By Iwona M Bisaga, on 10 December 2012
Post written in collaboration with Josephine Wilka. Students of the MSc Development Administration and Planning
On the 30th October 2012 at 11am, there was a lot of commotion at the Cumberland Lodge: almost 180 DPU postgraduate students and staff were gathering in the back garden of this beautiful Windsor mansion to have their photo taken. It captured one of the many memorable moments of this year’s Windsor Workshop which was concerned with the subsequent topic: “Dar es Salaam – Negotiating a unified strategy for land use and affordable settlement upgrading”. Some of the students then headed towards the buses to return to London. For them it marked the end of two days full of intense group work, heated discussions, film-screenings from the ground, tricky negotiating and decision-making, certainly the most demanding tasks of the whole exercise. For the other half of the students the challenges of creating a solution to this Tanzanian reality with their stakeholder groups were still ahead. After all, this simulation project was attended by Tim Ndeze, who participates in the actual negotiations on site as a member of CCI (Centre for Community Initiatives)- a civil society organisation. He not only presented an invaluable in-depth local knowledge of the situation, but also, together with Ruth McLeod and Gynna F. Millan Franco, contributed to the excellent movie footage from Dar es Salaam, which had been collected in the weeks ahead. Their team effort allowed DPU students to immerse themselves into the perspective of one of the many actor groups they chose to represent, ranging from international financial institutions to slum dwellers, in order to envision the environment and to connect to the local people through the recordings. Despite the assignment itself being very serious in nature, there was also time to enjoy the historic surroundings, giving the foreign students the opportunity to get a glimpse of the British culture, and to socialise with other participants and coaches over a delicious meal or a drink at the cosy bar. For those that preferred to be more active, there was the chance to show off their table tennis skills, to hit the dance floor for some twists and spins and to explore the vast Windsor Park, ideal for a quick afternoon walk.
Following this period that resulted in defining the strategy, forming of alliances and the establishment of concrete points of action at the Cumberland Lodge, a final meeting of all “stakeholders” was being held at the Royal National Hotel in London, providing the last opportunity to maximise support for the respective actor group’s vision. The students representing slum dwellers, for example, did not let this chance pass by and took the liberty to stage some last minute demonstrations to remind everyone that the voices of the most marginalised should not be forgotten and that it is them who should be at the heart of the solution. With the objective being clear, interests and efforts had to be harmonised – a task which emerged as the most difficult struggle in achieving a comprehensive, far-reaching action plan by all parties involved.
Reflection upon the workshop and its effects shows how profoundly it had challenged many DPU students to engage with the multiple layers of causes and impacts in urban affairs. What’s more, the specific understanding of a region has been highly valued by various Windsor Workshop participants, whose opinion is resonated in the following statement by a DAP student who contemplated about her experience a few weeks after returning from the lodge: “I thought Windsor [Workshop] was fantastic! What I liked most about it is that I now know so much about Tanzania and its development-related problems, I knew very little before.” The benefits of attending far exceeded simply learning about Tanzania: everyone had the opportunity to assume a specific role as a member of one of the various actor groups, and by doing that each one could actively contribute to finding solutions to the many issues Dar es Salaam is facing right now. Moreover, all the activities, carefully planned by the DPU staff, were notably aimed at encouraging students to enhance their ability to work in teams, to think outside the box, to be creative, and to improve their presentation skills. Whether one was a local government official dealing with a lack of funds, staff and coordination or a member of a Chinese estate giant trying to develop the land for the people, yet securing commercial interests: working together was crucial to achieve common goals.
What especially made the whole project worthwhile was the fact that the proposals and solutions that have been developed, will be considered by the team of practitioners on the ground in Dar es Salaam, who have sent Tim Ndeze to London to attend to this task. In this sense, DPU students had the unique opportunity of making a real contribution to the positive change in some of the Tanzanian communities facing resettlement.
For more images visit the DPU flickr account