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Featured Conversation: Slums and Service Delivery for the Urban Poor

Informal settlements or slums are home to an increasing number of the urban poor. The lack of basic services, from sanitation and waste removal to water and electricity, has resulted in untenable conditions. Moderator Judy Baker and three urban poverty experts share innovations in infrastructure, services, public-private partnerships, and programs that also give slum dwellers a voice in planning decisions. Join the conversation in the comments below!
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Judy Baker, Moderator and Lead Economist, WBI Urban Practice, The World Bank

Judy Baker, The World BankWith the rising number of urban poor living in slums in developing countries, new solutions are needed to deliver basic services to these residents. While cities provide opportunities for many, city life can also present conditions of overcrowded living, inadequate access to basic services, congestion, unemployment or underemployment, lack of social and community networks, stark inequalities, crippling social problems such as crime and violence, and particular vulnerability to health problems, economic shocks, and the risks related to climate change and natural disasters, particularly for the poor.

New residents need jobs, safe housing, and access to basic services. To accommodate these demands, many cities struggle to keep up and often fall short. This is in part due to resource constraints, but also due to capacity constraints, lack of urban planning and management, and lack of political will.

Meeting this challenge will require new thinking and innovations in service delivery through the use of ICT, new partnerships and new financing opportunities, an expanded role for NGOs and the private sector, and new technological solutions. There is also an important role for better urban planning and management to anticipate the influx of new city residents and their needs.

We will kick off the conversation with innovative approaches shared by Sheela Patel, Chair of Slum/Shack Dwellers International; Tereza Herling, Municipal Ad-Secretary of Urban Development of the City of São Paulo, Brazil; and Melanie Walker, Senior Program Officer, Global Development Special Initiatives at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Please join the conversation to share your ideas.

Sheela Patel, Chair of Slum/Shack Dwellers International

Sheela Patel, Slum/Shack Dwellers InternationalI have worked for the last 30 years facilitating policy and practice to demonstrate that the most important and foundational aspect of addressing urban poverty issues is secure habitat with basic amenities. To me the most important aspect of a transformation agenda to address any aspect of poverty is developing demand at scale from the people who are locked in poverty, to participate in design and execution of the transformation we seek to develop from the outside. SDI (Shack Dwellers International) represents the laboratory for creating that critical local, national, and international voice of the urban poor to engage with their mayors, politicians, technical professionals, city and state administrations, and global development agencies to produce that engagement.

In a digital world, it's like putting into place the operating system for all other software and hardware to be developed on. Thirty years ago, and even today, the deep connection between secure habitat, governance, and access to land is not given primary focus. So let's get serious and put into place not only the vital ingredients essential to get this process rolling, but then develop the design architecture of roles, relationships, technology, and all such elements to produce the inclusive development that we all aspire to facilitate.

It's time to take stock of the manner in which the poor, without access to safe habitat and amenities, survive in cities — how they make choices, and the implication of those choices — before proceeding to build castles in the air; before we, as the development community, start building our strategies without being grounded in reality, as governments and development agencies have done for the last several decades. In the absence of global and national acknowledgement of rapid urbanisation, the large numbers of the poor in cities are unable to avail themselves of market-developed housing and all public housing — which is too meagre to serve the large numbers in need, and which gets appropriated by better-off groups. This leaves encroaching on land and building housing incrementally as the only option. Defending these neighbourhoods — and often losing the battle — creates the biggest development paradox: the proverbial leaking bucket, where assets created by communities, state institutions, and global development investments in health, education, and livelihoods, continually erode.

The capacity to engage, to co-create and co-produce is the innovation I wish to bring to this discussion. This capacity is lacking in all actors, including the urban poor, as each stakeholder is locked into a belief system which makes what they do the most vital aspect of transformation. Yet all actions are interconnected and no one stakeholder can produce transformation, yet change in one stakeholder can bring about change in others. Reconciling with informality of habitat and livelihood are the big elephants in this discussion, which have to be addressed head-on.

Tereza Herling, Municipal Ad-Secretary of Urban Development, City of São Paulo

Tereza Herling, City of São PauloBetween now and 2030, UN-HABITAT estimates that the number of people living in cities will reach 5 billion inhabitants, out of a total of 8.1 billion worldwide. The major part of this increase will take place in the countries of the global South, especially in Asia and Africa. According to UN-HABITAT, the urban population will double in the poor countries by 2030, and the number of residents in irregular settlements will reach 3 billion people by 2050. In this sense, cities represent a field of opportunities for poor people, but also face the challenge of providing adequate housing conditions to all their citizens.

In Brazil, people living in cities now make up more than 80% of the total population, 25% of them in precarious or irregular living conditions. São Paulo is the biggest Brazilian city, with more than 11 million inhabitants, 3 million of them living in irregular settlements or slums.

In 2006, the Municipal Housing Secretary made a technical cooperation agreement with Cities Alliance and the World Bank to implement a group of planning tools to face these challenges. The most important implemented tool was HABISP — a comprehensive housing information system published on the web that enables the technical team to prioritize investments and actions in slum upgrading and land regularization programs.

There are about 3,000 irregular settlements and slums mapped in the system, with all information on infrastructure, risk areas, and socioeconomic and health conditions. The HABISP implementation gave technical support to the preparation of the Municipal Housing Plan, which prioritizes investments from 2009 to 2024, in a range of four administrative periods of four years each.

This upgrading in the municipal housing planning processes made it possible to integrate financial resources and local actions to leverage the impacts of investments and gain social support from the local residents, as the Municipal Housing Plan was debated and the priorities defined with the residents' participation.

Melanie Walker, Deputy Director for Special Initiatives, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Melanie Walker, Bill & Melinda Gates FoundationWhen it comes to urban utilities, most of us take it for granted that we can turn on a faucet, flush a toilet, flick a light switch, or put our trash in colored bins. But all these services depend on an enormous installed infrastructure that is not extended to the urban poor.

This failure to extend the grid arises because informal settlements are places where private investment has long outrun public infrastructure. These settlements are outside the official municipal planning process, so they grow in places with no grid. Then too, when poor people are the customers, government cannot recover in service fees the new infrastructure installation costs. As a result, in most places, service delivery to the poor living in informal settlements is provided solely by the private sector, via value chains and systems that are people-based, not technology-based.

Via informal but sophisticated value chains, small operators provide water, electricity, solid waste collection, and even sanitation. Because these services are essential, slum dwellers buy them, for cash, even though they are unpredictable, of dubious quality, and expensive per unit of service.

Not exactly a win-win situation.

For slum dwellers to form co-operative or pro-poor utility value chains, Sheela Patel (one of our co-panelists for this discussion and chair of Slum Dwellers International) has pointed out the most important first step towards service delivery in informal settlements: community engagement. This is more than demand aggregation; it is business-model creation. Community members become service providers, protectors, repairers, conservers, and even innovators.

For example, consider a local Bangladeshi group called Waste Concern in the city of Dhaka. Over the past few years, we’ve worked together to expand a model for decentralized solid waste management, which we call Integrated Resource Recovery. The system starts at the community level with source segregation of waste (households, markets, businesses) and ends with different sources of revenue for each of the partners. Recyclables are sold in bulk markets, organic waste moves into the agricultural markets as either compost or fertilizer, and biogas is created from other solids and food waste. Remarkably, this works economically. Collectors, sorters, vendors, and processors get paid for their efforts and working conditions improve. Cities get cleaner. Landfills get smaller. Less unnecessary waste is released into the environment — no more burning valuable materials or informally dumping on someone else's property.

Once the informal business models and value chains are set up, solid waste recycling becomes a profitable business, and when that happens, it can attract external scientific innovation. Recycling technology is advancing by the day. Raw materials are becoming more valuable. Cheaper bandwidth makes informal networks easier to set up, manage, and scale.

Could this be a win-win-win option for service delivery? Maybe.

Conversation Summary

In the face of resource constraints, capacity constraints, lack of urban planning and management, or lack of political will, many cities struggle to keep up with the increasing demands of skyrocketing urban populations. This conversation showcased innovative approaches to inclusive development, data and planning tools, and informal value chains, while raising critical questions about how to scale successful practices.

A critical first step is to engage the people who are locked in poverty in the design and execution of services to improve conditions in slums. There is a need to build capacity to engage, co-create, and co-produce among all development actors (NGOs, governments, experts), including the urban poor.

Inclusion can take many forms, including collection of data, participation in debate over priorities, and development of informal but sophisticated value chains. Several innovative, inclusive programs were mentioned: HABISP, Waste Concern, WIEGO, Inclusive City Sanitation, CLIFF, Muungano Trust, Taarifa, LabourNet, Skills Connect, Walking Papers, OpenStreetMaps, Land Matrix, Crowdmap, Recycle Guru, and Change by Design.

Around these successes, the discussion focused on what is needed to engage slum dwellers in both planning and ways to scale solutions to improve outcomes for residents and their host cities. Building off the summary posted by Judy Baker, here are several important themes raised.

Read the full summary.


