What We Do

Isandla Institute's mission is to act as a public interest think-tank with a primary focus on fostering just, equitable and democratic urban settlements. This is enhanced through innovative research and advocacy interventions.

Isandla Institute functions as an experimental 'hot house' where policy ideas about the reduction of urban inequality, poverty, racism and social exclusion are nurtured. By design, Isandla Institute works with multiple partners to guarantee that new ideas are disseminated, tested and remoulded so as to succeed in solving problems in the 'real' world. At the same time, the Institute works with academic institutions to ensure that its applied policy focus is rooted in robust knowledge systems.

Conceptually, Isandla Institute's work revolves around 'the right to the city' and, more particularly, how poor people in South Africa can claim and enjoy that right. To advance the right to the city and inspire new approaches to urban development and city-making, the Institute seeks to generate ideas informed by research and understanding of context (i.e. evidence- and knowledge-based). It also recognises the importance of the practical application of knowledge and ideas, experimentation and the development of appropriate methodologies, processes, tools and instruments, particularly for development professionals (especially those working in the public sector). The organisation engages in knowledge sharing and the facilitation of engagement between stakeholders. Isandla Institute sees its role as 'holding the space', where meaningful reflection, debate and engagement can happen. The organisation also engages in advocacy and agenda setting. All these processes are inter-connected and mutually reinforcing.

Pie Grafic


  1. Urban Land and Integration
    The programme is designed to contribute to land use planning and management systems that enhance the right to the city for current and future residents, with particular reference to spatial integration, social inclusion, poverty reduction, equity and redistribution, environmental sustainability and urban efficiency. The programme addresses this through advocacy for access to urban land for the poor as both a means and a precondition for realising the right to the city.
  2. HIV/AIDS in the City
    The programme seeks to contribute to a better understanding of the specific factors in particular urban localities, specifically urban informal settlements, that contribute to the spread of HIV and that influence the coping capabilities of individuals, communities and local government institutions when affected by HIV/AIDS. The programme has successfully developed a niche area for itself and has built up a credible profile as well as important networks such as Halogen (HIV/AIDS and Local Government Learning Network).
  3. Local Government
    The programme aims to contribute to the consolidation of developmental local government in South Africa. It is known for its dynamic contribution to an enhanced understanding of the successes and challenges in making local government more developmental and responsive in its orientation and praxis. It does this, in part, by creating spaces for reflection, consultation and learning for local government practitioners and researchers. Isandla Institute also acts as the Secretariat for the Good Governance Learning Network (GGLN), a national network of civil society organisations concerned with participatory local democracy.
  4. Culture
    The programme is concerned with the role of culture in urban regeneration and the contribution that a cultural perspective can make towards social inclusion and equity. A key challenge of urban planning and development which the programme seeks to address is to ensure that the urban interventions contribute to a vibrant cultural life and an enhanced sense of identity and belonging.


  • Specialist Advice / Consultancy
    Isandla Institute responds to requests for specialist advice and support on urban development and transformation, with an attempt to align such opportunities with its core programmatic areas of work. Examples of work include action-oriented and/or policy research, empirical research, facilitation, programme design and implementation, and organising study tours for international delegations.
  • Project and Events Management
    Isandla Institute is able to combine its knowledge and expertise with sound project and events management skills.
  • Academic Teaching and Internship Programme
    Isandla Institute recognises the importance of inspiring, influencing and supporting emerging urban professionals. The organisation engages in academic teaching at under- and post-graduate levels. It also makes provision for interns.

For more information, see Projects we have been involved in.

Isandla Institute
admin@isandla.org.za Tel: +27 21 683 7903 Fax: +27 21 683 7956
1st Floor, 70 Rosmead Avenue, Kenilworth, 7708