SACN Research Compendium – 20 Years of Urban Research

Cities are complex and organic, and they are rapidly growing to be one of Africa’s biggest opportunities and challenges for the 21st century. As practitioners, public administrators, politicians, and institutions grapple with how to plan and govern these evolving cities, public interest knowledge intermediaries like the South African Cities Network become an essential ecosystem actor.


The SACN was established in 2002 and is an established network of South African cities and partners that encourages the exchange of information, experience, and best practices on urban development and city management. The SACN is focused on enabling cities to be inclusive, sustainable, productive, and well-governed.


SACN strives to support cities to become learning and adapting institutions through knowledge co-creation, dissemination, and application. The 5-yearly research programme pursued by SACN both creates and meets research demand. It stimulates research demand through its ongoing, grounded research questioning which continually frames and pushes an evolving national city research agenda. This research demand is in turn met through SACN’s own research commissions, as well as also through responses across the rest of the knowledge and governance ecosystems. SACN is not just about creating research relevant to cities, but about using that research to drive institutional and societal change, to ensure our cities work better in practice.


Over the last 20 years of its existence, SACN has produced over 350 research outputs and 800 learning events. Through its reference groups, the five programmatic areas at SACN drive a practitioner-centric research agenda, to ensure research is relevant and impactful.


This Research Compendium aims to give a sense of the scale and content of research produced by SACN over the last 20 years. It is by no means a comprehensive repository for all publications, but rather highlights a few particularly interesting and valuable research outputs produced each year. It is also not an academic document, but rather celebrates SACN’s research achievement in an accessible and playful way, using the visual analogy of a timeline. Key research publications are showcased alongside contextual events that took place in cities, to draw the parallels between our research and the real-life city environment.


Through these pages, we invite you to delve into the last 20 years of research at SACN and reflect on this impressive body of work with us.