Peer Learning on Integrated Urban Transformation

Key Contact
Hywon Cha Kim and Steffen Janus
Start Date
End Date
Funding Amount
$ 300,000
Knowledge-providing Countries


Rapid urbanization has the potential to improve the well-being of societies. If managed prudently, it can transform the development course of economies. But the path of urbanization is also fraught with numerous human development challenges intensified by poverty, economic disparities, lack of housing and basic services, inefficient transport systems and lack of sustainable financing models. The world needs inclusive and sustainable urbanization as recognized by Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) - Goal #11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.

The objective of this programmatic South-South knowledge exchange was to catalyze progress towards sustainable and integrated urban transformation. The program provided a forum for cities in Africa and Asia to learn from the experience of Medellín, Colombia – a city widely recognized for its remarkable transformation – as well as from each other, by bringing together urban practitioners to learn from the practical experience of their peers who have gone through or are going through similar challenges. 

The cities identified to participate in the program included: Cape Town and Johannesburg (South Africa), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo), Nairobi (Kenya), and Kigali (Rwanda) from Africa, and Chongqing (China), Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), Jakarta (Indonesia) and Mumbai (India) from Asia.



Rapid urbanization has the potential to improve the well-being of societies. If managed prudently, it can transform the development course of economies. But the path of urbanization is also fraught with numerous human development challenges intensified by poverty, economic disparities, lack of housing and basic services, inefficient transport systems and lack of sustainable financing models.

The knowledge exchange program focused on the following inter-related challenges of urban transformation: 

  • Redevelopment of at-risks neighborhoods
  • Integrated transport corridor management
  • Sustainable funding models



The World Bank’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice (GSURR), along with participating local governments and groups, organized three knowledge sharing events. Each event hosted approximately 70 participants, comprising development practitioners, city and regional officials, World Bank experts, and members of the private, mobility, non-governmental, and education sectors. Activities included: field visits and experiential activities; knowledge sharing and networking sessions with peers; learning sessions with master practitioners and global experts; and action-planning and reflection sessions.

  • Medellín Lab: The objective of this event was to provide a living laboratory of successful experiences and solutions from Medellín to help participating cities further develop or adapt their existing urban development plans to include: 1) measures of integrated planning for the redevelopment of at-risk neighborhoods; 2) full integration of transport systems to support socio-economic inclusion and violence prevention; and 3) business models that allow for sustainable funding of urban infrastructure upgrading and associated institutional structures.
  • Regional Workshop in Cape Town: The workshop in Cape Town was built on the foundations of the Medellín Lab and customized to the Cape Town context. The following themes emerged as the areas of focus, based on the most important experiences Cape Town could present: 1) integration of marginalized communities; 2) managing of transit corridors; 3) sustainable financing of urban transformations; and 4) resilience.
  • Regional Workshop in Jakarta: The key areas of focus that emerged for the Jakarta Urban Lab were: 1) institutional coordination; 2) integrated urban transportation; 3) urban revitalization and housing; 4) slum upgrading; 5) disaster risk management; and 6) municipal finance.

In addition to these events, a community of practice (CoP) was formed, comprising participants from the Medellín Lab as well as some from the Cape Town and Jakarta workshops. The CoP created an engagement network via “WhatsApp” to build a sense of community and collegial trust. Participants continue to use this group to follow-up on communications, connect, and exchange ideas on the platform. As the community matures and relationships strengthen, members will hopefully explore new ways to add value to this network.


Lessons Learned

We have some common emerging threads of what went well across the three workshops/Urban Labs. Medellín, Cape Town, and Jakarta are all seeing some positive results locally as a result of the workshops and Jakarta has a few highlights to share from their experience which hold potential for replication in a broader context. We also look forward to some key areas of improvement based on participant and organizer feedback we have collected on the Program.

What went well across the three workshops

  • The robust design and delivery of the workshops, interactive facilitation style, and an environment conducive to learning and knowledge sharing resulted in strong take-aways and motivation to apply learning in local context. It also proved to be an inspiration for international and local participants to adopt and adapt peer to peer learning methodologies in their own contexts.
  • The field visits and cultural immersion activities provided rich and enduring learning experiences.
  • All the workshops contributed to improved stakeholder relationships for our local delivery partners as a result of collaboration and co-creation of the workshop with different local institutions (government, private sector and NGOs), and academics. The collaborating institutions also appreciated the opportunity to showcase their successes which further contributed to increased trust.
  • Continuity in participation helped to deepen knowledge exchange and learning; more than half of the participants joined two or more of the events.
  • Exposure to a range of city circumstances and experiences provided participants with a wider set of solutions which could be applied to their own cities.  


