Development Action Group (DAG) was initiated by a group of activists in response to the destruction of and forced removals from Crossroads, an informal settlement in Cape Town, in 1986. This group gradually formalised into a leading, well-established and respected non-government organisation through working with various marginalised communities in the Western Cape, especially in the urban and human settlement sectors. It is currently governed by a Board of Directors as a Section 21 Company (established in 2003).
Over time DAG was increasingly asked to assist communities with accessing land, housing and tenure rights, among other basic human rights. As a founding member of the former national Urban Sector Network (USN) in 1988, DAG continued to be involved in issues of housing, urban development and local government, working on projects located throughout the Western Cape and on advocacy issues at a national scale.
By the early 1990’s DAG’s work shifted from tenure struggles to include poor people’s rights to participate in planning and developmental processes. During this period DAG established itself as a facilitator of development processes. By the mid-1990’s DAG’s policy and research activities were well established – focusing on urban and regional planning studies – and the organisation was actively involved in the National Housing Forum through the USN where new housing policy was being developed. DAG’s work grew to include a variety of training programmes, partnerships with communities and several housing projects as well as with informal settlement upgrading projects in the Western Cape Province.
DAG has been an incubator for innovative urban sector initiatives – i.e. the KUYASA Fund.
1999 DAG successfully established the KUYASA Fund, a microfinance organisation, to promote savings and provide micro loans to the poor to support incremental housing processes through home improvements. This was to prove to banks that the poor are credit-worthy even if they lack formalsector payslips or assets. The Fund now exists as a separate entity to DAG and challenges traditional banking thinking by adopting an innovative approach to end-user finance. Since 2000, when it granted its first loan to Khayelitsha resident Rose Siyanga, the Kuyasa Fund has been successfully building equity by providing housing loans to individuals. In so doing, it has changed the lives and improved the living conditions of more than 51,900 people that come from poverty stricken backgrounds.
For more information about Kuyasa Fund visit its website
at www.thekuyasafund.co.za or telephone +27 (0)21 448 3144.
DAG has been instrumental in developing participatory housing strategies and plans, most notably the Western Cape Sustainable Human Settlements Strategy, in 2007. Between 2007 and 2009 DAG was represented on the task team to develop the enhanced People’s Housing Process policy with the National Department of Housing. DAG is still represented on the task team to drive critical recommendations for the effective implementation of the PHP policy and formulation of guidelines. DAG has been elected as land and housing team leader nationally in this process.
In 2008, following 14 years of active engagement in a transitional urban development and housing context, DAG paused to reflect upon its focus, direction and achievements to date. This moment of pause and reflection led to a strategic organisational shift that moved DAG beyond its largely projectbased housing focus since 1994 towards a new urban agenda based on notions of a “new urban order” and theme that focused on a “Re-imagined City”. This trajectory was underpinned by an organisational emphasis on building democratic urban governance and new structures (“urban forums”) while, at the same time, consolidating DAG’s long history and track record in facilitating the delivery of community driven affordable housing.
Key milestones along the DAG journey between 2009 and 2012 towards “a new urban order” and more democratic urban governance include: the co-hosting of the “Re-imagining the City” Conference in October 2010; the re-design and alignment of the DAG Community Leadership Programme (CLP) as an action-learning initiative; the successful co-hosting of a public meeting in June 2012 with 25 community partners involved in the CLP at the Good Hope Centre; the development and adoption of a Citizen’s Charter by more than 900 participants at the June 2012 Public Meeting; the drafting of a Concept Paper for a National Human Settlements and Urban Forum for the Department of Human Settlements, adopted by the latter in 2012; and establishment of an emerging network of CBO leaders from a range of largely informal settlement dotted across the Cape Metropolitan Area committed to the emerging DAG vision of a re-imagining Cape Town.