Isandla Institute is a public interest development think-tank with a primary focus on fostering just, equitable and democratic urban settlements.

Current Projects:

The Developmental Local State: The aim of this programme is to contribute to an enhanced understanding of the successes and challenges in operationalising the notion of 'developmental local government' as articulated in the White Paper on Local Government. Isandla Institute is coordinating the publication of an edited volume Imaginaries and Realities of the Developmental Local State in South Africa, which focuses on the various dimensions, tools and instruments of developmental local government and is due to be published in 2007.

HIV/AIDS in the City: A few notable exceptions aside, there is limited evidence of significant engagement on HIV/AIDS from the developmental local state. Most municipalities in general and city governments in particular are still caught in a paradigm that views HIV/AIDS primarily as a health issue and a matter of individual conduct. The development dimensions of HIV/AIDS are not sufficiently understood, let alone responded to. Isandla Institute seeks to contribute to a better understanding of the specific factors in particular urban localities that contribute to (or possibly hinder) the spread of HIV and that influence the coping capabilities of individuals, households, communities and institutions (including the developmental state) when affected by HIV/AIDS. The programme also focuses on intellectual and strategic tools for the development of an appropriate, comprehensive response by the developmental state.

Urban Land: Post-apartheid urban spatial planning has not managed to overcome the legacy of apartheid planning. In fact, there is ample evidence to suggest that post-1994 urban planning interventions tend to perpetuate and reinforce forms of inequality, separation and urban sprawl. A key challenge for urban renewal and infill development is to ensure that such programmes and interventions contribute to socio-cultural and economic integration and a more compact city. Isandla Institute is particularly interested in urban land restitution and access to urban land for the poor.

Culture: A key challenge of urban planning and development is to ensure that these urban planning interventions contribute to a vibrant cultural life and enhance people's sense of identity and belonging. Often, this important dynamic of city life is overlooked and not sufficiently taken into account in urban planning, particularly as city governments are under pressure to deliver 'hard' infrastructure. There is also a tendency to invest in strategies and processes that make cities globally attractive to tourists, without due regard for the cultural needs and expressions of local communities. Isandla Institute's particular interest lies in the role of culture in urban regeneration and the contribution a cultural perspective can make towards social inclusion and equity.

Development Dialogues:
The Development Dialogues are quarterly events, co-hosted by Isandla Institute and the Open Society Foundation for
South Africa. The aim of the Development Dialogues is to create a space for critical reflection and constructive dialogue among those involved in, and concerned about, development. Each dialogue is initiated by brief and thought-provoking inputs by panellists, followed by an exchange of views and experiences from the audience. For details about forthcoming or past events, go to the Development Dialogues webpage.

Transcending the Apartheid City through Urban Integration: This is an ongoing area of work of Isandla Institute, focusing on how various post-1994 government policies impact on urban spaces with a view to formulate policy guidelines to ensure meaningful urban renewal and spatial justice. The policy findings of this research have been disseminated through an article in Development Update,the journal published by Interfund/SANGOCO. A second paper has been published in Urban Forum.