What has worked for Medellín
The Agency for Cooperation and Investment of  Medellín  (ACI), “ has not only strengthened its capacity as a knowledge sharing organization but has also gained local visibility and recognition as a leader in international exchanges and for putting Medellín on the international stage. We also use the experience from our Medellín Lab when we approach other organizations for funding,” says Carolina Franco Bánó Senior Knowledge Management Officer. “We are using the knowledge assets and short marketing and lecture videos developed for the Medellín  Lab in academic courses at a local university and for developing new activities with city actors. They appreciate our engagement as well as our knowledge exchange tools that they can now replicate,” adds Carolina.

What has worked for Cape Town

As an outcome of the workshop, the organizing team from the city government of Cape Town gained improved stakeholder relationships and trust with the collaborating agencies as they appreciated this opportunity to showcase their successes.  


The “Research Day” proved to be a useful pilot and opened up the opportunity for the organizing team to experience and think through the pros and cons of including an academic component in a practitioner to practitioner knowledge exchange workshop. The idea was also to create a balance between practitioner and academic inputs during the workshop and to showcase the work of young researchers who are addressing urban issues. “Although the Research Day was not found particularly useful by the international   participants.  However, it was deemed quite useful by the participants from South Africa as it provided a unique opportunity for young researchers to have exposure to policymakers/ practitioners and vice versa,” says Phil Karp.


What has worked for Jakarta
Members of the organizing team from the Jakarta Lab shared a few key highlights which also hold good potential for replication and customization in other contexts.

  • Inclusion of one journalist for each field visit who posted a daily update on the government website. “It was a true asset to have the communication component taken care of by a professional on a daily basis,” says Adri Asmoro Laksono Poesoro, Urban Economist from the World Bank (Indonesia) and a key member of the organizing team.
  • The Jakarta Lab Included university students in the role of liaison officers to accompany the participants during the workshop and for the field visits which proved to be a win-win situation for the students and the organizers/hosts.  “The students proved to be a huge asset during the Jakarta Lab. They not only added value to the participant experience both during the workshop and for the field visits, but went beyond that and worked on note taking and supported the speakers and other logistical arrangements,” says Dea Widyastuty, Urban Analyst, with the World Bank Country Operations Unit (Indonesia) and part of the planning and delivery team. “The students also had a rich learning experience as a result of interactions with participants and the global experts. And the enthusiasm and goodwill with which they did their work was truly heartening, says, Yuko Arai, Urban Specialist, World Bank (Japan) and member of the organizing team.    
  • The Jakarta Lab has also helped to strengthen the relationship of the World Bank with the Government of Jakarta and the Mayor’s office. “This was the first intensive knowledge and learning engagement that we had with the Jakarta government and Mayor’s office and it has helped build more trust and openness in our relationship,” says Dea Widystuty.

Overall Program

  • To capture the full benefits of a programmatic approach to delivery which includes multiple workshops delivered over a period of time, one should try to maintain continuity of participants as much as possible.
  • Multi-year programs with multiple workshops should maintain a strong core theme across different workshops to allow for deeper engagement on the core theme.
  • If the participant mix is such that there is a need for translation and interpretation, it is important to ensure that adequate attention and resources are allocated to this component of logistical planning so that the learning experience remains optimal across languages.


  • Need to focus on a narrower set of topics/themes per workshop. Diversity of topics gives breadth but does not allow deeper engagement on the topic.
  • Reflection activities must have clear objectives and connection with the other workshop activities.
  • It is important to clarify participant expectation on learning outcomes and follow-up support ahead of the workshop
  • Need to include both a participant survey and a wrap-up reflection session in each workshop to gain a better understanding of participant experience and what we can do better next time. 
  • Need to start the planning and invitation process early so one can better handle unexpected visa and ticketing delays.

Field Visits

  • Consider shorter field visits. Participant satisfaction with longer field visits tend to be lower.

Need to have listening devices for participants on field trips so that the participants remain engaged and take full advantage of this firsthand learning experience.