JudyBaker's picture

Hello Sheela, Tereza and Melanie. Welcome to the panel on Slums and Service Delivery for the Urban Poor. We look forward to learning from your expertise in this discussion with our global on-line audience. We are eager for active participation from all those connecting, hoping to share examples of innovative programs aimed at improving living conditions for the urban poor, lessons learned, and new ideas for scaling up efforts. To start of the discussion, our first topic is around the potential for non-governmental actors in the delivery of services -- Given the shortfalls in the delivery of basic services in informal settlements, what expanded role can NGOs and the private sector playing in the delivering services to the urban poor? How can new partnerships be formed with local governments? Looking forward to your thoughts.

soniadias's picture

Hello everyone,

I want to join the debate by pointing out another aspect of equitable service delivery – the working poor as legitimate service providers in urban systems. I join the debate from the point of view of a “garbologist” with more than 25 years´ experience in social inclusion in the solid waste (SW) field in my country, Brazil and elsewhere.

Equitable service delivery in SW means access to garbage collection for all, user-friendly fees, site allocation of waste facilities that are attentive to social-environmental concerns but it also means legitimizing the work informal waste reclaimers perform in many cities of the developing world.

Does it make sense to ignore the potential of informal waste workers as service providers in labour abundant countries? Does it make sense to rely on collecting systems which are based on high- fuel consumption in the context of climate change challenges? Why cannot we conceptualize modernization processes of SW in a way that is reconciled with the need to address the livelihoods of waste pickers?
Therefore, there is a need for a shift in the paradigm that informs the modernization of solid waste management systems so that existing livelihoods can be enhanced. This is critical to long term sustainability of poverty alleviation and environmental projects.

Government officials, city planners are still pursuing a conventional agenda of modernization that identifies improvements in SW with high capital technologies instead of building their systems upon what already exists, i.e. the informal waste collection systems. This has meant the furthering of social exclusion and poverty.

This is one area where international donors, and organizations such as the WB and others can play a role in terms of contributing actively to help change the minds of policy makers so that they are open to a change of paradigms so that a people-centred approach.

There are a number of experiences where cities are trying to adopt a pro-poor SW model having collectives of informal workers as service providers in household waste collection and/or recycling systems. To cite a few we have the city of Pune (India) where waste pickers have been authorized to provide doorstep waste collection by the municipal government or the city of Belo Horizonte (Brazil) where local cooperatives are part of the recycling system as service providers. In fact, in Brazil there is a strong network of multiple stakeholders linked together with the purpose to strengthening these informal recycling workers as economical actors in SWM. This has resulted in the formation of partnerships of many waste pickers’ organizations with local governments in many municipal recycling schemes (Diadema, Londrina, Araxá and other cities). There has been, also, a strong commitment from national government towards the elaboration of public policies geared to this sector, indicating that waste pickers´ organizations have managed to achieve a semi-public status in the country attracting support coming from various levels of government and from various institutions (development agencies and the private sector). For some case studies on India and Brazil please see and

In closing this contribution I would like to stress a few points which I think are relevant in terms of equity in service delivery:

- We need comprehensive policies from the State (all levels) not ad-hoc solutions.
- The engagement of NGOs it is important in terms of civil engagement but we need to be aware of the involvement of NGOs as an strategy for govt´s retraction from its role;
- Empowered participation (not instrumental participation) is a key element. This means a regular process not sporadic meetings: thus this requires participatory channels where various actors can be represented and have a meaningful participation in the whole process including the phase where interventions are shaped and designed.
Thanks, Sonia Dias (WIEGO waste specialist and visiting professor UFMG)

Sonia Dias

I agree broadly with Sonia's points, and would like to give the example of some of the World Bank's ongoing work in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The Bank has, in the pipeline, a proposed large investment project for Dar es Salaam, which would finance improvements in a number of sectors in the city, including for solid waste.

There is a multiplicity of actors and operating models for primary waste collection in Dar. High income areas, and institutions/commercial buildings pay for service from two large private companies, which have shiny imported heavy equipment.

At the same time, many densely populated low income areas, home to the vast majority of Dar's residents, do often have some sort of (informal) primary waste collection service, and also street cleaning. These services may be operated by community-based organizations, or perhaps by the sub-ward, or perhaps by a small local "enterprise". Local residents, even with their limited incomes, do pay a small fee for collection. Waste picking, for recyclables such as plastics, takes place at various points, such as by the hand cart collectors themselves, or by people who walk around picking what they find, and also of course at the Pugu landfill. The point here is that these mostly informal systems are already working in their own way.

One of the biggest problems that Dar faces currently is with the secondary collection and transport of solid waste. In an area like Tandale, most of the waste is collected in the first instance, but then it has nowhere to go -- there is often no municipal truck available to remove the waste for disposal, and residents in the lowest income areas are unable to afford the hire of a private truck. So the waste ends up being dumped into streams and ditches, contributing to very serious flooding when the rains are heavy.

So our thinking right now, for the design of the new project, is to leave well enough alone, with the primary collection systems that are already working. What we hope to support the city with is for the acquisition of equipment like trucks, and for upgrades to the landfill -- so that the collected waste can be removed from collection points and then disposed in a sanitary manner. But this project is not just about spending large sums of money.

First: we are looking into those informal areas of the city that, for whatever reason, do not yet have a working system for primary collection. We have the idea of producing a simple guide in English and Kiswahili, that describes and summarizes the various working models already in existence in Dar. The idea is that communities at the sub-ward level and below can then better decide how to self-organize and replicate any of these models.

Second: we need to ensure long-term financial sustainability for secondary collection, transport, and operation of the landfill. We cannot expect the urban poor in Dar to pay for the entire system. Moreover the institutional framework of municipal finance and cost recovery etc in Dar is complex, and there are other sectors like water and electricity which are also struggling and underfunded. So we are looking at options such as output-based approaches, transitional subsidies, PPPs etc. -- we don't yet have the answers, but are thinking hard about all this.

Third: we need to pay attention to health and safety considerations for all solid waste workers (formal and informal) at every stage of the value chain. Things like personal protective gear.

All the above need to go hand in hand with the large investment expenditures. Stay tuned!

SheelaPatel's picture

I am going to answer this in two parts: This one is a diagnosis of why solutions don’t emerge easily. In Part 2, I'll present some explorations SDI has undertaken in different cities and countries with interesting partnerships

Part 1 - To produce a sustainable and scalable solution, innovation in design and delivery is essential. This has three phases:

Phase I: identifying a set of stakeholders who will develop a solution.

Such a question requires an answer that has many dimensions which, in turn, reflects the perspective of the manner in which question is posed. Most NGOs emerge to respond to a vacuum that represents unanswered challenges of development. Their location within national and transnational spaces is accompanied by regulatory frameworks and limitations set by the very institutions that often exhort them to achieve outcomes that neither the market nor state institutions have been able to achieve. Unless NGOs carefully choose what they can achieve strategically their roles and functions can be dysfunctional and a barrier to innovation that can produce, sustainably, the scale and volume of the solution needed to solve a challenge in development.

Having said that, the contest of basic services is clearly one such area that truly epitomizes this explanation. Let’s start with the city and state governments. First of all, deficits emerge because locations where the poor stay are not included in the planning and execution of bulk service delivery: so most trunk sewers and water supply mains are nowhere near the informal settlements. Most cities would rather face water and electricity being stolen than provide this to the poor. Yet schemes to deliver services to the poor emerge sporadically, get allocated to those in political favour of the selection committee and most projects’ financial allocations do not get fully absorbed or utilised because projects are not designed properly. Besides this, issues of community participation are not even considered necessary.

Within such a situation where do NGOs come in?
Most, like our own organisations within SDI, start with creating demand… by facilitating federated communities of the poor engage in dialogue with cities and governments on issues of land and habitat. When we engage the community and the city, we find it often takes several attempts to produce a real conversation, as both sets of actors have no experience speaking as co-producers of a solution (in most instances federated communities produce fear in cities who try and avoid them). Following this initial conversation, a reflection of policies, norms and standards indicate that appropriate solutions – ones that work for both the city and the community – often require present norms to be tweaked, new possibilities to be tried and precedents for alternatives established.

Resources for such explorations are typically never available with the state: there are no mechanisms to explore innovations and already meager budget allocations are wasted on inappropriate and unsustainable projects. Sometimes there is foundation or philanthropist support... however, increasingly they too demand instant gratification, quick outcomes and numerically accountable successes!

However, in the cases where communities have been able to explore possibilities and find solutions, they have sought to demonstrate it. Often, legitimization of the solution happens over a long time – and scaling up of the solution demonstrates the need for further improvement in management and execution skills of both cities and communities.

It is usually at this critical juncture that both state institutions and philanthropists, who may have supported the initial process, abandon this strategy and focus instead on exploring new and different solutions or other newer challenges. If the NGO and community groups have no determination to stay on course, they too move to new pastures. Valuable resource, capacity built, relationships and knowledge are lost.

Phase II: undertaking a project at some scale at city or sub city level

This definitely requires a buy-in from the city regardless of who is paying. And we believe the city needs to make substantial investments and can locate the resources through various measures.

NGOs and CBOs, at this phase, can facilitate community buy-in – like managing assets created and identifying and dealing (with the city) with those whose interests oppose such cooperation. Many mistakes happen in the initial scaling up phase as both the city and community have to deal with unprecedented challenges. Technical capabilities in the community and the city are developed as the project goes on.

At this stage, seeking perfection and not accommodating mistakes is the biggest challenge. Workshops to reflect on what were mistakes and how they can be corrected can only happen post-facto, as the experience of “doing it yourself” is critical. Yet development imageries require everything communities and NGOs do to be perfect never is. Scale comes from making mistakes, and learning from them.

In the majority of instances, tendering (procurement) by the World Bank and other International Developmental institutions and governments exclude communities and NGOs from this stage and consequently these critical capacities never get developed.

Phase III: developing a model that can transfer experience and knowledge to other locations.

Networking and partnerships that can reproduce similar alliances in other cities and other countries produces real scale. Here the process is critical, local realities will determine the nature of strategy taken, norms emerging and who does what – but legitimating the demand creation for such projects, and creating the space to explore various possibilities is vital. This is where most transnational organizations seek to explore the cookie cutter approach rather than reinventing basics – which are treated as waste of time. I like to remind everyone that each of us has to learn the basic skills as we grow: knowing someone else can ride a bike is not enough, you need to know how to do it your self and you may fall a couple of times before you learn it.

SheelaPatel's picture

Part 2 - some explorations SDI has undertaken in different cities and countries with interesting partnerships

SDI ( is a transnational network of community-based federations of the urban poor and NGOs associated with them. It centered on creating leadership in informal settlements that can sustain a large membership of the urban poor who seek engagement with each other and the various private and public institutions to produce solutions that work for them and the city. Within SDI, habitat issues of basic amenities, services and secure habitat are treated as critical governance indicators as well critical foundations for addressing poverty in cities. Rather than becoming rent seekers, waiting for the state to initiate development investments, SDI supports innovations which demonstrate possible/potential interventions that change status quo and then support peer institutions, national governments and bilateral and multilateral development organisations to explore these possibilities.

Some examples: (SDI can facilitate you to know more for those who wish to get a deeper insight)
City wide slum surveys: Almost all cities have no up to date data about slums in their city, and their engagement with slums is demolitions. SDI affiliates undertake settlement profiles and present the city with status of and conditions of informal settlements in the city. SDI affiliates refine, develop and expand these processes across the cities in their organisations.

In 2000 in the city of Mumbai, the Indian affiliate of SDI demonstrated to the government and World Bank how communities facing relocation could undertake their own household surveys to produce quality data for relocation processes. They designed and executed their own relocation and produced a policy, which today guides the public infrastructure projects in the city to address its challenges with relocation rather than evictions. 18000 households have been relocated to houses with land security and basic amenities as a result.

This approach was also explored by the Kenyans and the Filipino federations brought their officials to India to see this - they are now negotiating similar possibilities. Such partnerships require engagement with very senior officials in any administration – as so many deeply rooted and convoluted policies have to be changed to accommodate engagement with the poor.

SDI, having undertaken and facilitated many projects to engage stakeholders in local delivery of amenities, uses different partnerships to legitimate what the poor can contribute in cities to make scalable change happen.

In 2010-11 UNHABITAT, through its Global Land Tool Network (GLTN), worked with the Indian affiliates (NSDF, Mahila Milan and SPARC) to demonstrate digital mapping and connecting it to slum surveys. Today a Cities Alliance financed partnership seeks to make this operational in more cities.

SDI has a partnership with United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLGA) to work with mayors and federations to map informal settlements. The logic is simple: if you know who needs to be included then projects to address infrastructure have to accommodate them.

In Uganda, through a very unique partnership with the national government’s housing ministry, a citywide community engagement program was designed to develop data about cities, plan small projects that address land security and slum upgrading. This project in turn will form the foundation of a larger investment the country will make in its cities’ infrastructure through a World Bank loan.

In many ways the SDI intervention seeks to change the foundations of how habitat and amenities linked interventions should be delivered. The preparation stage of building city wide federations, encouraging local governments and communities to engage through a commonly accepted data base, and building capacity to co produce projects and execute them together are a huge change from conventional project preparation where communities are merely “informed” about projects and their involvement is restricted to making notional financial investments.

Now this strategy is being explored through a cities alliance “LAND CITIZENSHIP and SERVICES” project which will also be taken up in Ghana, Bukina Faso and other African countries, and we can say with certainty that unless communities are involved from the beginning no real outcome can be assured.

SDI is deeply concerned with the non-negotiable connection between governance and land use planning and has recently started looking into UNDP’s governance program, seeking to create community, city and national government partnerships, to explore how these partnerships can be facilitated.

SheelaPatel's picture

I shared this discussion with several colleagues, and would like to share the following response I received from Robert Buckley (Rockefeller Foundation):

I would also like to add to Sheela's discussion discussion of urban poverty and the changes needed by the various actors which are needed if the scale of the growing problems with slums are to be dealt with. As she says, the scale of the problem has not yet been fully acknowledged, and until that occurs on the national and international level, it is unlikely that the community orientation she speaks of will be taken up beyond the extraordinary accomplishments of SDI and ACHR. The actor in this process on whom I would like to focus is the World Bank. I believe the Bank is missing not only an opportunity but a responsibility to build on the proof of concept that these organizations have shown and philanthropy has supported. The movement to scale cannot be done by community groups or foundations, and so far it has not been done by governments. It is essential that the Bank change its approach and bring the resources and orientation needed for change.

The reason the Bank is needed in this process and must change its own approach is threefold:

1. Not only are current conditions appalling they are certain to get much worse. For example, urban sanitation in Africa is the component of the MDGs that has the largest number of countries missing the target by a large amount -- see the recent World Bank Research Observer. In other words, slum sanitation in Africa is the worst performing MDG, and that is before its cities double their populations as they will in the next few years. Child mortality in slums is already double that of rural areas yet governments still produce subsidized housing that costs $40,000 per unit as in Kenya. Scale cannot be achieved with these approaches. Similarly, in East Asia, the savage capitalism in the recently emerging market economies is likely to try to replicate the highly idiosyncratic and impossible to imitate public housing productions schemes of Singapore and China. If these efforts do not use much better targeted schemes as in Thailand -- which builds on community involvement and lowers per unit assistance dramatically -- scale cannot be achieved. Finally, in South Asia, where the Government India is the leading innovator in the region, it pays little more than lip service to community groups. Their forthcoming large-scale housing subsidy program -- RAY -- is likely to be captured by the cement producing business interests rather than self-targeting community groups.

2. The Bank has changed mindsets in the past -- with its sites and services orientation and rejection of bulldozing. Its efforts, for example, played a major part in establishing the approach now used in Thailand which builds on the efforts of ACHR and Bank support to similar efforts in the Philippines. Similarly, the Bank's support for community groups and SDI in Mumbai resulted in a city that had not had toilet facilities for a significant share of its population for more than a generation to be able to aspire to the elimination of open defecation. In this case, a component of a loan led to a "tipping point" of change that can have enormous implications.

3. The Bank appears to be paralyzed by bureaucratic regulations -- particularly its relocation policies -- and the inability to get resources to the community groups. Governments, even local governments, cannot lead this effort. Community groups must be at least equal partners or this kind of support won't work. Perhaps more importantly, community groups have shown they can deal with the nuances of relocation issues in sensitive ways. Current practices serve only to keep the Bank out of trouble. They discourage efforts to help.

To sum up, it is late in the day to change policies and to recognize that the only way the demographic shifts already in process can be addressed. Without such a shift the gross inequities and the turmoil Robert MacNamara warned of when he introduced sites and services will increase perhaps dramatically. Fortunately, people like Sheela, Jockin, and Somsook have shown that solutions are at hand, if only the need for them is recognized and they are used. The Bank has more than an opportunity to help with this work. It has a responsibility. No one else can do it.

It is big problm to development of urban Poor ..
So , we want to more attention of this subject .

AlexFrediani's picture

Hi Judy, thank you for the invitation to comment on this discussion drawing from my work on participatory slum upgrading which has contributed to the elaboration of the Change by Design (CbD) methodology. This methodology has been evolving through a series of workshops conducted under the umbrella of Architecture Sans Frontieres – UK. Its aim is to conceive the process and product of design of housing and services in informal settlements as a catalyst for transformations in cities of the global south. This methodology is closely related to the Development Planning Unit's action planning line of work.

The workshops are two weeks action learning initiatives, conceived as spaces of innovation and experimentation. Fundamentally, the workshops emerge out of close partnerships with collectives interested in using participatory design as a means to enhance their bargaining power in struggles for access to services and housing. In 2009 and 2010 the Change by Design group worked in Salvador da Bahia with the urban social movement Movimento dos Sem Teto da Bahia. In 2011 we worked in Nairobi partnering with Pamoja Trust, an NGO supporting the work of the urban social movement Muungano.

Some key underlying assumptions of CbD are:

- The challenge of delivering services for the urban poor will not be met by merely technical solutions; CbD recognizes the political nature of the problem, one that is based on the lack of recognition of marginalized groups;
- Participatory and community-led initiatives are means to address immediate needs and aspirations as well as to challenge exclusionary institutional arrangements, setting precedents for new norms and procedures for equitable service delivery;
- Communities are understood in all of their diversity, revealing relations of power within and among them. To do so, CbD uses localities and their spaces as topic of conversations to investigate and navigate such relations of power.

At this stage we are looking at the possibility of running another workshop in Quito, and hoping to generate partnerships to implement CbD methodology throughout a participatory slum upgrading initiative.

Alex Frediani
Development Planning Unit
University College London

soniadias's picture

Following on Freddiani´s comment on the political nature of delivering services for the poor I want to draw attention about the importance of the recognition of the rights slum dwellers have to remain in situ in well-located areas in the cities rather than to be removed to far away places. This however, requires the adoption of slum upgrading policies. In Brazil slum dwellers in many cities struggled to have this right ensured and many slum upgrading programmes were initiated in the 1980´s. I happened to have worked in the mid-1980´s in one of first urbanization programme of shanty-towns in my home town, Belo Horizonte, where through engaged participatory process we introduced many services demanded by the local community of then 60,000 inhabitants. Amongst the services implemented in this community were water supply, public laundries, road paving and household waste collection.

