Diana Sanchez Betancourt

Qualifications: BA degree in government and international relations from Universidad Externado in ColombiaMA in social sciences from the Department of Peace and Conflict at the University of Uppsala in Sweden in 2001


Diana is a senior researcher with the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa and a founding member of the Open Streets collective in Cape Town. She holds a MA in social sciences from the University of Uppsala in Sweden and a BA in political science and international relations from Universidad Externado in Colombia. Her academic background has been enriched through courses and experiences as an exchange student at the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Calgary, Canada and international summer schools and fellowships in countries like Malaysia, Brazil and Ecuador.

She has a keen interest in inter-disciplinary approaches to community-based action research to inform sustainable urbanisation processes around social and governance challenges. Her work over the recent years has focused on two main areas i) looking at emerging citizen and community participation practices by engaging both with civil society and public sector stakeholders and ii) observing local socio-economic practices and realities to inform knowledge around the link between social cohesion, urban upgrading and socio-cultural infrastructure (e.g public spaces) in cities from the South.
As a Colombian living in South Africa, Diana is passionate about linking ideas and experiences between Africa and Latin America. She has therefore been the national coordinator of the Citizen Engagement Learning Alliance under the ELLA (Evidence and Lessons from Latin America) DFID platform and is constantly serving as a link between knowledge and experiences particularly from South America.

Current research

Diana’s current work, research and activism is around issues dealing with improving how urban governments engage with citizens and communities, piloting new action research methodologies to improve governance and delivery of services in informal settlements and shifting behaviour around transport and shared public spaces in a fragmented City like Cape Town.

Her main current projects include i) coordinating the governance work stream (improving citizen engagement in South African cities) under the Cities Support Programme of National Treasury ii) Piloting a community scorecard methodology process with the Cape Town municipality in 3 informal settlements to improve services (electricity and water) and community-government relations and iii) to try positive experiential learning pilots (Open Streets and WWF) to shift mind-sets to increase the use of public transport and non-motorised transport in Cape Town and other South African cities.