Cape Town’s “abundance” collective

Last week I had the privilege of going through an EcoDistricts incubator exploring what we can learn about the collective impact approach to neighbourhood led programmes of resilience, equity and climate change adaptation.

A part of the programme saw lessons shared by Pete Munoz, of Biohabitats. Pete shared with us examples of projects that use innovation to derive multiple benefits from a single investment in infrastructure, that decentralise solutions, and that create a mindset of abundance (to use Anthony Turton’s words) and appreciation for our ecological resources. His focus was on water.

This is @PortlandNORM — a waste water treatment works (and more!)

Sitting in his presentation, enjoying inspiring images and stories of projects that turn onsite waste water treatment into gardens and energising places; I was struck by how many of the basic ingredients we already have in Cape Town.

A quick sketchup of the local “ecosystem”

We have:

  • the know-how (we have practitioners and developers with experience if we look at Verde Hotel, Century City and Woolworths headquarters) and bodies like GBCSA and GreenCape doing their bit to strengthen technical capacity
  • a tech community filled with hardware and software innovators ready to apply these skills to local challenges
  • capacity within the City administration that knows how to grapple with complex changes to revenue models and the arrival of new technologies (they’ve been through it all with energy already, afterall)
  • neighbourhood and developer structures who are keen to see localised solutions
  • … and a crisis that is bringing visibility and urgency to the need to come together and do things differently

I am not sure, however, if we have a common vision of what the “post-new-normal” world looks like: are we ready for neighborhood and infill site scale solutions? Can we require developers to do onsite treatment and reticulation? Can we retrofit unused service laneways in our oldest suburbs for green water infrastructure that connects communities? Can we change our behaviour by changing our relationships — first with each other, and then with water?


Some similar thinking: