How do you give a neighbourhood an identity? Make it feel cohesive and proud and encourage business? It all begins with a name. And how do you pick a name that everyone likes? Start a business that turns the process into an Idols-style competition. That’s what Bruce Good, founder of Name Your Hood, has done. And the seed was planted with a stroll past a pharmacy looking for name suggestions.
“My mom and I saw the notice that if your name suggestion was chosen you would win R500. It was inclusive, exciting and fun and I thought, ‘What a great idea!’ Then while I was completing the final semester of my MBA in New York, I was struck by how easy it was to get around the mega-city because of its clearly defined neighbourhoods.”
So when Good returned to South Africa, working for a commercial property development company, he upscaled the Idols idea into a hobby, naming areas around Cape Town on a map. “In New York there’s Soho, Tribeca, Chelsea, the Bronx, but there are many areas in South Africa that have apartheid relic names, or are un-named.
For example, the City Bowl is a patchwork of neighbourhoods encompassing a range of socio-economics and identities, but it’s lumped together on the map. Lack of delineation isn’t great for municipalities, ratepayers, businesses, tourists or locals, as there’s nothing to cluster around.”
Good saw the potential to change the way we think and feel about our cities by using naming as a unifying force for good. “When you look at shows like Idols, Big Brother and X-Factor, it’s a great method of crowdsourcing and getting people excited about something. So I thought this would be a great way to get people feeling included in naming unnamed hoods.”
Having successfully named several precincts around Cape Town, he and his partners, Moshe Alpeni and Luvoyo Toni, have taken on their biggest project to date: Giving Gugulethu a whole new dynamism.
A-Z of the concept
“Renaming is a contentious issue because people feel disconnected from the process. So we formulated this initiative which allows the public to submit names and then vote for them in an inclusive, democratic campaign. The model is sponsored by businesses that get exposure through our printed material, website, mobi-sites, comic series and radio promotions. People become archaeologists. They explore the local histories, identify local heroes, and accentuate the positives. The City Bowl went for quirky names, while Gugulethu is very linked to people who had impact.”
From there, each area named gets its own website with free advertising for local businesses and individuals, further bringing the community together. With the Gugulethu project wrapping up, Good hopes to expand into street naming and to spread the concept nationally.