Besides access to services and public community ammenities one key aspect was tenure regularisation. Integrating the shanty-town into the conventional city by providing basic services is only one aspect as if ownership of land is what makes the intervention more sustainable. There are many examples (in Brazil and elsewhere) of slums´upgrading as a political marketing ploy followed by wholesale removal after the areas acquire and/or increase real market value.

So slum upgrading needs to be part of a comprehensive set of policies in which tenure is an integral part of it. Needless to say the whole content of these policies need to actively engage the slum dwellers and their representative organizations.

Sonia Dias (WIEGO waste specialist and visiting professor UFMG)

Sonia Dias

TerezaHerling's picture

I speak from a public policy maker point of view. And, from that point of view, I understand that the participation process of all stakeholders is fundamental to assure public investments' efficiency. Unfortunately it's still common to see inadequate housing programs and products being delivered for the very poor people. The known housing enterprises designed with repetitive typologies, despite the families' needs are an example of this inadequacy. The families have different sizes and life's cycles, and demand different types of housing units. The participatory process in designing these solutions can bring up different solutions to the same problem. The demand should also be respected in its capacity and willing to pay for the benefits. The subsidies should also be designed respecting these differences.
São Paulo had implemented a wide range of slum upgrading project`s solutions, in accordance with public policy guidelines registered in the Municipal Housing Plan. One of these guidelines is that the participatory process in the project discussion is fundamental, as well as the implementation works and in the social network that supports these works.
So the partnerships with local NGOs are a positive support to build this social network.

MelanieWalker's picture

To Judy's question(s)....Given the shortfalls in the delivery of basic services in informal settlements, what expanded role can NGOs and the private sector play in in the delivering services to the urban poor? How can new partnerships be formed with local governments?

NGOs and the private sector can play a number of roles in improving service delivery for the poor. Here five examples where NGOs have played a valuable role:

• Organizing communities
• Mobilizing resources
• Assisting with planning and enumerations
• Education and training about resource usage and infrastructure maintenance
• Monitoring of accountability and performance – of either local government or service providers

The private sector is certainly involved in many of these; however outcomes must be bolstered by profit. For the urban poor, the much of the “private sector” provision of goods and services comes through (or is at least facilitated by) the informal economy – and that merits a much longer conversation.

Forming new partnerships that truly benefit the urban poor means that local authorities and even the private sector must be open to new types of partners: member-based organizations, trade unions of the urban poor (like recycling networks), small business cooperatives, or even community-based organizations.

These new partnerships require (new) resources, and perhaps more importantly…trust.

Katy Fentress's picture

NGOs are presented with an uphill challenge when it comes to providing services to urban slums in cities like Nairobi.
The Kenya Slum Upgrading Program strategy document [] published by UN-Habitat in 2008, states that it is important to focus on public-private partnerships because it is unrealistic to expect the public sector and NGOs to meet all the needs of the urban poor. The paper underlines that the nature of these partnerships does not imply that the government retract from its “role in urban community development, but rather, redefines its role in an arrangement where the work of the public sector is complemented by that of the private sector and vice versa.”

Whether such partnerships allow scope to, in Sheela Patel’s words: “co-create and co-produce” innovative ways to deliver services where they are absent, pivots on the nature of the association and the capacity of the different stakeholders to negotiate for their interests.
Melanie Walker mentions the private sector and it’s need for profit-bolstering outcomes, something that in the long run might find itself at odds with the struggle of slum dwellers’ to achieve security of land tenure and receive affordable services.

Any service delivery initiative and partnership framework must put the community at the centre of the program, during the planning, implementation and monitoring and evaluation phase, in order to ensure the process remains affordable and does not result in residents being priced out of the upgrade.

And yes, as Melanie points out, mutual trust does help...

Katy Fentress
Nairobi Bureau Chief - URB.IM

Allan Cain's picture

Following on from Melanie's comments on forming pro-poor partnerships we have found in Luanda opportunities for building alliances between civil society organisations and local levels of government administration. Local government often carry the burden of social service delivery but are almost always starved for resources to build the infrastructure and supply what is promised. Commitments on service targets and budgets needed to meet them are usually, in countries like Angola, controlled by central levels of Government. There are common interests by civil society who can speak with legitimacy for the demands of consumers and local government authorities to make demands on those who manage national budgets to decentralize financial resources and release more investment to municipalities for basic services.

Civil society can bring pressure by monitoring the Government's delivery on political commitments that they make leading up to elections on the improved levels or more equitable distribution of services. Acquiring skills in monitoring and ensuring that data is rigorously collected and used is a new task for civil society organisations. Local municipalities need this data to make plans and to justify their annual budget requests and strong alliances can be built when CSOs can help them by providing this information. Sheela can provide some good examples from SDI's experience with enumerations as can we in Luanda through urban municipal forums on how some of the partnerships can work in practice.

Allan Cain
Development Workshop - Angola

The keys are- passion amongst the local governments, capacities of NGOs and leadership to fire the citizens


Makrand Bhoot's picture

The recognized, potent, tested and evolving policy is ‘Secure Tenure’ for everyone and needs no reference to the readers here; a step in that direction is a local/municipal 'Temporary Tenure' for the slum/pavement dwellers as well as street vendors/hawkers and 'floating' population. A loose lease paper that offers little (in the beginning) in way of legal rights yet ‘formally’ acknowledges the existence of the ‘informal’ settler or worker, bringing this large invisible population in the pervue of enumerations, mapping, planning .. simply leaving no one out.
There is acknowledgement of informal sector yet the conversation should go further to make it viable and vibrant, your views on this particular thought are welcome.

50% of the urban/rural areas are poor and without any proper access to basic needs. With admirable/abominable policies/actions, the Authorities/Agencies becoming fluent (as NGOs) in the language of inclusion, participation, empowerment, human rights, gender sensitivity, green, sustainable and so on- saying and reporting ‘correct’ – outcomes of elaborate and expensive seminars and intimate internet dialogues things appear rosy; poverty alleviation is certainly striking, lucrative venture.
Government as well as Community understanding/ internal dynamics continues to consider poverty or the poor not a part of the society but aliens or outsiders that somehow need be removed, improved or dealt with- readily accepting that the poverty remains integral to prosperity, aligning to the same side politically/diplomatically, the resources for the poor are mostly squandered or siphoned off. For example JNURMM (India) remarkably puts Secure Tenure squarely central to ‘Slum Free’ Cities. The proposal based major funding mechanism has only marginally translated in slum improvement projects.

Poverty and consequences of Migration, Rapid Urbanization, Transportation- Let alone the government, the people do not really invest in without sense of security, belonging or hope for a future. The next generation starts/wants to assert their intrinsic rights and it's is a complex, social cultural conflicting situation in localities and across the globe.

With a temporary tenure population is accounted for their existence regardless of status and for long and short term services- planning, policies, budget and so on.. Left out of count owing to politics and legal wrangling the poor remain but invisible. A Temporary Tenure or 'Loose Lease' could be fundamentally essential towards better information, inclusively assessing and addressing poverty, community organization and ultimately Secure Tenure.
As an architectural professional for more than 20 years I design tall towers as well as community toilets. I've been working with the poor and displaced directly, also associated with NGOs, UN, with corporate giants while have served on Municipal Boards.. yet with a deeper, sincere understanding - when on the drawing boards or on committees- translating public needs in blueprints and budgets- the development professionals and agencies are at a loss, dealing with only the available numbers and project boundaries- where the poorest -the striking majority is left out.

I live and work simultaneously in New York and Raipur India, and trust that even in places like Haiti, where there is almost no government, or United States with great governance and clear and present undocumented worker ‘aliens’- a policy of counting people 'in' would help combined coherent action from the government and the community themselves… Development or demolition, Temporary Tenure or Loose Lease towards including everyone for a secure shelter and sustainable habitat, are we on the correct count?

Architect makrand bhoot AIIA, LEED AP
Director -P-A-T-H-
Professional Alliance for Technology & Habitat

Lorenzo Santucci's picture

In response to Judy’s question on the role of NGOs and the private sector, I can provide some insights from our solid waste management programme, currently operating in secondary cities and small towns in South and South-East Asia where we are trying to promote low-cost, low-technology, decentralized and community-based approaches.

We have witnessed a failure of top-down government-driven solutions, mainly focusing on open landfills. In spite of a considerable share of municipal budgets allocated to solid waste management, coverage remains low, and environmental and social problems persist. The private sector on the other hand has focused on technology-based solutions, which have the potential to greatly improve collection efficiencies. However, these solutions do not address the problem in a holistic manner in which generation, collection, transportation and treatment/disposal are included.

In order to have effective solutions to solid waste management communities need to be brought into the management system. And in order for solutions to be pro-poor, the poor need to be brought into the picture. The informal sector plays a key role in solid waste management in developing countries and any solution that seeks to be effective and pro-poor need to take the informal sector into account in the design and implementation. This is seldom the case when solutions are merely government or private-sector driven.

For the above reason community-based organizations and NGOs have a key role to play. Experience from our programme shows that often the most effective set-up is a partnership between the local government, the private sector and community-based organizations/NGOs.

Local governments may be strapped for cash, but they hold important assets, in particular land. They also have the authority to launch city-wide campaigns and to set-up a system of incentives and penalties. But usually they lack the capacity to penetrate and effectively engage communities and the poor and in particular the informal sector, including waste pickers. Community-based organizations and NGOs instead have this capacity and can effectively communicate and engage with community level actors and bring the informal sector into the picture. In turn, NGOs often do not have access to technologies and lack the entrepreneurial mindset needed to seek efficiencies along the whole value chain. Hence, an important role exists also for the private sector. But social entrepreneurship can also go very far, in ventures where the private sector is not willing to go due to higher risk, for example.

I agree with Sheela Patel when she says that all actions are interconnected and no one stakeholder can produce transformation alone and with Melanie Walker when she says that local authorities and the private sector need to be open to new types of partners. In the case of solid waste management this is certainly the case and in order to develop a sustainable, city-wide solid waste management system engagement of all stakeholders is necessary.

Lorenzo Santucci
Economic Affairs Officer
United Nations Economic and Social Commission
for Asia and the Pacific

David Smith Affordable Housing Institute's picture

Dear folks:

If you do not know what you are looking for, you can be certain that you will never recognize it even if you find it. So ...

A "good slum" is one in which people make capital investments in immovable individual or group property (homes, streets, walkways).

From that single definition, all else follows (as do a couple of further ideas).

David Smith, Affordable Housing Institute

David Smith Affordable Housing Institute's picture

Next idea:

"A machine that would go of itself." – James Madison, describing the Constitution's goal.

Pro-poor business models, financial products, organized networks, and technical products take a great deal of effort to create, and the result is normally 'intangible infrastructure.' Once that is established, however, the running costs of its delivery can be self-funded by the users/ customers/ recipients. So the goal of grantmaking is twofold: (1) find the business model/ delivery system that is self-sustaining when priced at scale/ maturity/ the margin, and (2) fund the non-recoverable costs of establishing that infrastructure.

David Smith, Affordable Housing Institute

JudyBaker's picture

Thanks to all for these posts – there seems to be much convergence on the important role of NGOs and community participation, but also the need for the public sector. A little less discussion on the potential for private sector engagement which I hope we can also take up. The issue of trust and partnerships seems to be at the crux of it for all stakeholders.

For example, at the community level, understanding what the city can and cannot provide and what its constraints are is a first step. Strong community groups and detailed community-level information systems can be extremely effective for initiating engagement in such partnerships. For local governments, this means recognizing the contribution that the urban poor make to a city’s economy and society and involving them in discussions about needs and priorities. Local participation is crucial to ensure that the approach taken suits the needs of residents, and in ensuring quality standards.

There are some good examples of building trust and partnerships out there -- those mentioned in the posts above, as well as many other examples. Are there some good lessons for replication to think about? A few principles come to mind that would likely apply to all stakeholders;

-cooperation can be facilitated through mutual recognition of the role that each group plays;
-improving the dialogue and discussion can help to dispel misunderstandings;
-understanding and recognizing what is happening at the local level and forming partnerships with local organizations is critical.
-And, I always think having good data at the local level is critical to better understanding what is happening on the ground and what basic service needs are.

Other thoughts?

Katy Fentress's picture

I agree with Judy Baker as to the need to widen the discussion on the role of the private sector in providing services to slums.

The private sector is inextricably bound to the creation and continuity of slums. By their very nature, slums are brought to life by a mixture of informal and formal private sector response to a demand for low-income housing.

Judy Baker has herself written extensively about this in her 2009 World Bank paper “Private Sector Initiatives in Slum Upgrading” ( In the paper she describes how slum dwellers can often rely exclusively on the private sector for any form of development or service provision, indicator that a market system already exists there. Conversely, Judy adds, the private sector can also be responsible if not complicit with “land invasions” and “informal land developers” who stand to gain from the existence of these slums.

With regards to the provision of services to existing slums, companies can be directly involved, working with local government or community organisations to install infrastructure and provide subsequent utilities. To do so however they must be given concrete incentives, given the perceived risk ascribed to operating in informal settlements and the fear that profit margins will be too low.

Private companies can also act as donors and give funding to NGOs or local government as part of their own corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaigns or in order to open up new untapped markets. In the developed world it is increasingly accepted that big corporations funnel some of their income towards good causes be they environmental or social - think for example of the (RED) anti-AIDS campaign that is supported to by companies like Apple or Coca Cola. In the developing countries like Kenya however, where big business can go hand in hand with engrained political corruption, companies are not under such pressure to show they are investing in or supporting the poor.

It is important to underline that the private sector already indirectly operates in informal settlements. In Nairobi for example, all telecommunications companies have small denomination top-up bundles for low-income mobile phone holders. The vouchers are sold on the streets and in the slums by “informal” street vendors who are at the end of a long chain of “formal” middlemen. The same thing goes for single use soap sachets and other daily necessities that trickle their way through the formal market and into the larger informal one. Furthermore companies like Mpesa, a widely-used mobile-phone banking system popular all over Kenya, allow small-scale retailers to open up licensed Mpesa kiosks in informal settlements, thus opening up people’s access to credit and hence to some form of upward mobility.

All in all it is impossible to extricate the private sector from slums and their continued existence. The private sector does and will always have a role to play in both their development and underdevelopment. As such it is important to analyze the nature of its role on a case-by case basis and to use local government, NGOs and CBOs as a way of keeping a system of checks and balances that guarantee the just equilibrium of the relationship.

Katy Fentress
Nairobi Bureau Chief - URB.IM

CarlinCarr's picture

Urban environments across the world are unique places with their own distinct complexities. And while the urban-rural divide can be quite vast, I wonder if there is greater potential to adapt rural initiatives for basic services to the urban context. Obviously, this is not always viable, but I'm specifically interested in areas of water, sanitation, and electrification. For example, in Lahore, Pakistan, Pharmagen Health Limited (PHL) has launched water shops in the city that sell RO purified water. (PHL recently became an investee of Acumen Fund.) The technology is popular among regional, rural clean water initiatives, such as WaterHealth International (also an Acumen investee) and Safe Water Network—both of which operate largely in peri-urban and rural spaces. It's interesting to see the technology adapted to the urban environment. Decentralized systems can provide a good alternative to large-scale infrastructure projects, since the neighborhood systems can provide locally-focused answers. Still, there are challenges with these models, including sustainability.

This leads me to my second point: solutions need to be both holistic in approach and sustainable. With water initiatives, this might mean including education and distribution. An increasing trend toward distributed models offers the opportunity to work more locally with communities, involving them in the solutions to ensure the projects meet their needs. But I think the same principles would apply to bringing in solar lighting for slum areas that are being used in rural areas. Holistic and sustainable are key words, and with that, so much of what has been mentioned above--community participation--becomes a part of the approach.

Mumbai Bureau Chief

VictoriaOkoye's picture

I'm interested in Carlin's mention of rural-to-urban adaptations. For example, the Government of Ghana has adopted the community-led total sanitation (CLTS) approach for improving sanitation access in rural Ghana. CLTS uses a demand-creation approach: building a community's awareness of the linkages between poor sanitation, poor hygiene and poor health outcomes as a means of "triggering" community-wide demand for improved sanitation. This demand in turn motivates households to collectively stop open defecation, to invest in their individual contributions (build their own household latrines), and to work together to transform their space into an open defecation-free community.

I think this also reinforces Sheela Patel's point of "developing demand at scale." At the same time, we can draw from this the importance of not only building demand (and involving "the demanders" in the visioning process for the intervention), but also building their capacity to co-manage and sustain the intervention. I agree in the interconnectedness of stakeholders' actions. Perhaps in communities where members are unused to being engaged, building this sense of demand, this sense of community, is an important first step in supporting their capacity as change agents.

As well, Judy points out the importance of creating the "knowledge" or data with which people can plan. When nonexistent, it must be created: In the CLTS approach, members map their community; while it may only be a temporary map created on the ground, it is an opportunity for the community to, as a whole, identify problem areas (open defecation) and to work from a shared understanding. It also democratizes information through sharing. I think this also harks back to the first conversation here at Striking Poverty on mapping for disaster management (, but places it in the community planning context. When this knowledge or data is in existence, it must be made accessible: In my experience working with Nigerian government planning agencies and in Accra, Ghana, maps and statistics not so (many accessible only after making requests, getting them approved, and possibly paying fees).

Victoria Okoye
Lagos Contributor & Community Manager

CatalinaG's picture

Following up on Judy’s comments regarding better partnerships to improve service delivery, I would like to highlight the importance of fostering greater partnerships and collaboration among the various secretariats/offices that are part of local governments. These partnerships are often underestimated as there is a tendency to think that local government institutions are all aligned and coordinated, but in fact they frequently have different incentives, planning procedures, and calendars for project development.

In my experience in working in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and other Brazilian cities, I have evidenced the importance given to better coordination and collaboration among municipal secretariats so they can effectively participate in multi-sector poverty reduction efforts. Let’s take slum upgrading interventions as an example. In Brazilian cities such efforts are usually leaded by the municipal housing secretariats, but these offices shouldn’t work alone; they need to coordinate actions with other key secretariats such as the ones responsible for planning, public works, and social services, including education, health and social assistance. It takes political will, good planning instruments and excellent communication mechanisms to effectively engage different government offices and align their contribution in urbanization projects.

Various neighborhood upgrading interventions in Sao Paulo mentioned by Tereza Herling, or cases in Rio like Favela Bairro and Morar Carioca have been recognized to be effective, especially when their coordinating entities were able to actively involve other key municipal secretariats in the projects. The result was that local governments were not only able to comply with the development of infrastructure, but most importantly, they were able to ensure adequate operation of services in beneficiary areas.

Catalina Gomez
Rio de Janeiro Community Manager, URB.IM

María Fernanda Carvallo's picture

En la Ciudad de México, el crecimiento urbano descontrolado ha dado como resultado el incremento de la demanda por satisfacer las necesidades de los hogares con respecto a los servicios públicos. Por su parte, los permisos de construcción de la vivienda han modificado la urbanización, cambiando la tendencia de urbanización en los lugares sobre poblados y moviéndose hacia la periferia de las ciudades; así mismo la economía de la construcción de la vivienda ha cambiado el desarrollo de los asentamientos, puesto que el precio del mercado dela vivienda no es asequible para personas de escasos recursos, creando un círculo de exclusión y concentración de vivienda en sectores muy reducidos.

En este sentido, surge el establecimiento de un mercado informal de tierra en donde, la Cd de México ha asentado bajo este esquema y a través de invasiones directas al 40 por ciento de su población. Tierras que no tienen títulos de propiedad, y que en su momento se originaron en zonas que no eran destinadas para el desarrollo habitacional, por lo que no cuentan con la infraestructura necesaria. El estatus informal de las viviendas genera un círculo de vulnerabilidad en sus habitantes.

Ante la problemática, el gobierno mexicano formaliza la transmisión de los derechos de los terrenos a quienes los ocupan para, después, reconocer ese espacio como parte de un área urbana que tiene el derecho a recibir servicios públicos. Más allá de la regularización de la tierra, el desarrollo de infraestructura básica es otro de los retos para que el Estado provea un nivel de bienestar mínimo, pues se enfrenta a los grandes costos de llevar la infraestructura debido a la carencia de la instalación de esta, por lo que hay un gran área de oportunidad para que la sinergia del Estado y de la sociedad civil implementen alternativas innovadoras para la satisfacción de las necesidades de los hogares y la provisión de la seguridad de la vivienda.

En este contexto México está implementando alianzas para la ejecución de proyectos que promuevan el bienestar de las personas. Con respecto al tema de la vivienda, instituciones financieras del Estado proveen el financiamiento para la adquisición del terreno, o material de construcción, mientras que organizaciones ejecutan la construcción de la vivienda a través de modelos de participación comunitaria; lo cual empodera a la comunidad para la toma de decisiones y satisfacción de necesidades básicas, genera la apropiación de los proyectos, promueve la sustentabilidad de los mismos y estrecha el capital social para que las comunidades se vuelvan autogestivas. La participación conjunta de la comunidad, el sector social y el gobierno son un ejemplo de que la sinergia de esfuerzos tiene un mayor impacto en la vida de las personas en los asentamientos irregulares.

Mexico city urbanization has brought several problems like crime, lack of land, opportunities, access to infrastructure, access to water amongst others. On the other hand, urbanization led to economic growth for the country, job creation and access to health. Although there are significant advancement in macroeconomic terms, Mexico still Community Manager, Mexico City

Benjamin Bradlow's picture

Generally, we think of partnerships as a simple division of tasks: “You do this. I’ll do that.” But the experience of many partnerships between urban poor communities and city governments is that partnerships do not only enable actors to take responsibility for activities in which they best “add value.” If this was the only intention of such a partnership, then we might easily mistake it for the decentralized model of most partnerships between state institutions and the private sector (public-private-partnerships).

Instead, partnerships between organizations of the urban poor and government institutions can, in fact, strengthen each actors’ respective capacities to act effectively in contexts where they have previously been unable to do so.

Three types of specific mutual gains emerge from partnerships between urban poor organizations and city governments:
a) Government institutions can engage with communities on the basis of more substance and more frequency, due to established and legitimate channels of communication.
b) Government bureaucrats can mobilize more resources for addressing the needs of the urban poor, when they can point to active and vocal partners in urban poor communities.
c) Bureaucrats and communities can learn how their respective institutions work so as to more effectively understand where to leverage opportunities for further partnership, as well as to understand where more autonomous action may be required.

So what is required to achieve the possibilities of such a partnership?

First, these relationships require investment of both time and resources. The bridge between government and urban poor communities can be vast. Complex bureaucratic procedures are difficult for the poor to access. They can be time-consuming and full of unfamiliar language. Like anyone entering a new context, at first, poor people sometimes don’t feel comfortable speaking in public with powerful bureaucrats. We can’t expect partnerships to go full throttle instantly. Rather, they need both time and financial resources. This means investing in practices that organize communities to be more effective in such engagements. Two particular practices from the experiences in SDI that Sheela discusses are organizing communities through community-led household surveys and mapping (“enumeration”) and women-led saving schemes.

Second, as Melanie notes, “trust” is key. So what are the specific issues for which it is relevant in these types of partnerships? Often, deep histories of hurt and exclusion exist in urban poor communities, especially those that have experiences of eviction, flooding, and fire. Local governments are often wary of working with communities that have used protest and legal cases to try to improve their lives and neighborhoods. But the basis of a partnership is for each party to meet the other where they are, and to use the partnership to change the situation. Therefore, governments and communities need to work together to understand what has not worked in the past, what has destabilized these relationships, and ensure that they are avoided in the future. Forced removals in almost all cities in the developing world widen the gulf that exists between city governments and urban poor communities. They destroy livelihoods and degrade the humanity of the poor. And in doing so, they make effective partnership more difficult to achieve. We’ve already established that partnerships take time to develop. Incremental trust-building activities like small upgrading projects are useful for developing a set of common experiences and learning.

Third, partnerships between the urban poor and local government need to address three basic processes that impact cities: finance, planning, and politics. Joint decision-making about budgets, program conception, and project planning are all essential. Tereza’s experience in Sao Paulo highlights these lessons. Few urban planning decisions avoid controversy. When local governments provide a platform for the voices of the urban poor, they help mobilize public support for projects for the poor, while also building more widespread understanding, empathy, and support for including the poor in future city development.

Benjamin Bradlow
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Skye SDI's picture

Hi all,

Below please find some excerpts from the book 10 Years of Okwegatta: A History of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda Narrated by Members. A lot is said about the contribution slum dwellers can make toward service provision in slums, but it is usually us professionals that speak on behalf of the poor. Below you'll hear from the slum dwellers themselves. I hope it can add something to the discussion.

The full book can be viewed at this link:

Kinawataka Sanitation Unit: Narrated by Nakitende Toepista

My name is Nakitende Teopista. I joined the federation on March 27th 2012. I was inspired to join after a visit from women from the federation in Kampala. They told us about their savings groups and the loans they could give their members. They told us that if we joined the federation we would be part of a very big network which would support us. I was so inspired to learn that we would meet others from other countries and be part of their network. The visitors told us that our savings books would show that we were part of the international movement.

We formed a savings group called Mbuya Savings and Welfare. The group has 40 members. Most of us are women. This year we completed a very important project – a sanitation unit. I am the caretaker of the sanitation unit. I decided to become the caretaker because there were so many challenges and I knew I could help.

There are many hotels [small shack restaurants] around the sanitation unit and they were worried about the smell of the sanitation unit. I told them that it would not smell if it is maintained properly. Now they have seen that is true. Now you see people are eating their food right beside the unit. There is no smell at all. I have to be very vigilant to keep the unit clean because there is a lot of mud and dirt around and the unit has white tiles.

I am now a teacher. People in the area had not used flush toilets before and I show them how to use it. I am volunteering as caretaker until the project starts to pick up. People who come to the unit are so surprised how nice the place is. They can’t believe such a nice toilet is in our market. They ask how they can get one in their area. It has helped us to mobilize more members.

Before the project, the ladies in the market had to walk home to go to the toilet or walk to another area. Now people are walking from other places to come to our toilet. For example, yesterday someone directed a man from the main road to our toilet. When he came he said he had never seen such a nice public toilet. Instead of paying 200 shillings he told me to keep 1000 because the toilet was so nice and so clean.

When we launched the toilet this month Bukedde TV filmed our sanitation unit. Since then, many people are coming to find out how we built the unit. They want to know who built it, how we saved, and how they can join our federation.

Rubaga Sanitation Unit: Narrated by Katooro Elly

My name is Katooro Elly. I am the General Secretary on the Jinja Region and storekeeper on the Project Management Committee of the Rubaga Sanitation project. The Rubaga Sanitation project was founded in 2011 because there wasn’t any toilet in our area and the market was littered all over. We discussed as the community and the community came up with the idea. We decided to initiate the project. We proceeded to contact the council for land. Council provided the land that at the time was occupied by a filthy pit latrine, which was not being used because of the situation it was in. From there we went on to solicit for funds. We got a promise from SDI that once we got our 20% as community and the contribution of land from the municipality they would provide a loan through the urban poor fund. After that we started physical construction. First we broke down the old pit latrine and then we started construction of the new sanitation.

First we constructed the ground floor, which houses the toilets and bathrooms. There are stances for ladies and men, showers for men and ladies and disabled facilities. Then there is a urinal for men. After that one we proceeded to construct a community hall up for 100 people. This hall houses our regional office for the federation. The whole construction took 47,750,000 UGX. The ground floor took 43 days to complete and the upper floor took 17 days to complete. The construction was done by federation members with support from local contractors and supervised by the council engineer and NGO engineer.

As per now the management is being done by the federation where a Project Management Committee for management was selected. The federation members are managing the facility themselves. We are working together with the community in the market to come up with a proper management solution for the facility. We have already issued cards, which the users can use to pay per month. With this card they ease their burden of paying each visit. With a card, a family of four people is provided with one card which can be used for the whole month and the members of the family can come as many times as they want in a month. The monthly subscription is 6,000 UGX.

Arua, waterpoints: Narrated by Yassin Hassan

My name is Yassin Hassan. The federation reached Arua in December 2009. We warmly welcomed the idea of savings and joining the federation. We mobilized many people and leaders were elected and we began savings. We began loaning, auditing and all those activities. Arua became one of the strongest regions for saving. Since then Arua has acquired so much more knowledge as part of the federation and we now have a water project.

We are supposed to have 12 waterpoints in the first phase of this project. That is what we are aiming for. We came with this idea because of the water crisis in Arua. Our enumeration showed how many communities in Arua don’t have access to clean water so we knew this was important. Sometimes even the National Water and Sewerage water dries up - especially in the dry season which runs from December to April. We have 2 waterpoints so far. Very many people are accessing the water. But sometimes it is not enough. So now we are planning to purchase tanks so we can store the water which comes in the night and then we will have some stored to sell in the morning.

We elected management committees for the water project. The committees have a chairperson, treasurer, collector, secretary and seller. We opened a repayment account in DFCU Bank and we deposit money on this account monthly. These repayments will be used to start more water projects in other areas. That is how the federation works.

The communities are now happy because they don’t have to walk so far to collect water. The council is also so happy. In fact they want to replicate the projects if they find the funds. We have an MOU with the Arua Municipal Council about the project. We work closely with them. The general thing I would say is we are aiming for each cell – 56 – to have its own water point.

Bwaise Sanitation Unit: Narrated by Zamu Byakika

My name is Zamu Byakika. I joined the federation in 2004. Before I joined there was a certain NGO that took me to Kenya to see the Kenyan federation to see how it saves. When I cam back I joined the federation. I mobilized a lot of people. Slowly-by-slowly we mobilized a savings group. My savings group was called Mgoowa Savings Group, Kawempe. Today we have 32 active members saving daily. There are 10 men and 22 women. Our group does tailoring, charcoal selling, grocery, and butchering to generate income.

In Kawempe we are planning to put up a sanitation unit. I have been involved in profiling the area so we know how the area came to be. For example, there was a man in the area who was a servant of the Kabaka [King of Buganda] and was killed. When asked about it the Kabaka said ‘bwayise teboyoleka’, which means what has been poured cannot be undone.

We have done profiling of 4 zones in Bwaise 3 parish. The zones were: Kamalimali, Katoogo, Bokasa, and St Francis. We discovered the areas were very poor in sanitation. Because the area is so wet it is hard to build a latrine. In some places we found that 30-40 families will use one toilet. Most of the units we found are not functioning any more because they have not been maintained.

In Kamalimali where we are going to build our sanitation unit we found that 80 households use one pit latrine. It is a very poor looking latrine with one stance. It has no bathroom. It is surrounded by garbage. It has a small drainage that passes the latrine. There is no soap, no water, no toilet paper and it smells very bad. It is also up stairs so the old ones and the disabled cannot access. So now we are planning to implement a very good sanitation unit, which can be used by old, disabled and young people. We want to improve the health issues and living conditions in that settlement.

One federation member has provided the land for the project. The municipality has promised technical staff will assist us with the project. The good thing with us is that our new Town Clerk of Kawempe has come from Jinja and worked very closely with the federation in Jinja. He is very familiar with our work and eager to work with us. We are starting to clear the land for the project and will start building very soon. In Mbale they are building in an area that gets very wet like Bwaise. We will learn a lot from our federation members there.

Mbarara Sanitation Unit: Narrated by Manzi Denis Brian

My name is Manzi Denis Brian. I am a federation member from Mbarara. I was from campus when the enumeration and profiling coordinator, Norman, called me and told me the federation was going to do an enumeration and profiling exercise and he asked me to join them. They were at Kakoba Division Office. I went in and listened and learned. From there I picked interest. I thought it was a good idea for me because for me I was doing research and this would be a number one way to do my research. From there I started learning about federation, how it works, its impact in the community and I never looked back. I joined Rutti Savings and Credit Association. My neighbor and federation member encouraged me to join this group. I managed to complete my research and graduated with a BBA and Bachelors of Guidance and Counseling. From exposure to the community during the enumeration I got a job with the Red Cross as a field coordinator, Mbarara Region. I am interested in building youth programs in the federation.

As Mbarara region, when we were given a chance to choose a project we had to examine our enumeration data. The data showed very poor sanitation in 7 networks. As a region we had different settlements to consider. We narrowed the choices to three and then began to see where land would be available. That’s how we came up with Kizungu Nyamityobora.

We were given the land by the Municipal Council. We worked on a MOU with the council, which defines roles and responsibilities involved with the project. Then we had to sensitize the community about the project and project management, etc. The community was fully engaged in the construction of the unit from day one. At the moment we are up to the beams and hope that early next year the project will be complete. The unit will have 12 stances (6 male, 6 female) and a place for washing clothes, showering, and a community hall on the second floor.

The unit will be managed by the local savings scheme and the project will dramatically improve sanitation in the area for the residents and also all the many visitors who come for the Saturday market. It will also generate employment for people working at the facility and washing clothes.

Mbale Sanitation Unit: Narrated by Richard Wandoba

I’m called Richard Wandoba. I joined the federation in 2010 when I was mobilized. By then the group I belonged to was called Basajja Bakulu Battudde (Grown up men sitted). At that time there were 20 of us in the group. Then as we mobilized more, we changed the name to Mission Slum Dwellers. This is the group I belong to today. It has about 100 members.

At the network level I was a Health and Hygiene (H&H) facilitator, and then later when a position for H&H became open at the region, the members felt that according to my participation I should represent Mbale region at the national level. So I am now National Facilitator for Health and Hygiene in the federation.

The sanitation project decision came about as a result of the enumeration process that we took in 2011. Before 2011 we did a preliminary enumeration. We did it in cooperation with students from the New School in New York. Generally Mission showed that it was in great need of better sanitation and drainage. It is a very densely populated cell, but very poorly serviced. It is waterlogged so it is difficult to build pit latrines – thus many build latrines on higher ground, but the waste runs down the slope and into the water supply. Another issue is that the common business around Mission is selling booze. When people get drunk they litter. So we agreed that it was a priority to improve sanitation in Mission Cell.

The project was possible because one of the federation members willingly said he had a small piece of land which could be used for putting up a sanitation unit. But, after he offered to give us the land, we decided it would be better for us to purchase the land so that we own it and the sanitation unit will be secure. Right now, when the community realized the federation is going to build a toilet, many people were mobilized to join because they were interested in the project – the first of its kind in Mission Cell. The unit we are constructing will have stances for men, women, and the disabled. It will have showers, a store, a caretaker’s house, and clean water access. On the top we will build a community federation hall.

Federation members have already fabricated the laadis and t-beams for the sanitation unit and construction commenced on site with an official groundbreaking ceremony conducted with the Mbale Municipal Council this month. This toilet will target residents of Mission Cell, people visiting in the evenings, students from Namakwekwe Primary School and others. Nearby market vendors will also benefit from the facility.

The federation of Mbale has received a loan from SDI’s Urban Poor Fund to construct the toilet. The loan after the completion will revolve to other federation projects through the loan repayment account in SUUBI.

Kisenyi III Sanitation Unit: Narrated by Abasi Kiyingi

My name is Abasi Kiyingi. I am one of the first people to join the federation in 2002. Mr. Jockin, the president of SDI and some federation members from Kenya came to Kisenyi to mobilize us. We picked quickly and we formed savings groups. I come from Kisenyi III Savings Scheme. First I started just as a saver, but then I became a collector for our group and as I did this work I was able to mobilize many savers.

After mobilizing a lot of people and starting savings, SDI asked us what we wanted to do to improve our area. We told them we had a problem of sanitation and we didn’t have a place to meet. They suggested we start a sanitation unit. The federation was trained to do construction (block-making and laadis), procurement, project management etc. Now we are experts at these things! Especially the ladies, they are the best at making the laadis and blocks.

We now have toilets for men, ladies and the disabled. We have a house for the caretaker and two rooms for our offices. Then we have a function hall, which we can rent out to generate income. First of all there were no toilets for our people, but now almost all those in the zone use the federation unit. It has really improved the cleanliness in the area. The space for meetings has helped the community to get organized. The land for the project was bought for us by city council and there was also an NGO called Concern Worldwide, which supported the project. Because of that, we also got support from the French Embassy to construct three small houses in the settlement for our members.

The toilet has been in operation since 2006. It is still working very well and still very clean. People are happy they can have baths and proper toilets. People who take care of the unit went on exchange to Zambia and Zimbabwe so they know how to look after the facility. Other public toilets fall into bad condition, but the federation knows how to manage the facility.

As a federation member I have managed to support my children to get degrees. Now one is a businessman, one is in China, and one is teacher. I traveled around all parts of Uganda with the federation. I have even moved to India and Sri Lanka on exchange. I have come into contact with big people like Ministers! I am now the coordinator of projects in Kampala Central region. I hope to keep saving with the federation towards a house.

