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Isandla Institute's mission is to act as a public interest think-tank with a primary focus on fostering just, equitable and democratic urban settlements. This is enhanced through innovative research and advocacy interventions.
Isandla Institute functions as an experimental 'hot house' where policy ideas about the reduction of urban inequality, poverty, racism and social exclusion are nurtured. By design, Isandla Institute works with multiple partners to guarantee that new ideas are disseminated, tested and remoulded so as to succeed in solving problems in the 'real' world. At the same time, the Institute works with academic institutions to ensure that its applied policy focus is rooted in robust knowledge systems.
Conceptually, Isandla Institute's work revolves around 'the right to the city' and, more particularly, how poor people in South Africa can claim and enjoy that right. To advance the right to the city and inspire new approaches to urban development and city-making, the Institute seeks to generate ideas informed by research and understanding of context (i.e. evidence- and knowledge-based). It also recognises the importance of the practical application of knowledge and ideas, experimentation and the development of appropriate methodologies, processes, tools and instruments, particularly for development professionals (especially those working in the public sector). The organisation engages in knowledge sharing and the facilitation of engagement between stakeholders. Isandla Institute sees its role as 'holding the space', where meaningful reflection, debate and engagement can happen. The organisation also engages in advocacy and agenda setting. All these processes are inter-connected and mutually reinforcing.