About Page Illusration

The Open Cities Lab Story

OCL was born out of a desire to implement dynamic, living solutions to problems faced by urban communities in South Africa, and to contribute to developing a vibrant, inclusive society where all residents and stakeholders have an active role in decision-making. The founding committee observed that residents in South African cities have lost trust in public processes, and often do not have access to critical information, and forums or structures to be involved in decision-making.

OCL sought to move plans and interventions out of the static and inefficient long reports that gather digital dust on officials' shelves, and into problem-focused, user-centred interventions that are crafted in such a way that acknowledge vulnerability and build in inclusion and sustainability.

The team has gathered and developed technical capabilities and innovative approaches to build tools for evidence-based decision-making, as well as a desire to learn and adapt to different contexts as we journey on this mission. We like to partner with other awesome communities, CSOs and NGOs, government departments, academic partners, and the like, to strengthen the social fabric of the areas in which we work, towards building a better future.

We are governed by a Board of Directors currently made up of Matthew Adendorff (advisor), Nicole Copley, Richard Gevers, Geci Karuri-Sebina, Megan Wadge and Bryden Neville. We operate from Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Read more in blog post here.

Our Values

“We believe that through empowering citizens, building trust and accountability in civic space, and building capacity with government, we will enable participation in decision-making, evidence-based urban intervention, and inclusive co-design that will improve the lives of residents in urban spaces.”
Citizen Empowerment
We empower citizens to know their rights and understand the data, knowledge, mechanisms and processes they can use to make their lives, and those of their communities, better. ‘Better’ means more inclusive and participative, both in ‘hard’ topics such as service delivery and built environment, as well as social cohesion, dignity, place making, and community building.
Building Government Capacity
We work proactively with the government to build capacity for informed decision-making and evidence based policy and planning, with a focus on areas where this can uplift vulnerable and excluded communities. We enable co-design of existing and new processes and mechanisms for including citizens in decision-making, including sharing and opening data and information, and ‘crowding-in’ of intelligence and insight.
Trust & Accountability in civic space
We work with key actors including communities, the media, academia, and government to build accountability and trust in civic space. This includes fair and independent media, monitoring and transparent oversight of power, such as state-owned enterprises, and increasingly, the use of AI and machine learning in areas that affect privacy and democracy.
Mission Icon

Mission Statement

Our organisation is made up of Researchers, Software Developers, Economists, Data Scientists and Designers who get to constantly expand their knowledge and learn peripheral skills as part of the job. We are all driven by a common purpose as a non-partisan community founded on the belief of equality and inclusion through openness across all aspects of society.
Click here to view full mission statement

Organisations that are part of our delivery:

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Cape town