Knowledge Transfer Programme

The Knowledge Transfer Programme aims to create knowledge platforms that straddle the researcher-practitioner divide and are better positioned to develop nuanced policy responses to complex urban sustainability challenges facing Cape Town. Through these knowledge platforms new and different knowledge’s will be brought to bear on policy-making processes and the legibility of these processes, to those not directly involved, will be increased.

Approach to transferring knowledge

Within the Knowledge Transfer Programme, 4 academic researchers are ‘embedded’ in relevant departments of Cape Town’s local government, the City of Cape Town, for 7 months a year over 3 years to work on specified policy areas. These policy areas were jointly selected by the City of Cape Town and the African Centre for Cities (ACC) at the University of Cape Town as urban sustainability priorities for the city that could benefit from new knowledge, namely:

  • Designing a green economy
  • Addressing climate change
  • Reconfiguring the spatial distribution of the local economy
  • Governing the energy system

Policy process

The researchers are supporting the policy process by contributing new knowledge, establishing and strengthening reference groups made up of stakeholders from within local government, higher spheres of government, the private sector and civil society organisations to share perspectives and debate options, and documenting the process of knowledge flows and public decision-making.

In turn, City officials with a deep involvement in urban sustainability policy development are selected to spend a total of 2 months at the University of Cape Town receiving guidance and support in writing and publishing their account of policy development on their respective focus areas. They thereby contribute to making policy processes more legible and disseminating practical knowledge and experiences of urban (un)sustainability.

Film: Adapting to a changing climate in Southern Africa

This short film captures the key messages and debates emerging from the first Southern Africa Adaptation Colloquium, held in November 2013 and co-hosted by Mistra Urban Futures Cape Town platform’s Climate Change Think Tank, a partnership within the Knowledge Transfer Programme. Members of the partnership include The University of Cape Town’s African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI), the Adaptation Network, SANBI, the National Implementing Entity for the Adaptation Fund, the National Research Foundation, and the Western Cape Government. The film was produced to make available the discussions to audiences that weren’t able to attend the Colloquium – particularly people working with local government in African cities.



Updates: Rounds 1, 2 and 3 of Cape Town Officials Exchange Programme

Round 1 commenced in November 2012 with 6 City officials taking part and four articles produced, co-authored by participants from the City and researchers, including "No messing in Bonteheuwel" about the transition from a degraded local environment to a place that the community is proud of.

Lessons learnt from the three years cover a discussion on the development of co-creation and co-production of knowledge in the City

The second round of the Cape Town LIP Officials Exchange Programme started in September 2013, with the number of City Officials increasing from 6 in the first round to 8 candidates being selected to write in partnership with supervisors from the University of Cape Town

The third round of officials from the City recently met with their writing partners for a workshop.


Patel, Z., Greyling, S., Parnell, S., & Pirie, G. (2015). Co-producing urban knowledge: experimenting with alternatives to “best practice” for Cape Town, South Africa. International Development Planning Review, 37(2), 187–203. doi:10.3828/idpr.2015.15
Type: Scientific article (peer-reviewed)
Sinclair-Smith, K. (2014). Polycentric development in the Cape Town city-region: Empirical assessment and consideration of spatial policy implications. Development Southern Africa, 32(2), 131–150. doi:10.1080/0376835x.2014.984378
Type: Scientific article (peer-reviewed)
Smit, W., Lawhon, M. & Patel, Z. (2015). Co-producing knowledge for whom, and to what end? Reflections from the African Centre for Cities in Cape Town. In M. Polk (Ed.), Co-producing Knowledge for Sustainable Cities: Joining Forces for Change (47-69). Abingdon, Oxon; New York, NY: Routledge.
Type: Book chapter
Roux, S. (2012). Climate Change, Energy, Food Systems and Food Security: a Complex Interaction [Unpublished report].
Type: Report/Paper/Working paper/Brief
Lawhon, M., Taylor, A., & Patel, Z. (2012). Co-producing knowledge on urban sustainability through local government-university interactions: A case study of Mistra Urban Futures in Cape Town. (ICLEI State of African Cities Report 2012). ICLEI - The Global Cities Network.
Type: Report/Paper/Working paper/Brief


  • Climate change workshop report

Project members

  • Zarina Patel

    Zarina Patel is director of the Mistra Urban Futures platform in Cape Town, South Africa. She is a researcher at the University of Cape Town, ACC African Centre for Cities.

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Anna Taylor
Robert McGaffin
Saul Roux
Anton Cartwright