? Partnerships? Participation?

3. How do NGOs attract good staff and build organisational capacity?

NGOs are one of the best personal growth learning environments, as they offer unique learning experiences. The projects, work that NGOs do is therefore critical. If projects are exciting, innovative, ground-breaking, NGOs will attract good human resources. People development should be a core focus for the working environment. Once Planact is clear on its vision, then it can work on the skills required to make that vision work.

There is a dearth of ideology – intellectual debate within NGOs currently. There is no direction provided by umbrella bodies such as Sangoco. How can people on the ground identify critical issues and get people mobilised around these issues?

Over time, a Planact way that emerges is about knowledge. How does Planact become a knowledge generator again? Knowledge should be derived from practice, but what drives that knowledge? How then is that knowledge accumulated and disseminated?

To what extent is it the personalities in NGOs that drive things forward or not? Also particular ways of engaging with communities, and also the context.

Is Planact a unique organisation that is essentially a training ground to create uniquely knowledgeable people to pursue development agenda?

Is Planact to be an institution that in its own right accumulates knowledge?

How can NGOs make better use of links to knowledge and training organisations like Wits? Also how to work with academics and students?

4. How does the global context impact on NGOs?

What does globalisation mean for NGOs, and given this context, what can NGOs do locally that will influence things?

NGOs need to operate at macro (governance), meso (policy) and micro (delivery) levels. This requires being cognisant of all these levels when developing a Planact strategy.

NGOs need to stop operating in silos and make connections between projects and or partners so that a bigger impact is made.

5. Who should NGOs partner with?

Who should Planact engage with or not, and why not? Planact should engage actively with the democratic government and previous Planactors in key positions.

Mass based organisations still require technical back up – this is an opportunity for NGOs.

Opportunity to engage with civil society in Namibia, Angola, the Congo etc.
Why did the USN initiative to engage with other African countries (UTANZA) not work?

Who should Planact choose to work with or not? Who brokers the deals or not? Who has the power? NGOs are to assess the context and work out a strategy for achieving their aims using who they can to get there.

6. What are the issues that NGOs working in urban development should take up?

Urban land issues are an area of potential influence. How can Planact contribute to taking this agenda forward?

How does Planact’s work advance the cause of social justice?

Will Planact join the de-commodification campaign?

NGOs should use constitutional imperatives and court rulings (e.g. Grootboom case) to get projects moving.

Does Planact’s work consider sustainable environmental practices?

Have to ask the questions: What is the city for? Who is the city for? What kind of city do we want to create? Whose city will it be? What difference can NGOs make?

Housing not the issue. Employment is. NGOs should get involved in informal settlements, working with the youth positively, how they can engage with the economy, create local economic development opportunities. This in itself is a crime prevention strategy and is an opportunity for NGOs to get involved again in informal settlements. Focus is on people not urban infrastructure.

7. How do NGOs influence things?

How can NGOs do better at citizen participation at the local level? Need to reflect on how use “invited spaces” and “invented / popular spaces”. Popular space is where citizens use their democratic rights to claim an inclusive city.

Planact needs to work more closely with Parliament and use contacts in Parliament to gain access e.g. Lechesa.

How can NGOs better use the Protection of Information Act – it is a mechanism to force access to information. The objective would be the empowerment of communities. NGOs in this context can play a stronger role.

Government processes are very tightly regulated – makes this a difficult space to work in – how do you work around this?

NGOs need to be cautious about what message is sent out. Need to celebrate gains, replicate and adapt them.

How can Planact use its former staff members (network) who are now in senior positions in government etc to their benefit? Negotiate a space for practical development between the various spheres of government.

NGOs need to understand the current government better as are quite distant from the internal discussions / thinking. Also need to understand our clients better.

How can NGOs get government to listen to policy suggestions? Gather body of evidence and suggest clear actions.

How do you work with the structure of power?

8. What role should NGOs play?

What role does Planact want to play in shaping urban development? In past tried to play innovative, creative role. The role then decides what kind of an NGO you are, who you partner with, or develop relationships with.

