The SAPER project team held a retreat in Milton Keynes 18-22 June led by Lauren Andres and Stuart Denoon-Stevens in order to develop the impact and publication strategies for the project. This is a very exciting time in the life of the SAPER project as the data collection phase has just finished and the team has been expanded to bring on board Martin Lewis (SACPLAN), Elsona Van Huyssteen (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) and Emmie Smit (UFS) to maximise the potential for impact.
The sessions included a masterclass on impact run by Sophie Hadfield-Hill from the University of Birmingham and a briefing on writing REF papers by Phil Jones. After a very intensive few days the team produced a detailed list of activities and tasks for the final 12 months of the project.
Opportunities were identified for feeding into a new mentoring and CPD strategy for South African planners. Activities at Parliament were planned to help shape South Africa’s forthcoming Planning Professionals Act. The team also sketched out a series of briefing notes and short films around the role of planners, the challenges of planning in a developing world, the future of the African city and the tensions between urban and rural planning.
The SAPER project has created a very large dataset of 212 questionnaire responses and 110 interviews with planning professionals and educators, producing the first comprehensive overview of the state of the profession in South Africa. Following a detailed discussion of the materials that have been gathered, up to twenty potential papers were identified and a writing strategy drawn up in line with REF priorities.
It was also nice for the team to meet face-to-face as a group – one of the problems of working across two different continents – and gain a better understanding of our motivations and constraints. Although it was an intensive few days, the project team ended the week feeling very positive about where the project was going over the next twelve months.
The SAPER team. L-R, Martin Lewis, Emmie Smit, Phil Jones, Verna Nel, Stuart Denoon-Stevens, Mishka Jacobus, Rouvé Bingle, Lauren Andres, Lorena Melgaco Silva Marques, David Adams
The months of February to May have been a whirlwind of SAPER activity. The second phase of our data collection has come to an end and the fieldwork has taken us as far as Cape Town to Bloemfontein, Pretoria, Johannesburg, George and Port Elizabeth. All of this in order for us to conduct in-depth, face-to face interviews with the South African planning community. The group was diverse and included the young and old (and wiser), men and women, multi-racial and multi-sectoral to create a representative sample.
Conversation ranged from the state of the South African planning profession, graduate readiness for the job market, diversity, technology and skills requirements. It was fascinating to sit down with persons from academia, government and the private sector and hear their perspectives on issues that affect both their communities and them personally. Interview after interview we realised how complex and fluid the work of planners is and that a long list of both hard and soft skills is required in order to mould a successful graduate. It was also interesting to discuss how expectations are met in a planner’s daily work in face of the great challenges (and achievements) of the profession.
Altogether it was an extremely successful and engaging experience and SAPER would like to thank each and every participant for their time and insights.
In total we have conducted 96 interviews (89 with South African planners) and all recordings are currently being transcribed and coded, as we speak. Some very interesting themes are already evident and we look forward to the final outputs.
Next up: The South African and UK teams are getting ready for their writing retreat in the UK.
Rouve Bingle and Lorena Melgaço