Ashoka Fellow
South Africa,
Fellow Since 2002
Violence Prevention Through Urban Upgrading


This profile was prepared when Chris Giles was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2002.
The New Idea
In the wake of apartheid's atrocities, many in South Africa are unable to see a better future. They cannot find the optimism to support personal initiative, much less collective action. Chris sees that the country's political and social history of violence and destruction means that people, families, and by extension, townships are stymied in their efforts to form a collective vision and pursue it with hope and determination.
With a deep understanding of the problems many South Africans face, Chris has, over the past decade, introduced civic revitalization efforts that restore stability and economic possibility to communities. He does not strive for quick fixes, but instead offers a well-organized, practical plan for re-creating healthy townships. Chris helps people work together to plan community events, start small-scale businesses, design schools, and build recreation centers. In the process, participants learn new skills, earn an income, reconnect with neighbors, and gain a sense of public pride and public accountability. The framework Chris introduces helps to establish communities as self-sufficient and demonstrates to members who have suffered through the violence and destruction of apartheid that they can trust their neighbors and work together to envision, then achieve, positive outcomes. Using the lessons learned from Manenburg, Chris is now applying the same framework in rural communities in the Northern, Southern, Eastern, and Western Cape. His model is attracting attention internationally as well.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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