Annexure B: List of Presentations

Opening Session:

  • Welcome and Introduction: Alan Mabin (Wits), Jackie Lamola, Planact Board Chair, and Rebecca Himlin, Executive Director, Planact
  • Key note address: Lechesa Tsenoli, Member of Parliament, Chair of Portfolio Committee on Local Government
  • Key note address: Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General, Civicus
  • The Planact Way: Remembering 20 years of Planact: Lauren Royston, Development Works
  • A History of the Urban Sector Network: Monty Narsoo, independent consultant
  • Remarks from Klaus Teschner— representing Misereor, a donor and co-sponsor of the conference

Session 1: Democratisation and Local Government

  • Planact’s “One City” approach and the experience of local government in Johannesburg: Rashid Seedat, Pascal Moloi and Roland Hunter
  • Planact’s contribution to the IDP: 1995 and beyond Rebotile Tshetlha
  • Deepening democracy at a local level: From Community Development Forums to Ward Committees, Seana Nkahle
  • NGOs: “Oiling the wheels of participation”, Ismail Davids, Executive, Director, Foundation for Contemporary Research

Session 2: Policy Development and Advocacy

  • Urban Neoliberalism in South Africa: are those Planact’s fingerprints? Patrick Bond
  • Reflections on progressive policy formation, Ahmedi Vawda
  • Show Me the Money: An NGO Perspective for Changing Government Policy, Susan Carey

Session 3: Organisational development within a changing environment

  • Leading a learning organisation: reflections of Planact’s early leadership Marc Feldman, Mark Swilling and Jill Wellbeloved
  • Riding the Waves: Planact and the Funding Environment for NPOs in South Africa, Christa Kuljian
  • NGOs and urban development, Alan Mabin

Session 4: Land, housing and services

  • Planact and the unions: ‘Placing Housing at the Centre of the Bargaining Table’, Colleen du Toit, Marc Feldman, Simon Ratcliffe
  • Are NGOs relevant to the delivery of social housing at scale? Paul Hendler, Bagale Strategic Consulting Services (Pty) Ltd
  • Informal settlements, conflict and the role of NGOs, Julian Baskin
  • Planact’s response to the phenomenon of informal settlements: towards urban inclusion, Nellie Agingu and Marie Huchzermeyer
  • NGOs and the People’s Housing Process in South Africa: the case of Vosloorus, Becky Himlin and Simon Mokgatle

Session 5: Where to from here?

  • Closure, Jackie Lamola, Board Chair

Annexure C: Conference Contributor Profiles

Keynote Speakers:

Lechesa Tsenoli

Lechesa Tsenoli is currently Member of Parliament and chair of the Portfolio Committee on Provincial and Local Government. He was a civic activist and leader of SANCO during the transition to democracy, and has held various leadership positions within government in the past 10 years.

Kumi Naidoo

Kumi Naidoo is the Secretary General of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, an international alliance of civil society organisations dedicated to strengthening citizen participation and civil society worldwide, and to develop a common advocacy agenda around the MDGs. As a result of this work, Kumi is the Chairperson of the International Facilitation Task Team of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty, that are planning joint civil society mobilisations around trade, debt, aid and demands to national governments in 2006.

An activist from a young age, Kumi was previously the founding director of the South African NGO Coalition during which time he served on the task team to draft new NGO legislation. He has also worked extensively in adult education and social and economic justice work in South Africa. He has published several articles on NGOs, civil society and youth and resistance politics in South Africa. Kumi holds a doctorate in political science from Oxford University where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He also serves as the chairperson of the Partnership for Transparency Fund, which supports civil society efforts to eradicate corruption.

Presenters (in order of appearance):

Lauren Royston

Lauren Royston is a principal at Development Works, a development consultancy based in Johannesburg. Her fields of specialization are land tenure, housing and development planning. She worked at Planact in the land and housing and Central Witwatersrand Programmes from 1991 to 1995.

Monty Narsoo

Monty Narsoo is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Graduate School of Public and Development Management and an independent consultant on housing and urban development. He has worked for ten years in Provincial and National Government Housing Departments. He has also worked for a social housing NGO, COPE, and interacted extensively with Planact through the Urban Sector Network.

Rashid Seedat

Rashid Seedat is the Director of the Central Strategy Unit in the City of Johannesburg. He is responsible for overall city strategy, integrated planning and performance management. He worked at Planact from 1991 to 1992 in the One City Programme and between 1994 and 1995 in the Local Government Programme.

Pascal Moloi

Pascal Moloi is the Managing Director of the Resolve Group. Pascal has held various senior management positions with the City of Johannesburg from 1996 to 2006, including City Manager from 2001 to 2006. His association with Planact started in 1990 when he was part of the Technical Committee of the Soweto Civic Association. He joined Planact formally in 1991 and was part of the Local Government Unit until 1994.