Beneficiaries / Participants

Director Metropolitan Development, State Department of Housing & Urban Development Nairobi (Kenya)
Head of Roads department, Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Works Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo)
Director Urban Development, State Department of Housing & Urban Development Nairobi (Kenya)
Head of Roads, Housing, and Settlement Regional Planning and Development Office, Provincial Government of DKI Jakarta Jakarta (Indonesia)
Manager Strategic Policy Cape Town (South Africa)
Head of Development Financing Regional Planning and Development Office, Provincial Government of DKI Jakarta Jakarta (Indonesia)
City Treasurer Dar es Salaam City Council Dar es Salaam (Tanzania)
Director City Transformation and Spatial Planning Johannesburg (South Africa)
Technical Advisor /Ministry of Urbanism, Housing and Public Hygiene Dakar (Senegal)
Advisor to the Minister of Urban Planning Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo)
Vice Head of General Planning Division - Ho Chi Minh City Department of Planning and Architecture Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam)
Chongqing University, Associate Professor Chongqing (China)
Director of Studies and Strategy Dakar (Senegal)
Head, Regional Development and Planning Agency, BAPPEDA, Indonesia Jogjakarta (Indonesia)
Manager Strategic Planning Cape Town (South Africa)
Ho Chi Minh City Department of Planning Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam)
Planning Officer Osaka (Japan)
Deputy Director Nairobi (Kenya)
Deputy Director Transport Systems Management  Johannesburg (South Africa)
Head of Medium and Long-Term Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation Regional Planning and Development Office, Provincial Government of DKI Jakarta Jakarta (Indonesia)
Provincial Minister in charge of Planning, Infrastructure and Public Works Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo)
Director Planning, Nairobi City County Government Nairobi (Kenya)
Director Infrastructure and Safety (Transport) Johannesburg (South Africa)
Official  of Infrastructure Division - Ho Chi Minh City Department of Planning and Architecture Dar es Salaam (Tanzania)
CEO Tanzania Rural and Urban Roads Agency Dar es Salaam (Tanzania)
Associate Professor of Dept. Municipal Engineering & Urban Planning of Chongqing University Chongqing (China)
Chongqing World Bank Project Management Office, Project Manager Chongqing (China)


World Bank Contribution

The World Bank’s South-South Facility provided funding for these knowledge exchange activities with the Medellín Lab event to learn from the Medellín experience of urban transformation, and (2) Regional workshops, in Cape Town, (South Africa) and Jakarta (Indonesia), with the participation of experts from Medellín and (3) a community of practice to build on the sense of community initiated during the program and provide a platform to connect, exchange ideas, and reach out for peer support when needed.


Moving forward

While the knowledge exchange program has successfully concluded, it is noteworthy that exchanges on the community of practice are continuing, manifesting the string bonds that have been formed over the duration of the program. Initial discussions to continue with additional knowledge exchange and study visits have unfortunately been halted due to the coronavirus pandemic. It remains to be seen whether additional activities can be envisioned once travels are possible again. The participants have signaled their interest in a continuation of the program. As the South-South Facility Trust Fund has closed, the team may explore alternative funding for future activities.

It is also noteworthy that this program is already serving as a good practice example for the effective organization of programmatic peer learning involving multiple countries and delegations from multiple projects. It is thus becoming a valuable blueprint for future exchange programs on urban integration and other technical topics covered by the Urban Global Practice.



We reconnected with the participants early in 2020, almost two years after the start of the knowledge exchange with an objective to understand the results achieved from the program. We were looking to get a well-rounded picture of what the participants valued most about their experience, their efforts to put their learning into practice and to see if the participants have initiated specific actions, or have in some way changed the way they approach/do things as a result of what they learned/experienced in Medellín, Cape Town or Jakarta. We used a mix of an online survey and conversations with a sampling of participants, knowledge providers, key local partners and experts participating in the program. The survey and conversations revealed that the results were achieved in primarily the following categories:


Increased belief in ability to bring about desired changes



New and improved relationships, greater affinity and improved trust at individual and group level



Initiated and modified actions based on what was experienced and learned


The snapshots below provide some impressions of what the participants said about their experience, their efforts to put their learning into practice, the results they see at the institutional/local level, and how this experience has changed them at a personal level.


