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Urban knowledge exchange in response to COVID-19

Publication Date: 
Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The CSIR has developed an online government-civil society engagement platform. The discussion platform is devoted to sharing resources and developing responses to lessen the effect of COVID-19 on people living in poorly serviced, dense and crowded informal settlements and inner cities.

Contact Person

Dr Mark Napier

mnapier@csir.co.za

The CSIR has developed an online government-civil society engagement platform. The discussion platform is devoted to sharing resources and developing responses to lessen the effect of COVID-19 on people living in poorly serviced, dense and crowded informal settlements and inner cities.

The Department of Human Settlements approached the CSIR’s Urban Knowledge Exchange Southern Africa (uKESA) team to support its national effort in developing a COVID-19 response plan. Specifically, the department requested the CSIR to establish coordinated engagement and knowledge exchange with organisations working in the informal settlement sector. After a rapid investigation of user requirements, the uKESA team proposed setting up a national discussion platform using Google Groups.

The group, called the COVID-19 sector policy and technical platform, has over 100 members from across government, civil society, academia and international donor organisations. The platform is dedicated to sharing resources and hosting discussions about the impact of COVID-19 on disadvantaged communities, and how government, in partnership with civil society organisations with presence in settlements, can best respond.

The hosting of the national discussion on the Google Groups platform is central to uKESA's mandate, which is to facilitate open knowledge exchange. Additionally, uKESA discussions serve to bring government and non-government parties closer to direct agreements about the best ways forward.

As a result of the national engagements between government and civil society over the last two months, the Urban Knowledge Exchange platform (uKESA.info) has been able to build a collection of useful references and resources referred to as the COVID-19 Responses Collection to support decision makers and practitioners.

There are four examples of the types of content being hosted on uKESA. The first is coverage of emerging debates about the best ways for COVID-19 containment and mitigation in human settlements. The second example is making available international and local design guides for quarantine and other healthcare facilities. The third is pointing people towards the best geographic information system and mapping platforms that can help the decision-making process, for instance through population and settlement vulnerability mapping (by the CSIR). The final example of a useful resource is the City Support Programme’s database of municipal responses to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

Quickly available knowledge and expertise about what specific responses work in certain contexts is very valuable in time of crisis. The role of knowledge broker is crucial for informed, evidence-based decision making. The knowledge management experience built up over the last four years through uKESA’s investment in the knowledge exchange platform is now proving to be immensely valuable.

The uKESA platform continues to actively facilitate knowledge exchange to promote life-saving innovation and improve human settlements beyond COVID-19.

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