SaferSpaces – working together for a safer South Africa

SaferSpaces is an interactive platform for practitioners working in community safety and violence prevention in South Africa where they can find information, share knowledge and good practices, connect with and learn from each other. It aims to become a central knowledge hub and network in the sector, providing an easy-to-use entry point for knowledge aggregation, exchange and collaboration among government, civil society and research. It supports an integrated, holistic approach towards safety.

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About This Innovation

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SaferSpaces has been live for about a year-and-a-half. It is a growing, evolving site-in-progress which lives off user contributions and is therefore constantly being promoted amongst practitioners from all sectors. In 2016, the site management will be handed over to the South African government department which is in the lead of South Africa’s revised safety and security policy. This will raise SaferSpaces’ profile as the key knowledge hub and network for community safety and violence prevention in the country.

How does your innovation work?

The SaferSpaces online portal was developed to respond to the need for a central, easily accessible hub that can aggregate and promote the wealth of knowledge on community safety and violence prevention in South Africa. As such the portal was initiated by the “Violence and Crime Prevention” (VCP) programme – a joint South African-German intervention coordinated by the South African Department of Cooperative Governance and implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

SaferSpaces was conceptualised and developed in close cooperation with South African government and civil society partners. As mentioned above, the site management will be migrated to a South African host this year.

SaferSpaces is an interactive online platform with two main functions:

  1. As a knowledge hub around all topics relating to community safety and violence prevention in South Africa. All knowledge and information on SaferSpaces is freely accessible by anyone visiting the site.
  2. As a network for practitioners working in the field of community safety and violence prevention in South Africa where they can register freely and start showcasing their organisations and work, sharing their knowledge, announcing events and connecting with others.

The content on SaferSpaces is presented in a variety of easily accessible formats and sections all of which are constantly growing with inputs from site members (practitioners):

  • The UNDERSTAND section offers background information and thematic introductions to issues such as youth violence, gun violence or public spaces. These are created in collaboration with experts on the respective issues.
  • The BE INSPIRED section presents case studies of programmes and interventions across South Africa that are promoting safer communities and preventing violence.
  • The LEARN HOW section offers practical tools and guides e.g. for participatory safety planning at local level.
  • In the RESOURCES section one can search for and browse through publications relating to a wide range of topics (from alcohol abuse to urban safety or youth).
  • The BLOG allows members to share news, insights and developments through short articles with others.
  • The site promotes safety-related EVENTS and as well as on-going RESEARCH projects.

As an interactive network, the CONNECT section of SaferSpaces allows practitioners to register freely as members and contribute to the knowledge on the site. Through an easy-to-use member dashboard, registered users can:

  • present themselves and their organisations on the site;
  • upload their own case studies (of their programmes or initiatives);
  • share their publications or other knowledge products;
  • announce events or profile their research projects.

For site marketing and promotion, a regular newsletter is sent out (incl. the latest site entries as well as new members) to a list of currently over 500 subscribers. Moreover, SaferSpaces has an active presence and growing following on Facebook and Twitter.

SaferSpaces runs on the content management system Expression Engine. It is fully responsive and has been thoroughly adapted for mobile usage as well.


What Evidence do you have that your Innovation works?

Site usage and traffic is being monitored through Google Analytics. The numbers show a growing interest and usage of the site – here are some numbers:

  • The number of users visiting SaferSpaces per month has grown from about 500 in mid-2014 to almost 4,000 in April 2016. The site now has consistent user traffic of about 3,000 users per month.
  • A newly implemented monitoring of downloads shows an average download of 100 resources per month. In April 2016, this peaked at 180 downloads.
  • In the last twelve months, the number of registered practitioners has grown by 76% from 76 in April 2015 to 134 in April 2016.
  • Practitioners are increasingly using SaferSpaces to promote their resources, announce their events and even provide hosting space for thematic pages.


Do you have current users or testers?

SaferSpaces is actively being visited and used by practitioners and professionals from all levels of government, civil society and academia working towards community safety and violence prevention in South Africa.

What is your strategy for expanding use of your innovation?

SaferSpaces is a site-in-progress which means that it lives off contributions by its users and is at the same time being further developed based on user suggestions, needs and wishes. The site has already undergone a functionality upgrade last year. A second upgrade is foreseen for the middle of 2016 which will add – among other things:

  • An OPPORTUNITY section for presenting funding, job and training opportunities
  • A section for help and counselling lines
  • An overview of South Africa’s ‘safety framework’ including all relevant policies at national, provincial and local level as well as relevant case studies

Moreover, the site management will be handed over to the South African government department which is in the lead of the country’s revised safety and security policy. This will raise SaferSpaces’ profile and usage as a key knowledge hub for safety and violence prevention in the country.


Next Steps

As mentioned above, the next site upgrade of SaferSpaces is foreseen for mid-2016.

The handover of the site management will happen in phased throughout the year.