In 2007, the eThekwini Municipality launched the Imagine Durban Long Term Planning Initiative. The Imagine Durban project was modeled after a series of visionary long-term planning initiatives that have taken place in cities all over the world. The “Imagine Movement” has spread to over 70 Imagine projects in 20 countries and spanning 6 continents.
The Imagine Durban project was developed in conjunction with Sustainable Cities International (SCI), an NGO from Vancouver, Canada whose mission is to “catalyze action on urban sustainability in cities around the world.” Durban is a member of the Sustainable Cities International Network, a network of 40 cities around the world who share experiences and best practices in sustainable urban planning and development. It was through the SCI Network that Durban was introduced to the “Imagine” concept. The Imagine Durban project was jointly funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the eThekwini Municipality.
In order to develop the long-term plan, the Imagine Durban project team initiated a large scale consultative and participatory process that asked the eThekwini community to envision their city 50 years into the future. The team asked a cross section of citizens within the eThekwini Municipal Area a series of questions, including:
What do you like about your neighbourhood?
What do you NOT like about your neighbourhood?
What changes would you most like to see in your neighbourhood?
What are your hopes and dreams for eThekwini?
What can YOU do to make these dreams a reality?
Using the responses to these questions, the project team crafted a set of six thematic areas that reflected the priorities highlighted by the citizens who were engaged. The themes are:
1. Creating a SAFE city
2. Promoting an ACCESSIBLE city
3. Creating a PROSPEROUS city where all enjoy SUSTAINABLE LIVELIHOODS
4. Celebrating our CULTURAL DIVERSITY, ARTS AND HERITAGE
5. Ensuring a more ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE city
6. Fostering a CARING AND EMPOWERING city
For each of the themes a goal statement was developed to articulate the vision for eThekwini for that theme. Next, the project team organized a series of workshops with stakeholders of different ages, cultural backgrounds and political affiliations, but all with the common interest of wanting to contribute to the substance of the long-term plan. A daylong workshop was held for each of the thematic areas, and by the end of the process a strategic framework for the long-term plan had emerged.
The first draft of the long-term plan was completed in January 2009. The project team again endeavoured to engage citizens in consultation regarding the content of the plan. This included designing a road show skit, starring local talent from the Municipal staff, to promote the Imagine Durban plan and communicate the key messages.
Several months later, a finalized version of the long-term plan was complete. The plan was formally adopted in June 2010 as a revision of the city’s existing long term development. Soon after, a team was created to form a Long Term Development Planning Office in the Municipality. This primary focus of this office is to continue the Imagine Durban project and to inspire the eThekwini Community to adopt and implement the long-term plan.