After successful completion of first phase of collaborative engagement in generating baseline data, analysis and validation, the studio embarked in to subsequent phase.
The second phase entailed a select sample of volunteer community planning team presenting baseline data outcome to larger sample size of Kitui town community for validation, community vision setting, and community training. The phase did not only expose the team to urban informality in a small town context, but also presented the team with an opportunity to undertake planning and design initiatives in collaboration with communities who have lived experiences of the challenges and opportunities, that are so postulated in academic theory but less explored in actual urban planning and design practice in Kenya.
During the planning engagement and development of strategies with the communities, members in the forum were prompted to set the vision for the type of urban development they aspire for Kitui. Voluntarily, members stated vision statements, such as: “ Kitui to be like Dubai”, which upon further provocation meant provision of modern houses, employment opportunities, road/infrastructure connectivity, provision of clean water to homes, provision of manufacturing industries, sewer connections to homes, solid waste management and provision of public parks/gardens. Other terminologies used by community members in vision setting were community-driven development, conclusive development, integrated development, sustainable development, modern integrated sustainable development, environmentally friendly, better planned developments within Kitui. Drawing from the above input from the community, the studio framed the vision as:
“Inclusive and sustainable urban development offering adequate-affordable housing and basic services, environmental conservation, and enhanced local economic development”
The Rapid Community Planning Studio engaged the community members in developing strategies and proposals on thematic areas of Mobility and connectivity; Housing, settlement upgrading and basic service; Public Spaces and environment; and, Markets and integrating informal activities. Within the studio forum, there were break-away sessions where community members grouped themselves based on the settlement they resided.
The engagement prompted community members to identify issues while at the same time develop solutions for the same. Sketches, tracing, write ups and modeling were some of the skills used to develop conceptual plans and strategies by the communities. At the end of each break-away session, community members selected representatives from their groupings to present their work to the larger studio forum.
To sum up, the studio established that both planning and implementation of plans aimed at improving informal settlements and informal economic activities in Kitui have largely been ineffective. Previous attempts have been at small scale, fragmented and generally unsuccessful. Generally, the execution of the studio was quite successful. Critical data and information was generated, which can be used to step-up efforts towards enhancing inclusive and sustainable urban development in Kitui. Whereas the studio was set-up mainly as a learning activity for planning and design students, and young graduate planners/designers, it was also designed to create awareness among community members on the benefits of urban planning and constructive engagement with government. It is therefore important for the partners involved to develop further on the achievements/the positive impacts of the studio by harnessing the opportunities presented by the collaborative environment emerging from the studio (academia, civil society (NGO), community and government).
A group photo of the planning team and the community members (Photo credits: CURI/ Kitui Studio Team (2016) Apunda David)
Sammy. M. Muinde (Studio Assistant)