The name Open Data Durban highlighted our thinking when we started as a meetup group back in 2015: that opening data would drive the change we were looking for, and that we wanted to be a bottom-up, city-focused initiative.
On reflection, five years later, we have learnt a lot about what this means in practice. This has led us down a path of questioning if our name truly reflects our current thinking and practice. As we have engaged with communities, local government, academia, CSOs and other actors in the civic space, we have shifted our initial focus from open data, to what we believe are the critical pillars of creating an inclusive and vibrant future city — openness, inclusion, capacity building, and participation.
In addition to working closely with the city of eThekwini (Durban, South Africa), we’ve had the opportunity to work at the national level in programmes aimed at unpacking cross-cutting challenges and opportunities in cities and urban spaces across South Africa. These have validated many of the learnings, insights and mechanisms we’ve gained from our valuable work in our home city.
We still believe deeply in openness and open data, but recognise through our own learning and experience, as well as that of the great partners and communities we are connected with both locally and globally, that a future inclusive city is one where openness is pervasive in spaces, structures, data, knowledge and much more.
Our focus to bring this to be is in three key areas — building government capacity, empowering citizens, and building trust and accountability in civic space, as explained here:
“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.”
We are not leaving Durban!
We are proudly headquartered in eThekwini and always will be. It is an incredible privilege to be able to do the work we do there. We intend to continue working extensively in the city, while we engage in national projects that will impact the cities space more broadly. In addition, we have opened a small office in Johannesburg, and are working hard on developing our organisation as a sustainable and impactful one.
We are grateful for the support, collaboration and partnerships we have developed so far with government, civil society, academia, and other communities in the city and we hope to deepen these even further.
We’ll be sharing a lot more with you in the coming months, but for now, take a look at our website opencitieslab.org, where you can read more about Open Cities Lab, what we do, what we believe in, and who we are.
Lastly, please follow us on all Social Media channels (links on the website) to keep up with the journey as we aim to build inclusion and participatory democracy in cities and urban spaces through empowering citizens, building trust and accountability in civic space, and capacitating government!
If you have any questions about the change, please send them through, or if you simply want to connect, we look forward to hearing from you.