On a cold and misty Tuesday morning near the end of June, the Greater Tygerberg Partnership welcomed over 100 local entrepreneurs, business owners, developers, investors and social innovators to the Century City Conference Centre.

Warm conversation and hot ideas were the order of the day as we began the process of connecting stakeholders to create a powerful and engaged community of people who are willing to work towards creating a better, more vibrant, inclusive and prosperous area.

The challenges are real but so are the opportunities

GTP CEO, Warren Hewitt reminded us that there is much to be optimistic about in our area. Bellville CBD is the second largest metropolitan node in our province. Thousands of people converge here as they switch between the many trains, busses and taxis that operate in the area. It houses hundreds of thousands of students, and is home to 7 hospitals and 10 clinics. Unfortunately, the area is also steeped in crime and grime. There are considerable challenges to overcome before we can successfully regenerate this area and attract investors, business owners, residents and tourists.

Despite these challenges, we believe that there is hope. The Cape Town CBD area is a shining example of what is possible. Less than two decades ago, it faced many of the same challenges that we face today. While many of these challenges still exist, the transformation has had an undeniably positive impact on the city’s economy and inhabitants.

The importance of empathy and design thinking

We believe that the Greater Tygerberg area has the potential to become Africa’s first smart city. A smart city is one that uses technology to connect, improve and modernize infrastructure, services and facilities to create a better life for those who live and work there.

Design thinking is an approach that is vital, not only to achieving our vision of creating a smart city, but of creating any impactful and sustainable product, town or city. It’s all about activating our urban innovation ecosystem by ensuring that we understand what people need and want, and can empathise with them, before creating something for them.

Dr. Chris von Holdt, Advisory Leader Africa at Aurecon, gave an insightful presentation on the power of design thinking before Aurecon and SustNet hosted an interactive Ideas Exchange workshop.

During the workshop, attendees were split into groups, assigned a stakeholder persona, and guided through the process of creating a SPICE model and persona canvas. These projects helped attendees gain a better understanding of who their stakeholders were and what they needed from government and the GTP.

The workshop provided a small taste of the type of work that SustNet and Aurecon undertake, but it quickly became obvious that successful city planning, urban regeneration, and community work must start with a true understanding of what the various stakeholders in the area actually need.

A powerful commitment from local government

We were joined by several important members of Government and the City of Cape Town. Minister Alan Winde encouraged us by reminding us of the success in Cape Town’s CBD area. He acknowledged the challenges we face, encouraged us to become a network of pro-active problem solvers, explained his commitment to Red Tape Reduction, and invited us to present him with implementable ideas and solutions.

Councillor Dr. Johannes van der Merwe shared the City of Cape Town’s plans for investment in Bellville and the Voortrekker Road Corridor in the next 5 years. The Greater Tygerberg Partnership is funded by the City of Cape Town, and the Councillor invited attendees to become GTP members in order to benefit from the close relationships the GTP has with the City as a result.

A showcase of world-class innovation

Throughout the day, we were treated to several inspiring presentations that prove that we have access to some of the best minds in the world, giving us everything we need to transform our city.

In the morning, we heard from Justin Coetzee, Founder and CEO of GoMetro, an innovative technology platform that promises to transform the way people move around (and park in) our city. GoMetro is on the cutting edge of digital, data-driven transport. In the near future, the platform will use big data to learn how cities move, predict transportation needs, and help create the uncongested, green and pedestrian-friendly cities of the future.

Later, we enjoyed an afternoon of Dragon’s Den-style pitching and voting. In May, the GTP launched its Social Innovation competition 2017, in partnership with SustNet. The challenge was to create innovative solutions to some of the challenges we face in the Bellville area, including: unemployment, homelessness, crime & unsafe spaces, drug abuse, urban grime and litter, property value degradation, accommodation issues, urban regeneration and walkability.

We received roughly 100 applications, of which five were selected to pitch their idea at the conference. We were highly impressed by all five applications, and after an intense four-minute pitch from each contestant, we allowed the audience to vote for the winner using the QURIO voting system. The pitches were rated on three things: ability to implement, potential impact if successfully implemented, and “wow!” factor.

You can read more about the five finalists and their ideas in this blog post.

The winners and runners up were:

Dhanyal Davidson & Krista Roberto – IWORK
Dawid van Graan – GoSafely
Chad Robertson – Regenize

The winners will receive R50,000 worth of funding for proof of concept, marketing and incubation support. The two runners up will each receive R15,000 worth of funding. In addition to this support, Philip Marais, CEO of The LaunchLab, has offered additional incubation and support.

Become a GTP partner

If you would like to play an active role in planning and building a better Tygerberg area, we would like to invite you to become a GTP partner.

For more information, please contact us at info@gtp.org.za or on 021 823 6713