Lauren is doing her PhD on the economics of urban infrastructure systems, with a focus on sanitation upgrading in informal settlements. Lauren completed a BSc in Environmental Management and Economics in 2004, and thereafter a BComm Hons (Cum Laude) in Economics in 2005 at the University of KwaZulu Natal. In 2006/7 she undertook an MA in Economics at Georgia State University as a Fulbright scholar.
Before joining the Informal Settlement Upgrading Group, Lauren researched aggregate poverty outcomes and determinates in South Africa, from an arm’s length perspective, using econometric methods to interrogate national data sets. She now finds herself in a situation where the distance between herself and the context of the subjects of her research has been reduced. In this trans-disciplinary environment her research has become more about documenting a real-time change process, some of which is induced through experimentation around technical and institutional alternatives for sanitation in Enkanini.
Her work revolves around developing, with residents in Enkanini, the municipality, local SDI affiliates and local and international technology partners, a decentralised sanitation system consistent with an incremental upgrading trajectory, which can then be managed by local operators who have the capacity to (i) undertake the productive functions of installing, operating, maintaining and repairing infrastructure and (ii) take delivery of capital finance (subsidies, in South Africa) in order to seed revenue streams. These revenue streams will be based on end user payments for service, which in turn can be linked to new economic value streams based on harvesting the biogas and nutrient by-products of human waste treatment processes. In this way, the technical and institutional aspects of the design can link sanitation improvements directly to household energy and food security, as well as use the investment as an opportunity to harness the payoffs of infrastructure delivery to induce local economic multipliers.
Andreas' prior qualifications are BBusSci (Finance) (UCT) and BPhil (Sustainable Development) (Stellenbosch).Andreas worked in the South African hedge fund industry prior to commencing his current MPhil (Sustainable Development) studies.
His interest in informal settlement upgrading primarily revolves around the Energy Poverty Nexus - how poverty influences the fuel choices of the people and conversely, how fuel choices can have poverty entrenching dynamics. His interests extend into pro-poor finance and optimizing markets for the Bottom of the Pyramid, which he approaches through the prism of improved energy access trough finance.
The iShack, in its first iteration, forms the basis of Andreas' Masters Thesis, which is titled "Conceptualising a sustainable energy solution for in situ informal settlement upgrading". The objective of this research is to investigate ways in which the thermal comfort environment of an incrementally upgraded informal shelter can be improved whilst embedding modular and scalable energy technologies into said shelter. This is rooted within an alternative conceptualization of what informal settlement upgrading could look like – a critiqued response to the shortcomings of South African human settlement policy and practice.
Berry started his career as a biotechnologist with a B-Tech Veterinary degree from TUT. Subsequent research conducted in Australasia, the Caribbean and East Africa led him to the conclusion that a purely technical approach to livelihood improvement, in this case agricultural output, was not sufficient since it did not consider local cultural conditions. Studies in Anthropology at UNISA (BA Anthropology and Philosophy) and Sustainable Development (BPhil) bridged this gap for community engagement.
From this experience then evolved Socio-technical systems theory as the milieu within which the interplay between introduced technology and contextual cultural factors could be researched. He believes that, if a balance can be achieved through social considerations and technology introduction, livelihoods can be improved and that this would then set the stage for innovation to occur in a changing world.
His contribution to informal settlement upgrading is the formation of an institution as a social enterprise that can govern the operations of a solar energy system. To ensure the sustainable longevity of the solar energy system, it needs to generate income in order for a local operator to carry out maintenance and repairs. Working with community members, conducting training courses and installing solar systems, he together with fellow researchers, is co-producing an institutional model that will oversee the implementation of a pilot study for the energization of informal settlements.
Vanessa von der Heyde
Vanessa’s prior qualifications are BSc Commerce and Business Administration with a major in Marketing from the University of Alabama (USA) and BPhil from the Sustainability Institute. Currently she is commencing with her MPhil in Sustainable Development. Her thesis focuses on improving waste collection services in informal settlements as part of an in situ incremental upgrading process. In situ upgrading of informal settlements would include a more efficient and effective waste collection service which ideally creates jobs for people living in the settlement and thus keeps money within the community, while also making use of alternative ways to treat waste instead of simply taking it to the landfill.
The trans-disciplinary nature of the study will enable community members to play a central role in the upgrading process. The research itself will act as the tool used to integrate the different knowledge sets of the various stakeholders, i.e. community members, municipal officials, engineers and private sector representatives. In this way, Vanessa hopes to discover a waste collection model that has been co-produced as far as possible between the various stakeholders, and which has taken into account the context of Enkanini and its inhabitants.