In South Africa, SPARK supports urban informal settlement residents to engage government to better spend public resources on basic services such as water, electricity and sanitation.

The Problem

The South African population is urbanizing rapidly, and city governments are struggling to provide even the most basic of services to the 20 percent of residents living in informal settlements. Additionally, city governments are not engaging these residents in the governance process, resulting in high levels of service delivery protests. With our partners, IBP South Africa has developed ways to include informal settlement residents in the budget process and bring about significant improvements in service delivery, such as fresh water, clean toilets, and waste removal.

Our Partners

Planact was originally formed as a voluntary association of professionals in 1985 and has since evolved into a well-established organization working to promote and support settlements and contribute to the local government transformation process.

The Community Organization Resources Center (CORC) is a nucleus for professionals and grassroots activists who think independently yet plan and act collectively. CORC provides support to community networks who mobilize themselves around their own resources and capacities.

Afesis-corplan is a vibrant development NGO that is recognized as pioneers in deepening participatory democracy and good local governance, community development and alternative settlement development approaches since 1992.

Our Work

SPARK and our partners build the capabilities and power of informal settlement residents to collectively engage with public financial management systems and influence government decision-makers. This includes understanding who in government is responsible for services in their area and what level of services government is supposed to deliver. With this foundational understanding of how budgets impact them and the services they receive, residents can engage the relevant officials or politicians to get the basic services they need to thrive.


“I was previously afraid to talk to the municipality about the issues in my community. Asivikelane has encouraged me to engage. As a result, we now have water and toilets in our community.”

– Kanele Gova, project participant

Case Study


The Asivikelane campaign was founded in early 2020 through a coalition formed by IBP South Africa and its partners in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The coalition feared that the conditions in which informal residents live – very close quarters, with failures in adequate water, sanitation and refuse removal provision – were not being sufficiently addressed by the government and municipalities.  

Challenging government priorities

While the government in general, and metropolitan governments in particular, have enough money available in their budgets to reduce poor service delivery in informal settlements, they do not allocate enough of these funds to improving services and infrastructure in underserved areas.

The lack of detailed budget information makes it difficult to evaluate whether the maintenance of taps and toilets in informal settlements is indeed being treated as important. This opaqueness prevents the public and oversight actors from participating meaningfully in the local government budget process.

Monitoring service delivery 

Asivikelane asks informal settlement volunteers to respond to questions regarding the quality of water, sanitation and waste management services over a seven-day recall. IBP South Africa then consolidates the answers and disseminates monthly results to bring problem areas to the attention of the relevant city agency, the media, and the public.  

Main successes to date

Since the campaign’s inception a little more than a year ago, the number of partners in the coalition has grown from three to 141; the number of municipalities monitored has increased from five metro municipalities to eight metros and seven smaller municipalities; and the number of informal settlements represented through citizen monitoring has grown from 65 to 275.  

Asivikelane has also mobilized a growing cadre of community budget facilitators in informal settlements. These leaders will continue to advocate for improved service delivery and wide-reaching participatory budget processes. 

The number of residents and informal settlements taking part in Asivikelane’s service monitoring is constantly increasing (from an initial 65 informal settlements to 258 at the peak of the campaign in 2020). This is in large part due to excellent collaboration with partner organizations and the reach they have in these communities. By mobilizing members of the community to become engaged in the process of holding the government accountable for its failure to provide adequate basic services, Asivikelane has helped informal settlement residents find their voice and achieve real change that has affected the lives of millions of individuals. 

Case Study

Sanitation Social Audits 

The use of social audits to improve sanitation in South Africa’s informal settlements is an example of how we work with informal settlement residents as well as the intermediaries that support them. Social audits cultivate relationships between governments and communities that are mutually respectful, deeply democratic and address service delivery issues. Residents are trained to obtain budgets and other official documents to identify who is supposed to provide what services according to what terms. They then conduct on-the-ground research to document what is really happening. Based on this information they engage government in an informed and empowered manner.

In 2015, IBP and Planact began helping the Wattville informal settlement near Johannesburg conduct social audits to understand the terms governing the companies hired to provide and service toilets. First, the residents had to find and gain access to the documents that laid out the terms governing the companies hired to provide and service toilets. It was no easy task but with IBP’s strategy of “teaching by doing,” the IBP South Africa team worked with residents and Planact to obtain and scrutinize these documents.

The contract terms were then compared to actual implementation on the ground using three primary survey instruments developed by Planact:


      • A questionnaire for all residents to assess their experience with the toilets
      • A sheet to record observations after physically inspecting the toilets
      • A questionnaire for contract employees hired to service the toilets

South Africa: Guide to Municipal Contracted Services

This guide is designed to helps informal settlement communities find the documents that provide information about services being delivered to their communities.