Turning negative spaces into positive spaces in Johannesburg
Conversation with Eric Raboshakga, Director, City Transformation and Spatial Planning, Johannesburg

The inner city in Johannesburg has undergone extensive regeneration in recent years and is looking for ways to create an environment where people can live and work safely, small businesses can thrive, and there are safe and secure public spaces where communities can get-together.  In 2018 and 2019, a small delegation of senior level officials from the City Transformation and Spatial Planning, and Transport departments in Johannesburg visited Medellín, Cape Town, and Jakarta as part of the Integrated Urban Transformation Program. Through this exposure and opportunity to see first-hand how Medellín had transformed and “humanized” their public spaces, the delegates have been able to initiate action to add walkways, cycling paths, and easy access for the disabled as part of their effort to regenerate the inner city in Johannesburg. The team has also been able to pedestrianize one of the streets with the inspiration they gained from seeing the weekly Car Free Day that Jakarta has managed to implement.  “We have managed to get the business community to maintain the roads and lighting. They keep it attractive as it helps their businesses flourish,” says Eric Raboshakga, Director, City Transformation and


Spatial Planning who is playing a key role in city transformation. Eric further notes, “Medellín has the same issues as Johannesburg. It was very inspiring to see how they identified corners where there was nothing, identified local people to prepare art, and turned dangerous corners into safe and artistic corners.” At a personal level, “One thing that is foremost in my mind now is how to turn negative spaces into positive spaces and use the locals to own that space”, says Eric.


Trying participatory planning to tackle public transport issues in Johannesburg
Conversation with Nobuntu Duze, Deputy Director, Transport Systems Management, City of Johannesburg

The provision of safe, accessible, and affordable public transport in Johannesburg is what occupies Nobuntu Duze, day in and day out at the City Transport Systems Management office. She is always looking for ways to do better. Her visits to Medellín, Jakarta and Cape Town gave her an opportunity to experience how her peers struggling with similar issues in different parts of the world have been able to use participatory planning processes for successful implementation of urban renewal programs. Nobuntu says, “On my return from Medellín, I have tried to implement participatory planning in my department. It is more expensive and time consuming to engage with diverse stakeholders, but we are doing it.  I have been able to make a case for it by flagging that this investment up front will make implementation smoother and more cost-efficient in the long term.”  Nobuntu, further notes, “My confidence came from the fact that I had seen it work in Medellín. Now I know that when you involve the right stakeholders, one can understand and anticipate potential resistance to the decisions and increase ownership in the process too. So, we have changed our approach. We now use stakeholder mapping and have hired people who can help us do the stakeholder consultations.” At a personal level, Nobuntu says, “this experience has been a good reminder that there is always a better way. It bothers me if I do not do something when I know there is a better way to do it. I am gradually changing the way I approach things, even if it is a little at a time.”


Paving the way for sustainable change in Nairobi Metropolitan Services
Conversation with
Mwangi Wamagunda, Engineer and Project Liaison Officer, Nairobi Metropolitan Services Improvement Project 

Trained as technical engineer, but also handling the role of a Project Liaison officer, Mwangi’s role at the Nairobi Metropolitan Services Improvement Project brings him face to face with non-technical challenges at every phase of the project cycle. “Just before we went to Jakarta, we had an impasse on planning our railway city. People felt that they were not being listened to,” says Mwangi. His chance to participate in the Jakarta Urban Lab in December 2019 proved to be a rich and timely learning experience. He got to see how Jakarta had used participatory planning processes to: 1) successfully introduce policy initiatives related to integration of land use and transport; 2) manage their disaster response; and 3) successfully implement regulations like Car Free Day. The Jakarta Governor passed the regulation in 2012 officially establishing Car Free Day as a weekly public activity with an objective to reduce pollution and promote public health. “Seeing what they have been able to achieve in Jakarta with the Car Free Day gave me motivation and confidence that this can work even in our context if we just listen to the people and take time to prepare for the engagement,” says Mwangi. He realizes that the key to achieving sustainable change is carrying along the beneficiaries on this journey of planning and implementation and moving away from the tendency to focus on the politicians. Mwangi also took the experience from Jakarta to design the Technical Deep Dive in Kenya- a knowledge exchange, capacity development and networking program on Urban Development issues which brought together local, regional, and international urban practitioners in Nairobi, “I had a chance to localize this knowledge sharing and learning methodology in our own context and it worked. The urban practitioners from different local counties also saw the value of this knowledge exchange, and we hope to continue using it and improving upon it.”  At a personal level, Mwangi says, “after these experiences I have moved much beyond my field of technical engineering…now I am doing social engineering and bringing people together, without it nothing works….” 


