Planning for Informality Website
Narratives of Home

Narratives of Home is a research project that explores how state housing models shape the social landscape of South Africa, looking specifically at eThekwini. The larger project consists of 9 sites, of which OCL participated in the research at the Blackburn Village site, as well as creating the website for the project.

Web development frameworks

The built environment field has not been as transformative as hoped in creating equal and socially just urban spaces. Given the large number of people living in some form of state-delivered housing in South Africa, it is important to explore how this impacts residents’ sense of self and belonging as well as how citizens create homes and a sense of community in the social landscape of South Africa.


Narratives of Home is a blue skies research project of DUT's Urban Futures Centre. Blue skies research is exploratory and curiosity driven. The research at Blackburn Village experimented with a research method known as autophotography, with participants taking photographs of their environment, which were then used as primary data. There was a strong focus on community engagement and building relationships with people in the community. Informal interviews were conducted with those willing to participate and then snowball sampling was used (participants suggesting other people who may be interested) to gain more participation. Efforts were made to ensure that the research wasn’t extractive and that participants guided and informed the research gathering process. The research was then written up, per site and the reports are shared on the Narratives of Home website. A two-part podcast with some of the original interview audio was also produced. You can listen to past one and part two online.


The research has resulted in rich insight into people’s conceptions of home across eThekwini. The website provides useful resources and a map of municipal housing stock. The data provides important evidence to inform decision making about how the state delivers housing. 

Participating in this research project was valuable for Open Cities Lab to experiment with different data collection methods and narrative data analysis. There is much complexity in understanding the impact these housing models have upon residents’ sense of self and belonging, and knowing this context improves our ability to empathise with citizens and residents. 

Moving forward

The Narratives of Home website will continue to be hosted by OCL in partnership with DUT Urban Futures Centre. There is opportunity to update and add more research per site as well as identify more sites and historical sites. Narratives of home are not static and understanding how residents’ sense of belonging changes over time is an interesting avenue of research and context-building we would like to explore. We are especially interested in opportunities to feed this information back to residents who participated in the research and identify ways to ensure value for participants in similar research processes.

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