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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Building an “implementation highway”: innovation transfer between universities and informal settlements in South Africa

Informal settlements around the world are expanding, supported by urbanisation and
population growth. These regions contribute significantly to urban sustainable
development challenges. Addressing these challenges requires a range of solutions, several
of which revolve around small-scale technologies that must be implemented in informal
settlements. The processes and challenges of this type of implementation are poorly
understood. Streamlining the implementation process requires a combination of physical
and social infrastructure collectively labelled an “implementation highway”.

The current literature on good practice in implementation is analysed, focusing on largescale
reviews. The results are presented as a literature framework populated with factors
that influence implementation programme outcomes. Interviews with implementation
practitioners in South Africa provide context-specific evidence. The interview data are
synthesised with literature findings to generate a contextually-appropriate framework for
implementation practitioners working in South African informal settlements.

The literature analysis identifies five categories of influencing factors: innovation,
practitioner, end-user, local context, and systemic. The factors are assessed with the key
themes from the interviews. Integrating these two information sources produces the
contextualised framework, which includes modified factors and an interaction region for
enablers and barriers that exist between the five categories listed above.

The current literature on implementation science is dominated by healthcare research,
reducing its applicability to the chosen context. Synthesis of the literature and interview
findings addresses this and identifies interaction factors as the most significant category in
this context. The contextualised framework represents a collection of factors that influence
implementation programme outcomes in South African informal settlements.



Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.