Roland Hunter

Roland Hunter worked at Planact from 1989 to 1993 doing project work on local government finance, local government restructuring and the One City Programme as well as management work on planning, budgeting, reporting and fund-raising for Planact as an organisation. He has worked in the Gauteng Provincial Government and also the City of Johannesburg, in both cases in roles with administrative responsibility for finance and economic development.

Rebotile Tshetlha

Rebotile Tshetlha is a Manager at Ernst & Young, one of the “big four” global accounting firms based in Johannesburg. Her fields of specialisation are risk assessment, risk management, internal auditing, programme/project management, training and consulting. She worked at Planact in the Local Government Programme from 1994 to 2001.

Seana Nkhahle

Seana Nkhahle is the National Programmes Manager at the South Africa Cities Network, a network of South Africa’s nine largest cities that aims to facilitate information and knowledge exchange and provide strategic inputs to enhance City Development Strategies. Seana worked at Planact between 2000 and 2002 after graduating in Town and Regional Planning at Wits University and has continued to be involved in Planact activities since then. His areas of expertise include strategic planning, particularly in sustainable urban development.

Ismail Davids

Ismail Davids is Executive Director at the Foundation for Contemporary Reseach (FCR), a Western Cape based NGO contributing towards poverty alleviation by facilitating good local governance and municipal-community partnership processes. His fields of specialisation are participatory local governance, participatory action research and civic education. He has worked with Planact through the programme activities of the former Urban Sector Network, and is currently working with Planact through the learning and sharing activities of the Good Governance Learning Network (GGLN) – a loose network of South African NGOs that seeks to learn about and promote good local governance.

Patrick Bond

Patrick Bond, a political economist, is research professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal School of Development Studies in Durban where he directs the Centre for Civil Society ( He is also visiting professor at York University Department of Political Science in Toronto and Gyeongsang National University Institute of Social Sciences in South Korea. He previously taught at the University of the Witwatersrand Graduate School of Public and Development Management, Yokohama National University Department of Economics and the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health. He worked at two Johannesburg NGOs, Planact (1990-94) and the National Institute for Economic Policy (1995-97).

Patrick’s most recent books are: Looting Africa: The Economics of Explotiation (published by Zed Books and UKZN Press, 2006), and Talk Left, Walk Right: South Africa’s Frustrated Global Reforms (Africa World Press and UKZN Press, 2006). He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1961.

Ahmedi Vawda

Ahmedi Vawda is a development practiticioner,with experience in policy development and praxis inside of government-accross all three spheres- in the last twelve years, and in collaborative partnership with development practitioners over the span of involvement in the development sphere. He was member of the Planact Collective between 1989 and 1994.

Susan Carey

Susan Carey is an independent urban development consultant based in Johannesburg. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Town of Regional Planning from Wits in 1995 and for the last 10 years has worked for the National Department of Housing and a number of NGOs including the Urban Sector Network (USN), Rooftops Canada and Planact.

Christa Kuljian

Christa Kuljian is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies in Johannesburg working on issues of civil society and development funding. She opened the C. S. Mott Foundation’s office in South Africa in 1992 and remained director till 2003. The Mott Foundation began funding Planact in 1996 and continues to do so.

Alan Mabin

Alan Mabin is Head of the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg and was previously Professor of Public and Development Management at the same university from 1999 to July 2005. He holds a doctorate from Simon Fraser University, Canada, and a master’s degree from Wits, and is a member of the South African Planning Institute.

Alan has worked in a variety of development fields for 25 years. He was involved in several aspects of the transformation of local government in South Africa, particularly in Johannesburg, and has collaborated with colleagues in Brazil, France and other countries on several projects. Alan helped to establish Planact in 1985 and has maintained a role ever since. He leads the Wits research initiative on cities and is interim director of CUBES. Current research concerns changing roles and relationships of public and private sectors in city development.

Marc Feldman

Marc Feldman is a principal at Development Works, a development consultancy based in Johannesburg. His fields of specialization are local government and integrated development. He is a founding member of Planact and worked in Planact between 1985 and 1994. He served on the Executive Board throughout this period and was the Project Department’s Manager between 1988 and 1992 where after he was appointed to manage the Central Witwatersrand Programme between1992 and 1994.

Simon Ratcliffe

Simon Ratcliffe is a strategic planner and management consultant currently specialising in energy related matters. He is also an innovative business and social entrepreneur. He also advocates new methods of business process management in support of efficient service delivery. Simon was the first Planact Coordinator working with Planact from 1986-1988.

