Recognised as one of the most prominent hindrances to the development of inclusive cities, urban violence is frequently described as a highly complex development challenge. Such descriptions are attributed to the recognised interrelatedness of the multiple drivers and dimensions associated with the prevalence of urban violence. Nonetheless, the application of complexity theories to the pragmatic planning and management approaches targeting urban violence prevention remain limited at best. In critically reflecting on the discourses surrounding complexity and the subsequently developed approaches to integrated violence prevention in South Africa, this paper calls in to question existing definitions of urban violence as a complex challenge and provides in-depth, context-oriented reflections on what truly makes urban violence a complex phenomenon. Furthermore, on the basis of merging existing theory with over a decade of practice experience, the paper argues an evidence-based need for a shift in focus towards how integrated violence prevention programmes may be more effectively managed, drawing most prominently on the concept of adaptive management. The assertion is thus that the achievement of broad-based violence prevention demands practices that take proactive cognizance of the functionality of complex systems, supported by institutional and governance structures that recognise and are thus positioned to cope with complexity.
Institution: International School of Management
Lauren Ugur is a South African urban development and management specialist currently based in Frankfurt Germany. Lauren currently holds a teaching professorship at the International School of Management (Frankfurt Campus) and works as a freelance consultant in international cooperation and development.