Understanding the value of different viewpoints
Conversation with Wenchao Jiang:  Associate Professor, Water Science and Engineering, Chongqing University, China

As an Associate Professor at Chongqing University in the critical field of Water Science and Engineering, Wenchao straddles the two worlds of academia and expert consulting for the city government. With deep interest in water systems, urban planning and environmental protection, Wenchao is keen to see the practical application of his research and teaching work and feed that learning back to his students. His visits to Medellín, Cape Town and Jakarta gave Wenchao a precious opportunity to understand the practical challenges and solutions that other parts of the world are working on. “I have already taken the learning from the three cities and applied it in my work with the city of Chongqing where my department provides design and consultation services,” says Wenchao. “With the inspiration I gained from Jakarta on their initiative of vertical planting and use of rainwater resources, I have included vertical plants and rainwater harvesting in my latest plans and advice to the city government. We are a mountain city with narrow roads, so this is a good solution for us to enhance our landscape in a sustainable way and to add greenery to walls,” notes Wenchao.  “I recently also had a chance to apply the learning from the vibrant Victoria and Alfred Waterfront Regeneration project that we saw in Cape Town to our upcoming river front regeneration project,” adds Wenchao.  He has also taken his learning from the three Urban Labs to his students. “ I have already included the Medellín case of urban regeneration in my course. I also teach differently and design my class field trips differently. My classes are more interactive as I have used the knowledge exchange methodology from the Urban Labs and my class field trips are designed using the techniques I experienced in Medellín, Cape Town and Jakarta.” At a personal level, Wenchao truly valued the opportunity to learn alongside practitioners and to see different viewpoints. “I have been trained in the academic world.  So, I have a different viewpoint. During the workshop, I had a chance to see practitioner (especially administrator) viewpoints and got to learn together with practitioners instead of academics or solely with engineers. The message I took away is that we must think about practical things as it is the practical things which are the ultimate test of application in the real world, and viewpoints and possibilities from various backgrounds are always important and should be at the core of my thinking and solution seeking.” says Wenchao.


Urban regeneration in Nairobi with inspiration from Medellín
Survey Feedback from Ruth W. Muroki , Director, Planning, Nairobi City County Government, Kenya

A brief story from Ruth on an urban regeneration initiative in Nairobi resulting directly from her participation in the Urban Lab in Medellín.

Nairobi’s regeneration of Luthuli Avenue

Luthuli Avenue is a busy street in downtown Nairobi.  Prior to the intervention between March to June 2019, the street was very congested due to many buses on the street and the congestion was further aggravated when buses used the street as a temporary parking facility while waiting for passengers. We initiated a multi-stakeholder process to regenerate Luthuli Avenue. The Urban Planning and Environment Department took the lead, working closely with the Transport, Infrastructure and Public Work departments and the UN-Habitat. We also included the non-government actors as well as the community owning businesses on the street.  The key Interventions were:

  • Removal of buses from the street
  • Pedestrianisation of the street
  • Minimal one-way vehicular traffic
  • Planting of trees and beautification
  • Waste management and provision of waste bins.

An immediate noticeable result of the intervention was that the noise pollution-that was being generated by touts yelling out for customers, banging the sides of the buses to attract their attention and constant hooting by the drivers, ended instantly.  This was much to the relief of the street users-especially the business community.  Air pollution from the exhaust pipes went down drastically as the buses were no longer there.

Having seen the street regeneration in Medellín provided the inspiration and confidence to push for the implementation of the Luthuli street regeneration.  And it does not end here, there is a plan to apply this concept to other streets in the city centre.


Taking the inspiration and motivation that more is possible
Conversation with Lucille Janssens: Manager Integrated Development Plan, City of Cape Town

“Learning for me has been in the finer nuances. The Urban Labs created a space to engage intellectually and see approaches that have been used successfully,” says, Lucille Janssens who is currently working on the strategic plan for the city of Cape Town. Lucille felt that her learning has been more at a tacit level and she is building her learning into her approaches. “It was good for me to see that we all speak the same language and have a lot of challenges in common,” adds Lucille.  The visits to Medellín and Jakarta have also helped Lucille strengthen her motivation and resolve that, “more can be done. I feel that more is possible with little, what we need is a compelling vision.”



Entities that provided knowledge during the exchange included:


  • International Cooperation and Investment Agency (ACI)


  • City government of Jakarta
  • BAPEDDA-The Development Planning Agency for Jakarta

South Africa

  • Integrated Development Planning, City of Cape Town