Colleen du Toit

Colleen du Toit worked at Planact from 1988 to 1995 in various areas, including both union and community development projects. She was also Planact’s Information Manager, and served on the executive management committee. Colleen then spent several years as Stats SA’s director of strategy, and moved back into the NGO sector as executive director of SAGA, until 2005. She is currently doing free-lance development research and project management.

Paul Hendler

Paul Hendler,Director, Bagale Strategic Consulting Services, has more than 10 years of direct and indirect tenant management/customer services experience in social housing including having been a director on the board of the Affordable Housing Company (Afhco) and a major landlord in the Johannesburg Inner City, from 1999 to 2004. Paul has extensive training and experience in research methods, analysis of research data and information as well as management of large scale employee survey projects in the mining field in South Africa. From this basis he was involved in managing several employee housing initiatives in Corporates from the Fedics to the Murray and Roberts Groups and also managed policy research for Planact.

Julian Baskin

Julian Baskin is currently Director of the Alexandra Renewal Project. His field of specialisation is managing complex urban projects. He has worked with both NGOs and local government. He spent three years with Planact from 1990 to 1993.

Marie Huchzermeyer

Marie Huchzermeyer is an Associate Professor at the School of Architecture and Planning, University of the Witwatersrand, where she coordinates the MSc Housing. Her research focus is the socio-political aspects of housing policy and informal settlement intervention, in particular comparisons between South Africa, Brazil and, more recently, Nairobi. She has been a board member of Planact since 2004.

Nellie Agingu

Nellie Agingu served as Planact’s Executive Director from 2002 to March 2006. She holds a masters degree in Urban and Rural Planning from Dalhousie University in Canada. She has previously lectured at the University of Cape Town Architecture and Planning Department and has also worked for the City of Cape Town Planning Department. Nellie has worked as a researcher in the fields of housing development and local government and previously served as the Director of the Foundation for Contemporary Research in Cape Town.

Rebecca A. Himlin

Rebecca Himlin is the current Executive Director for Planact, having served as programme manager since 2002. She has extensive experience in the field of housing and community development and a master’s degree in Community Planning (M.C.P.), where she concentrated on participatory planning processes as well as local-level demographic and statistical analysis. She has served as Director of Research and Planning for a large non-profit organisation in New York, NY, and had held various research, policy and advocacy positions with other NGOs both in South Africa and the United States.

Simon Mogatle

Simon Mogatle a former ward councillor of ward 31 in Vosloorus, a resident and community activist in Vosloorus from 1990, having been involved with the local SANCO civic association. He is currently a member of the local ANC branch and is employed by Investec.

Facilitators and Respondents

Steven Friedman

Steven Friedman is Research Associate at the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (Idasa) and Visiting professor of Politics, Rhodes University. He is a political scientist whose has specialized in the study of democracy, its preconditions and prospects. During the 1980s, this prompted a series of studies of reform apartheid and its implications for a democratic future, during the early work on the South African transition to democracy both before and after the elections of 1994 and latterly research into the relationship between democracy and social inequality. This current work focuses on the implications of inequality for democracy and feasibleresponses by new democracies to inequality. He is the author of BuildingTomorrow Today (1987), a study of the South African trade union movement and the implications of its growth for democracy, and the editor of The Long Journey (1993) and The Small Miracle (1995 with Doreen Atkinson), which presented the outcome of two research projects in the South African transition. He is currently studying the role of citizen action in strengthening and sustaining democracy.

Stephen Berrisford

Stephen Berrisford is a trained lawyer and planner, operating as an independent consultant
in the field of planning law and policy in a range of countries across the continent. Prior to establishing his consultancy in 2000, he worked for the national Department of Land Affairs and the Johannesburg and Cape Town City Councils. Currently he is chairperson of the SA Planning Institute in Gauteng and serves on the board of Planact.

Mohamed Motala

Mohamed Motala is a Policy and Research Officer for Oxfam GB, South Africa Programme. Prior to that he taught public policy at the Graduate School for Public and Development Management at Wits University.

Gavin Andersson

Gavin Andersson is a development practitioner with a keen interest in Activity Theory and grassroots organizational process.

Sarah Charlton

Sarah Charlton has a housing specialization from the University of Natal, Durban. In 1994 she joined the NGO BESG in their Pietermaritzburg office, working predominantly on informal settlement upgrading projects in that area. She joined the newly-established Durban Metro housing department in 1997, and was involved in housing delivery, and policy and strategy formulation for the local authority. Since 2001 she has been based in Johannesburg, teaching and consulting in housing and urban development, and since 2003 has been a staff member of the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand.