Who are we


We Are One City


There are two broad ways to address urban poverty. One is to encourage economic development in the hope that it will uplift everyone. The other is to direct focused resources at specific problems that prevent people from benefiting from the urban economy. This is often associated with the built environment. 
But there is a big gap between resource providers like government and donors and communities. The two sides typically misunderstand and mistrust one another and have different priorities. This leads to suboptimal outcomes or outright failure, discouraging both. 
OneCity’s approach is based on our extensive experience of helping bridge the gap between these two essential players in urban development. That is why we focus on generating knowledge, building bridges, and above all, helping build the capacity of urban players to understand each other’s needs and priorities.

Meet the members of OneCity.

OneCity’s associates come from diverse backgrounds. All share a common focus on urban issues and civil society, especially organizations of the urban poor.

Deney Van Rooyen

Deney Van Rooyen has over 10 years’ experience in project and process management, strategy and innovation, app development, research, and development-oriented consulting. 

Her experience emphasises unlocking the socio-economic development potential of infrastructure portfolios. With a background in civil engineering, she has led construction management activities on several projects; advised on infrastructure asset management planning; developed socio-economic development strategies for large-scale integrated housing developments, renewable energy producers, road construction projects, and water infrastructure projects; and has advised on donor investment priorities towards South Africa’s Just Energy Transition. She has contributed to a publication exploring the significance of the Sustainable Development Goals for infrastructure projects, as well as a public engagement process and report centred on experiences of urban homelessness. She is completing a Masters in Inclusive Innovation, with her research focusing on inclusive infrastructure development and human-centred infrastructure design.

Brande Skelenge

Brenda Skelenge Brenda Skelenge is a dedicated professional based in Cape Town, South Africa. She is a Special Needs teacher and a social entrepreneur who is passionate about community development.

Brenda is actively involved in providing learning support services using art, creativity, and innovation in various communities. She is the founder of Leaps Development and Advocacy NPO (Non-Profit Organization).

In addition to her role as a Special Needs teacher, Brenda is a Microsoft Global Training Partner and has developed a holistic educational support hub that facilitates training, support, and transformation for youth and communities. She places education, creativity, and technology at the center of community development.

Brenda has also made significant contributions to the arts. She founded Trending Khalture and ran Moholo LiveHouse, which became a beacon for the arts in the community. It hosted live music, book launches, artistic exhibitions, and powerful creative discussions. Through her efforts, Khayelitsha’s first-ever free “pop-up” arts school, The Harare Academy of Inspiration, was established.

In recognition of her contributions to the community, Brenda received an award from the Department of Arts and Culture in 2016.

John Spiropoulus

John Spyropoulos has more than 25 years experience in urban planning and project management.  

He has worked for all three spheres of government, for urban sector NGOs and in private practice as a consultant and a director  of an urban management company. Most recently he has conducted research and worked with small property developers in Khayelitsha and Delft, in Cape Town.  He brings a wealth of experience and networks to the company. 

Patricia Matolengwe

Patricia Matolengwe  Patricia Matolengwe is a prominent figure in Cape Town, South Africa, known for her community development efforts. She grew up in the Eastern Cape and attended school there. However, she had to leave school just before completing her final year due to pregnancy, which led her to abandon her dream of becoming a nurse.

Despite the challenges, Patricia displayed entrepreneurial and visionary attributes early on. She worked as a part-time domestic worker and a meat hawker to earn a living for herself and her daughter. Recognizing the need for better facilities for meat hawkers, Patricia lobbied with the municipality of Port Elizabeth to construct a shelter with running water. This initiative was aimed at ensuring that the meat sold by the hawkers could remain fresh for a longer duration.

Patricia Matolengwe’s dedication to community development did not go unnoticed. She was involved in various community projects, including the Victoria Mxenge Housing Development in Cape Town. This housing development project is named after Victoria Mxenge, a South African anti-apartheid activist.

In 2009, Patricia Matolengwe was part of a delegation that welcomed U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Victoria Mxenge Housing Development. This visit highlighted the importance of the housing project and Patricia’s role in community development.

Nobukhosi Ngwenya

Nobukhosi Ngwenya is the University of Cape Town-University of Basel Postdoctoral Research Fellow based at the African Centre of Cities. 

Her research interests are centered on urban morphology, with a particular focus on community-led planning, development and transformation of human settlements in South Africa. As an urban planner and community development practitioner, Nobukhosi has worked extensively with communities and community organisations providing innovative solutions to some of the most pressing challenges faced by residents living in informal settlements. Nobukhosi’s current research pays particular attention to the role housing needs to play in the just transition and how can it be realised at scale.

Lindela Mjenxane

Lindela Mjenxane is a qualified Social Anthropologist who has worked for over 15 years in the fields of youth development, environment and climate change. 

Lindela was born in Lady Frere, Eastern Cape and grew up in an informal settlement in Cape Town. He continues to focus his efforts in these two areas, drawing on local capacities and knowledge to transform youth at risk into community leaders and climate warriors. He is the founder and director of Beyond Expectations Environmental Programme for which he has received several awards and accolades.

Patrick Laka


Patrick Laka is an accountant with a wealth of experience in finance and business management. He has worked in various sectors including financial services, auditing and advisory services, corporate finance and portfolio management

Patrick has a passion for community development and has extensive experience in the microfinance sector with a specific focus on developing low cost housing and providing access to housing finance for low-income households. As a member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), he brings not only prudent financial and commercial skills to the team, but also a wealth of knowledge and experience in the low-income household sector.

Joel Bolnick

Joel Bolnick was the co-founder and former director of Shack Dwellers International (SDI)

a grassroots movement of the urban poor with affiliates in 33 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. He has extensive experience in community mobilising and the co-production of housing and basic services. His focus has been on the poorest segment of the urban poor.  He brings thirty years work experience with low-income households in Khayelitsha, Philippi, Gugulethu and environs.

Ted Baumann

Ted Baumann has over 30 years-experience in community-led approaches to the built environment. 

A political economist, Ted spent two decades working with Shack Dwellers International focusing on community financial systems. As a consultant, he worked with the ILP, UNDP, WHO, and NGOs and national governments. As Director of International Programs for Habitat for Humanity International, he developed tools to prioritise resource deployment. He is a qualified practitioner of formal market mapping techniques to design responses to natural disasters. He has been published in international journals, including the Journal of Microfinance, Small Business Development and Environment and Urbanisation.


Government and the non-profit and private sectors have tried to “implement” development in South Africa for three decades. Despite good intentions and rhetoric, this approach has largely failed. That’s because of persistent misunderstandings between those who conceptualize and deploy development resources and those who are their target. Successful future development means overcoming these misunderstandings through facilitated participation.

The Response
to the Problem

South Africa has been a political democracy for more than a generation. In that time, neither government nor the market have generated sustainable solutions to widespread urban poverty and underdevelopment.

Instead, communities have stepped into the gap, often supported by Urban Development professionals. The key lesson from three decades of independent effort by organized communities is that to succeed, development projects must be designed and implemented with the priorities of communities in mind. 

OneCity’s contribution is to help development role players learn what communities really think and want. This involves guided facilitation designed to identify community needs, and to help them adapt those goals to physical and political reality.

Who We Are

One City is a group of independent urbanists who seek to help people and their organisations build communities, neighbourhoods and cities that work for all.
We partner with community organisations, government, international agencies, private companies, NGOs, and anyone else who shares our goal. In such partnerships, we aim to help build strategies and systems via actual programmes and projects, not abstract ideas.

One City’s associates have broad and mutually supportive capabilities.

Sustainable urban solutions require capacity building and ways to transfer the knowledge generated by practical programmes and projects. We help:

We focus on mobilising specialist urbanist skills for programs and projects, including:

We support and pursue practical implementation and assessment of actions for change, especially:

One City is based in Cape Town, South Africa but has a national and trans-continental reach.