Soweto Spacial Area Framework (SSAF)- Vision and Manifesto


As presented by Sabina Favaro, lead of Co-Design for Spatial Justice (CDSJ), one of our Areas of Expertise (AOE), the objective of the participatory process for the Soweto Spacial Area framework is “Unlocking the socio-economic potential of Soweto by listening to community voices, public sector and other relevant stakeholders.”

Participatory planning is at the heart of the VPUU methodology. In our work, through CDSJ, this idea of participatory planning is understood in the context of a broader vision of co-creating and co-producing public spaces. This is at the core of VPUU’s commitment to placemaking. Placemaking plays a critical role in violence prevention, and in building social cohesion. The placemaking approach requires the continuous involvement of local and critical stakeholder groups, through a participatory process. To successfully co-produce public spaces, citizen involvement is essential to ensure a context-specific response, and to achieve both a sense of ownership and pride and the production of safe and tailored public spaces.

Placemaking represents a paradigm shift in thinking about planning and urban design, from a primary focus on buildings and macro urban form to a focus on public space and human activity – what happens in these spaces, why, how, and with and by whom, and not: this is all the stuff of placemaking.

Courage et al., 2021, p. 3)

To quote Sabina Favaro, CDSJ lead “Drawing from lessons learnt through years of practice and literature, at VPUU, placemaking is intended and practised as a collective process involving directly affected and critical stakeholder groups. The co-production process is as important as the final products, to ensure inclusion, foster a sense of ownership and pride and ignite future transformative partnerships enabling the long term sustainability of any intervention.”

In other words, the process is as important as the outputs. The importance of participatory planning, of placemaking, was embraced by the SSAF team.

To be truly effective, any strategy that is developed needs to be developed collaboratively with the stakeholders through meaningful engagement that not only extracts information for decision-making purposes, but that also empowers the stakeholders to take ownership of the process. Only in doing this will the latent economic potential of Soweto truly be unlocked. The team worked collaboratively over several weeks to develop possible options for a shared vision. Together a vision was co-created.

Future Soweto [SOWETOSA] is safe and prosperous:

a just and cohesive community that meets people’s needs, enabling their economic energy to thrive within an ecologically healthy and resilient place

vision for soweto

To complement the vision, a manifesto was developed. The manifesto component provides more substantive guidance to the SSAF in the form of themed objectives. Due to the diversity and integrated nature of the project, the vision alone is not enough. The SSAF needs a multi-pronged approach that is deliberate in its aspirations. Together, the vision and manifesto will operate as a theory of change for the SSAF.

To develop the objectives, the technical findings that arose from the Status Quo Assessment were summarised. The community stakeholder issues and solutions raised during the engagement sessions and the issues raised by City of Johannesburg were incorporated. These issues were categorised into themes which fell broadly into 5 strategic thrusts, as shown in the image below.

Each of these strategic thrusts will form the basis for targeted interventions. The themes contained within each strategic thrust comprises barriers that must be overcome to unlock Soweto’s latent economic potential.


Based on the shared vision and manifest (thrusts, themes, and objectives), a Toolbox of projects has been proposed which forms the basis of the implementation framework.

These projects is the culmination of the co-creation activities and engagements between the consultant team, the public sector, as well as the community stakeholders.

The Toolbox is organized as per the 5 strategic thrusts and its associated themes and objectives. Under each of the themes, projects were distilled from the engagements with the various stakeholders. The following figure provides a schematic breakdown of the elements included and captured within the SSAF Toolbox.

From the various projects listed under each strategic thrust, and organised by its associated theme and objective, the project team has gone through a project prioritisation process with stakeholders in order to come up with a consolidated list of prioritised projects which will form the structuring elements of the SSAF.

Approach for structuring elements

Based on the above-mentioned project prioritisation process, the team produced a set of drawings per strategic thrust which, at a strategic level, spatially outlines these prioritised projects in terms of areas of potential implementation.

Below is an example of one of these strategic thrusts, with key elements described.

This is further expanded on at a spatial level, defining prioritised projects types that should be considered to unlock the latent potential of Soweto.

VPUU Strategy Alignment: