As a Master of City planning student, Dasjon supported research on multiple projects connected to creative economies and economic development. However, his experience working with the Makers Valley Collective, partnering with the University of Witts, ignited his deep excitement for understanding the role of makerspaces and how they were being used by low-income communities. His work contributed to ongoing participatory action research led by Simon Siwze Mayson (PhD in Urban Planning at the University of Witts) on the “Makers Precinct” and he is serving as an advisor on a placemaking grant awarded by the U.S. Consulate in Johannesburg.
But the technical assistance of Dasjon’s research engagement was just a part of his experience in South Africa. “This was my first international flight and I was excited to be going to a place with rich history and emerging ideas around the role of culture, technology, and urbanization.” He was inspired to make the trip to Johannesburg by reference of a recent graduate from his program who had previously gone with support from MISTI. He collected extensive research about art and development by staying in multiple areas of the city, meetings with different stakeholders (politicians, corporations, creatives and community members) and even traveling to Capetown and Durban. “I knew it was so important to interview and engage with as many people and places as possible. Being immersed in the larger culture of the country would be the best way for me to begin to make any recommendations about how the Makers Valley Collective could reach its goals.”
After returning to U.S., Dasjon expressed how much his time in South Africa was beginning to influence his future. “Spending a month embedded in South Africa has definitely opened my mind about where I could work on planning issues. Initially, I was skeptical about working in places abroad because I didn’t want to ‘spaceship’ in. But now that I have built many relationships while there, I’ve been connected to post-grad professional opportunities that could make a difference.” He is also considering thesis research focused in Johannesburg and is connecting his classmates to research opportunities there.