Karen Harrison specializes in the fields of local economic development, human settlements, local government, inter-governmental relations, governance and social development. She has worked at a senior management level and in an advisory capacity within the national, provincial and local spheres of government and within the civil society sector. She has participated in national and provincial Panels responsible for assessing the readiness of municipalities for accreditation and/or assignment of the human settlements function. Her skills range from policy formulation and analysis, research, to programme and project implementation and evaluation. Karen is a skilled facilitator and has managed complex multi-stakeholder development processes. Karen has participated as the economic development specialist in many multi-disciplinary teams focused on sustainable development and service delivery approaches at municipal level.

Over the past 10 years, some of Karen’s largest projects have been:

Development of Local Economic Development Guidelines and Resource Manuals
Karen was appointed by the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) to prepare national guidelines for Local Economic Development in Swaziland and Zambia during 2016. The Guidelines were developed through participatory processes and overseen by country client programme steering committees. The Guidelines aim to support the decentralization process within these countries through capacitating local authorities to plan, co-ordinate and drive LED.

Process Facilitation for SANParks Rural Development Programme
Karen has been appointed as the Process Facilitator for SANParks’ Rural Development Programme in the West Coast since 2013. She has been responsible for the design, implementation, stakeholder management and process facilitation of the West Coast Biodiversity Corridor Initiative focused on demonstrating conservation-driven rural development. Her role is to assist conservation authorities and landowners to extend and integrate protected area and ensure the protection of key ecological services, including aquifers. Karen has managed an extensive public participation process and implemented 10 demonstration projects that have been successfully transferred to relevant institutions for ongoing implementation. Her contract has been extended three times and she is currently developing national guidelines for SANParks for working within their Buffer / Integration Zones. She is currently working with about fourteen landowners in establishing an extended protected environment on the West Coast that includes compatible socio-economic activity. Significant resource mobilization has taken place during the implementation of this programme.

Designing an Assessment Tool for the Metro Built Environment Performance Plans in South Africa
Karen has been appointed by National Treasury in two consecutive years to independently evaluate the Built Environment Performance Plans that metropolitan municipalities are legally required to develop. In 2016, Karen’s contract included the design of a BEPP performance assessment tool both for the 2015/16 and 2016/17 financial years.

Development of the South African Housing Programme Accreditation and Assignment Framework, 2012
As a Panel member for the national Minister of Human Settlements’ panel advising on municipal accreditation and metropolitan council assignment for the function to administer national housing programmes, Karen was responsible for the development of the National Housing and Accreditation and Assignment Framework approved by the Minister in 2012. Karen has been re-appointed in 2016 to revise this Framework to align it with legal and policy changes in the broader environment and to address some of the challenges experienced during implementation. Many of these challenges relate to putting in place additional accountability and monitoring mechanisms. Karen has participated in and chaired numerous municipal capacity assessments for both accreditation and assignment.

Process Facilitation for the Ugu District Rural Development Programme

Karen was the Ugu Rural Development Programme process facilitator between 2008 and 2011. She was responsible for the development and initial implementation of a 20-year Growth and Development Strategy for the region. The project involved the preparation of a Spatial Development Framework, a comprehensive Infrastructure Audit, and a detailed socio- economic analysis of the region. Karen managed the specialist studies in this regard. An extensive public participation and engagement process was undertaken, which she facilitated. Over R 300 Million infrastructure funding was raised because of this programme.

Design and implementation of the Dr JS Moroka LED Programme
Karen was the lead consultant in the participatory design and implementation of an integrated Local Economic Development programme within the Dr JS Moroka Municipality in Mpumalanga. The main partners were the DBSA, GIZ and KfW. The programme was implemented from 2008 – 2010. Karen and her business partners, Jacqui Boulle, facilitated an extensive community participation processes that resulted in a shared LED strategy and the identification and implementation of a range of infrastructure interventions and support programmes in sectors such as: tourism, agriculture, education, manufacturing, and safety and security.

Economic Specialist for the Mthatha Sustainability Strategy

Karen was appointed as the team economic development specialist for the development of a multi-sectoral Sustainability Strategy for the Mthatha town in the Eastern Cape. The multi-disciplinary team consisted of planners, architects, urban designers, environmentalists, infrastructure and transport engineers. The plan was highly recommended by the DBSA and guided large-scale financial investments in the town.