A Radical Geography Community
Informal Economy Monitoring Study, South Africa
Participant at the IGJ: Melanie Samson (University of the Witwatersrand)
“The Informal Economy Monitoring Study (http://www.inclusivecities.org/iems/) is an NGO project, in which we were trying to track what was happening to informal workers in towns and cities around the world. We designed the project in a way that built the capacity of mass-based organizations to do research themselves. At the preparation stage it involved academics, people who work for NGOs, and members of the mass-based organizations, who were getting training in both participatory urban appraisal and quantitative methods. The actual research is public in the sense that it is being done by mass-based organizations for mass-based organizations, but involving academics. However, the researchers were not academics: they went to the university and had professional training, but were at the time of the project working for NGOs.”
Figure 9 demonstrates the approach of the IEMS towards engaging with making scholarship public. Unlike the two previous projects, the academic audience was not the main focus of all three stages of the project. As emphasised above, this was because the project was being carried out by a mass-based organization for a mass- based organisation. As such, the premise and engagement with academics was not crucial at all stages of the project, so during the research stage the focus was instead on the general public and mass-based organisations. This demonstrates the different focus of public projects, and questions the necessity for academic engagement at all stages of public scholarship.