Community leaders as intermediaries: how everyday practices create and sustain leadership in five informal settlements in Cape Town
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Community leaders are expected to navigate different social and institutional contexts, but they must do so without the direction, authority or legitimacy available to leaders within formal organisations. In this article, we draw on qualitative data from a participation initiative to explore how community leaders get involved in everyday maintenance of public services in informal settlements in Cape Town, in order to understand how they fulfil this intermediary role. Applying the lens of leadership-as-practice, we identify four practices that connect the communities and city, and which facilitate access to public services. We unpack how these practices emerge in and are shaped by the service maintenance system and material conditions of informality. We argue that community leaders fulfil their intermediary role through everyday improvisations to find 'what works', and in
the process, they also create and sustain relations of dependence and interdependence that reinforce those very roles.