South African Lessons for City Activism

A Conversation with Jodi Allemeier

Recorded in May 2019

Global Futures is a podcast about global politics and how rising powers like China and India are transforming it. We discuss foreign policy, economics, war and peace, and how the world is changing with experts from across the globe.

Cities are often described as sites of democracy at its deepest level – places where state actors are closest to citizens and their needs and the opportunities to plan and implement policies together are the greatest. Protest and frustration are also frequently the most intense when local governments are the target: Civil society advocacy groups and activist movements often assume that government will respond in a particular way, believing that if they clearly articulate a need, the authorities will deliver what they are asking. They are more often than not disappointed. But those citizens who are better equipped with an understanding of the "logics" of government are better able to use the levers available to them in their democracy to influence it. Gaining this understanding requires getting inside the "corridors of power.”

In this episode, Joel Sandhu from the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi) discusses citizen-led change at the city level with Jodi Allemeier. Jodi is a Global Governance Futures 2030 Fellow and a program lead at the Economic Development Partnership in Cape Town, South Africa, where she focuses on adaptive and collaborative approaches to urban development, and delivers partnering solutions to public sector-led processes.

Joel and Jodi talk about the tactics of activists in Cape Town, and how ordinary citizens could use them to better understand the logics of the state and develop strategies that recognize that democracy is not a dialogue, but a tussle.

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