Durban, South Africa | Wikimedia/JasonSmuts, CC-BY-SA-4.0

Best Practice

Thematic block

Improved urban service delivery, Urban citizens participation, Integrated long-term planning



Safer and sustainable cities, Green energy, Environment, Culture & Heritage


Project Description

The Imagine Durban project is not a CDS project, but rather a result of a complimentary long term planning process that ensures city sustainability. It is described as a process of non-stop learning through doing. The project initiated in the late 2006, is based on the premise that planning must encompass time frames beyond that of elected offices. Its focus themes include:

Creating a safer city;

Ensuring a more environmentally sustainable city;

Promoting an accessible city;

Creating a city where all enjoy sustainable livelihoods;

Fostering a more caring and empowering city; and

Celebrating the city’s cultural diversity, history and heritage.



During the course of developing the project, the eThekwini Municipality employed varied forms for stakeholder engagement resulting to the success of the project as shown below:

  1. The city’s visioning process began with the appointment of a reputable social survey company to administer a survey of residents based on a random stratified sample to determine their concerns and dreams. This scientific approach of eliciting a response from 1 400 respondents across race, gender, and geographic locations, was supplemented with a six-month exercise that reached out to over 3 000 people from all walks of life, through utilizing postcards that asked residents what they liked or disliked about their communities. These postcards were distributed in libraries, Regional Centers and even in popular restaurants throughout the city. Postcards were also handed out to hundreds of school children from both primary and high schools. Councilors were encouraged to capture the views of their wards through Ward Committees and other community structures. Old Age Homes were also visited by the project team to canvass the views of senior citizens- The team hired three full time interns who had some training in communications and public relations to analyse the feedback received from the citizens.
  2. Establishing working groups that were representative of the citizens and municipal staff to work at a park to develop practical actions from the key themes that emerged from their visioning exercise.
  3. Municipal staff staged plays at road shows to raise awareness on the project, including communicating the progress made. It is important to note that the acting roles were taken up by the staff themselves and this showed the public that not only had the municipal embraced the project, but they also believed in it, thus building increased public interest, trust and participation. In addition, this provided an entry to institutionalizing the project into the municipality’s day to day activities
  4. Use of print media-pull out newspaper supplements that were distributed even to all municipal libraries in the city
  5. Schools held heritage weeks as a means to foster understanding and respect of the different cultures represented in Durban. This was viewed as one of the key ingredients in ensuring sustainability of the project. Debates and essays were also communication tools used at learning institutions concerning the project
  6. Demonstration projects were designed and implemented together with the community
  7. Partnerships were also forged between the municipality and the private sector and development partners


One weakness noted was that the municipal team did not put enough effort to engage political leaders so that they could be made ambassadors for the implementation of the project at the local level.



  • Successful institutionalization of the project into the municipality’s day to day activities
  • Successfully establishing platforms for partnerships to provide additional technical and financial resources


Source: Moodley, S. (2009). The power of imagination: long term planning for city sustainability: 50 lessons from Durban, South Africa 2007 – 2009