Cape Town and Joburg set the bar for excellence in public participation
IAP2 Southern Africa proudly announced the 2012 Project of the Year for excellence in public participation at the first Southern African Core Values Awards for Public Participation on 28 November. The Awards were held at a special Gala Event in Johannesburg, Gauteng, sponsored by the Johannesburg Development Agency.
The first Southern African Core Values Awards aimed to galvanize regional practitioners and decision makers to raise the standard of practice in the region and thereby the appropriateness of engaging the public in activities and policies that have bearing on them.
The 2012 “Project of the Year” Award went to the City of Cape Town S78(3) Waste Review Stakeholder Engagement process, which was managed by Sonja Pithey Consulting. Public Participation was a legal requirement for the project under consideration. The team undertook comprehensive, in depth-stakeholder analysis and developed highly creative and collaborative outreach to a range of stakeholder clusters.
Key inputs from marginalised groups and waste related sectors of the City made a significant contribution towards the final S78(3) document, which was adopted by the City of Cape Town Council as a blue-print for the restructuring of future Waste Management functions. Many of these recommendations are direct inputs from marginalised communities, alienated sectors and hostile civic groups, whose opinions are seldom sought in large scale change orientated processes, such as these.
“The biggest project risks often sit within the stakeholder engagement and public participation streams of work. The IAP2 Core Values set a valuable and much-needed benchmark for involvement and engagement of interested and affected parties in projects. We have plenty of current examples where failure to engage effectively has brought projects to a standstill. As a region, we need to develop better understanding of the true costs and benefits, particularly in light of the costs of failure to engage effectively,” said Sonja Pithey, Owner of Sonja Pithey Consulting, and Winner of the 2012 Award for Project of the Year.
It was truly an evening to celebrate the high standard being set by South African cities. In November 2011 the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) won the Organisation of the Year Category at the international IAP2 Core Values Awards announced in Australia. JDA Chief Executive Officer, Mr Thanduxolo Mendrew, represented the JDA at the Southern Africa Gala Event to receive the international award.
“As the City of Johannesburg we welcome this award as it is testament to the positive work we do in delivering programmes and projects to the residents of Johannesburg. The JDA has always had a clear understanding that public participation is integral to the successful implementation of sustainable development projects and that the people who will be affected by a development have a right to be consulted and have an influence on the decision-making process,” said Mendrew.
Three pioneering projects competed in the category “Project of the Year”. They were painstakingly assessed by a panel of five distinguished judges. The Judges Panel reserved the right not to make an award should the standards not warrant this. A critical issue considered was how to assess the quality and credibility of public participation processes.
In their deliberations the Judges concluded that “Sonja Pithey and her multi-disciplinary stakeholder engagement team brought together divergent (and sometimes opposing) components of a large and complex community to understand and develop an inclusive and integrated system of waste management based on novel ideas, many of which were introduced by those being consulted themselves. This synergy and dynamism made it the Project of the Year”.
Two additional entries were acknowledged as Runners-up with Distinction. The Association for Water and Rural Development (AWARD) were recognised for their pioneering work in developing public participation guidelines for the design of water catchment management strategies – a critical issue for South Africa. Environmental Resources Management (ERM) were recognised for the successful engagement of all potential role players in a prefeasibility study for a major rail project.
The evening was a celebration of what makes for excellence in the field of public participation – an essential part of a vibrant democracy. It also challenged guests, who included experienced practitioners and high-level decision-makers, to enhance the practice of public participation in southern Africa in response to global scrutiny and evolving expectations of citizens.
“South Africa, in particular, is at a crossroads in terms of engaging the public in decisions and development that affect people and the long-term sustainability of our communities, environment and economy. Effective participation processes take the pain out of engagement and enhance the solutions that emerge.” said Toni Pietersen, Chair of IAP2 Southern Africa
“The Awards reinforce that – with training, planning, discipline, and, above all, a commitment to meaningful dialogue – it is quite possible to do effective public participation. Public participation in Southern Africa can, and needs to, be endorsed at the highest levels of government and industry to integrate more effectively the marginalised components of our society,” said Ken Smith, Treasurer of IAP2 SA and Convenor of the Judges Panel
“The IAP2 Core Values guide practitioners in designing public participation processes that work. They establish a relationship of trust and cooperation with stakeholders – managing expectations and ensuring follow-up further down the line. Proper planning and high levels of professionalism are essential ingredients, which is why IAP2 Southern Africa has been established to support regional practitioners,” said Nomi Muthialu, Vice Chair of IAP2 Southern Africa and Presiding Member of IAP2.