EcoDistricts AP Spotlight: Walter Fieuw

Walter Fieuw, is the Founder & Principal Consultant at Making of Cities, a niche urban and regional development consultancy pushing boundaries towards new approaches to sustainability and resilience. Learn more about Walter and his work at makingofcities.org.


Walter Fieuw lives in South Africa where cities inherited a legacy of apartheid-era spatial planning. For decades, this policy sanctioned political and economic discrimination against nonwhites, and maintained racial segregation. This created deep structural rifts in the ways and places south africans move, transact, live, recreate and make communities. 

These trends have worsened over the past two decades since the policy ended, and as cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg have grappled with increasing urbanization. This rapid growth has led each city to begin re-investing in neighborhoods once abandoned, while simultaneously addressing pressing water scarcity challenges that have emerged as the population has boomed. Now, more than ever, there is a need for meaningful spatial transformation.

“We have an opportunity to to fix our cities and to create opportunities in the diverse neighborhoods that make up the city,” Walter says, “Fortunately, the popularization of urban design concepts such as walkable neighborhoods, human-scale development, public space, passive surveillance and mixed uses supports the making of resilient neighborhoods.”

Walter believes that building community resilience and working towards sustainable, lower emissions development needs to be premised on procedural equity. Affected residents must have an opportunity to shape their futures.

Traditionally, the unequal spread of private sector resources and insufficiency of local government resources to fill the vacuum has created uneven power relationships that require an intermediary and brokering role. These uneven power relationships have destabilized the establishment of multi-sector and multi-stakeholder compacts that could have driven forward progressive development agendas. Walter believes that development facilitation plays a key role in turning this around. 

“Urban development involves a complicated set of procedures, relationships and institutions which is sometimes alienates residents,” he says. “There is a need to deepen our decision making processes in ways that empower residents to make informed decisions about local investment, community initiatives, and options towards sustainable development.”

Walter became an EcoDistricts AP because he believes that a development facilitation approach through EcoDistricts Protocol helps him identify opportunities to advance poverty reducing development outcomes to city development. Using the Protocol allows Walter to illustrate to stakeholders the possibilities in projects, best practices in institutional design, and approaches to collection impact.  By applying an accredited framework and development facilitation methodologies, he is able to create compacts between very diverse stakeholders in highly fragmented neighborhoods in South African cities.

As his close friend and fellow practitioner, Jodi Allemeier puts it: “Incrementalism is the friend of complexity. Nuance, the friend of truth.”

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