JudyBaker's picture

Thanks again for all the postings from different parts of the world and different perspectives. The examples bring forth some food for thought and great opportunities for knowledge sharing with an aim to capture lessons learned and explore options for replicability. Among the examples are insightful elements for successful partnerships in addressing urban poverty, approaches to addressing housing for the poor in Mexico City, slum upgrading in Brazil, adapting rural lessons to urban areas in Ghana and in several places in South Asia, pro poor models for solid waste collections using informal workers as service providers in Dar, Pune, and Belo Horizonte, several good examples of where partnerships have worked from SDI, and perspectives from slum dwellers in Uganda,. Sheela has also raised the challenges of sustaining efforts, partnerships take a long time to develop and there is often a tendency to want to move on. Yet within communities, residents have strong incentives to stay the course.

In a rapidly changing world another important tool that is emerging is the role of ICT in service delivery. The relative affordability; accessibility (especially in urban areas), and adaptability of ICT makes it a highly effective tool for addressing the vulnerabilities of the urban poor. It also has enormous potential in empowering the urban poor by offering a more direct line of communication between the government, the citizens and civil society. Some examples:
-Service Delivery –Solo Kota Kita, an Indonesia-based organization, developed detailed online profiles and maps for every neighborhood in the city of Solo to serve as a platform to educate residents about local planning issues. This participatory planning approach can help ensure more inclusive and equitable urban service delivery.
-Banking (mBanking) – Mobile banking (e.g. M-Pesa, CellBazar, etc provides urban workers a way to transfer money directly to their families in rural areas through mobile phones, thereby making money transfer easier and more affordable than the traditional method of going through an intermediary.
-Governance – Mobile applications are also being used to improve government transparency, report inadequate services and improve service delivery (e.g. They Work for You, Fix My Street, etc.). These tools provide the poor an opportunity to voice their feedback about the quality of urban services.
-Mapping – Mobile mapping applications (e.g. Map Kibera, Wikimapa, etc.) are being used to map informal settlements, often an important first step to legitimize these settlements. Map Kibera, for example, has graduated into a dynamic interactive community information site and provided the impetus for the development of Voice of Kibera, a radio program that uses the same software to report on issues of concern to the Kibera community.
-Disaster Management – SMS texting and GPS-enabled mobile phones have been used effectively in disaster management and recovery. The Ushahidi platform, originally designed to crowd source incidences of violence in Kenya, was later adapted to use in the 2010 Haiti earthquake response. The platform uses crowdsourcing of critical data about the locations, needs and statuses of earthquake victims and became an effective way to deliver these residents to safety.

Are there any other emerging examples to share?

And by the way, we are planning to capture all the examples and references provided in this discussion space and will find a way to make them fully available in a collated format.

Can organizing communities result in improved access to services? Collectives can advocate better and they can jointly access services better but only when there is a willing provider. In most urban settings the provider is government and I would like to hear successes on how to influence willingness.
We have experience in setting up entrepreneurship based models to provide potable water services and energy services in urban settings and have realized that quality services and profit can only be realized where the supply is adequate. This works for entrepreneurs with access to customers who have no other option. These businesses operate where margins are low and the motivation is to make profit. We have two experiences, one each in Africa and Asia, where visibility of such efforts resulted in the government deciding to initiate providing services to these communities without being persuaded. While this was victory for slum residents the entrepreneur (if we can refer to them as private sector) may have lost out in the short term. Such businesses are resilient and they will find new customers as they are now even more empowered.
Therefore, the challenge is to develop partnerships with community organizations, NGOs and government to create business models that bridge the gap and enable service delivery.

Mathew Chandy
Global communities (formerly CHF International)

MelanieWalker's picture

Rather than ask how ICT can improve service delivery, I wonder if the more meaningful question is how can ICT promote more inclusive cities?

Judy touches on a few examples where ICT has facilitated access to local government or financial services, improved planning, and even created more efficient distribution channels in times of crisis.

At the root of ICT is data. All of the services, products, and processes require precision and actionable inputs. Some of the data is factual (like GPS coordinates or mobile phone numbers) and therefore easy to capture and validate.

Other important bits of information – like how many people live in an informal settlement or who owns the land – may not be as clear cut. It makes planning a grid or water consumption plan much more difficult if the estimates aren’t accurate.

Sheela and others have described the importance of enumerations and informal settlement profiles, so I won’t belabor the point other than to say that technology isn’t a solution…it’s a tool.

Finding ways to use ICT that alleviate poverty (by empowering the invisible) is the challenge at hand. Creating new technologies is half the battle - the other half is making them relevant to those most in need.

CatalinaG's picture

I wanted to present a clear example of how ICT and the partnership between civil society and the local government can contribute to more inclusive cities, including the improvement of service delivery. Such is the case of the mapping exercise of Maré, which is located in Rio de Janeiro and it’s the 9th largest low income community in the city with around 130 thousand dwellers spread out in 16 neighborhoods.

Maré, as many low income communities in Rio is not clearly detailed in the official map of Rio. This means many streets are not well defined, some of them don’t have reference to their official names and many don’t have postal codes, affecting postal service delivery, as well as other basic services due to the lack of clear and updated data. This condition also affects the local government’s provision of several social services, as it is difficult to plan interventions where there isn’t much information available.

Two local civil society organizations, the Observatório de Favelas and the Associação Redes de Desenvolvimento da Maré decided to bring a solution to the lack of a well-structured map from the streets of Maré. These organizations, with the financial support of ActionAid, the Ford Foundation and Petrobras, formed a team of geographers, geo-processing technicians, topographers and field work assistants, and requested technical support from the Instituto Pereira Passos (IPP), which is a local government institution that updates the cartographic work in the city and implements several urban development initiatives. The IPP shared the cartographic base from the official map of Rio with the mapping team, so it could be updated with the use of GIS and other geoprocessing software. The mapping team followed the methodology that is used to develop the Brazilian census, in order to ensure the highest quality of information. Parallel to the mapping exercise there were meetings with representatives from the 16 neighborhood associations in order to validate information, including street names and their limits.

The result of this effort conducted in Maré between 2011 and mid 2012 is the publication of the first Favela Street Guide ever done in Rio. See publication at:

In addition, the Observatório de Favelas and the Associação Redes de Desenvolvimento da Maré, together with the local government are now working in expanding such mapping exercise to other low income neighborhoods. According to the IPP, the neighborhoods with the highest priority to map are those where there are police pacification teams known as Unidades de Policia Pacificadora (UPP), in order for them to improve the social and community work in these areas. Currently the team that worked in Maré is training several social workers from UPP to support the mapping exercises in several favelas. With all these efforts, a review of the official map of Rio will soon take place.

For those who are interested in learning more about this experience, and can read Portuguese, please find the link to a recent interview I did to Dalcio Marinho Gonçalves, who was the Coordinator of the Maré mapping exercise.

Catalina Gomez
Rio de Janeiro Community Manager, URB.IM

Richard Tomlinson's picture

Further to Sheela’s comments about SDI, I would like to add something about SDI’s role in educating students. During my engagement in urban policy processes I frequently encountered technical experts who were confident in their command of best practice. Engagement with communities was viewed as irrelevant and, anyway, the experts did not have the time. Now teaching slum upgrading to planning and architecture students, SDI has provided the students with the opportunity of working with local NGOs in, for example, Mumbai and Cape Town, and of engaging with communities on community-led projects. This has had a remarkable impact on many students and their understanding of their role in development projects.

Richard Tomlinson
University of Melbourne

SheelaPatel's picture

Judy to answer your question about ICT. Some quick thoughts that come to my mind:

a. The improvements potential from ICT require to be scaled to stick. There is no shortage of really good examples - and the bank and indeed governments and those of us who seek to influence policy need to examine why they don’t scale up. What do we need to do to enable the scaling up of good pilot projects?

b. Civil society organisations can produce instruments such as e-banking, slum and city slums mapping, and even develop instruments for disaster mapping, however what happens after that?

c. The old and conventional perspective which blocks these processes continues, and our discussions have to move into what we can do to produce scale.

I want to give the example of what we did in India as a classic example. After years of demanding up to date status of land use in cities, and listing of slums with their land and amenities status, the government of India asked state governments and cities to undertake such surveys. We (SDI and its affiliates) and many others, demonstrated in India and internationally, that facilitating cites and community residents in informal settlements should produce the slum maps and such engagement should be the basis of developing city wide slum upgrading multi decadal programs.

Through a joint venture with UNHABITAT’s and SDI, we actually undertook this in Cuttack Orissa. And what happened next? Consultants were brought in and asked to develop this data base asap; most of that data was lost, within a couple of years, in the bottomless pit of municipal administration, and the digital maps which are accurate are not available to citizens for security purposes.

E-banking too is not accessible to most urban poor, although many innovations have been initiated for micro credit purposes. Slum dwellers are not able to open bank accounts easily and even if they do almost all banks are moving to focus on high net individuals.

So lets get real; as activists we are optimists but we need to constantly, regularly check reality about why scale does not occur ... and that Judy should be the focus of this discussion.

SheelaPatel's picture

Ben Bradlow who has made contributions sent this note to me which is also worth discussing about collaboration and use of ICT:

'A particularly relevant excerpt from a pretty good review, worth reading in full if you get a moment (found at the following link:
"Our ignorance about cooperation, at least as a cultural tradition, means that our institutions and technologies are often poorly designed. They regularly presume that ordinary human beings are incapable of undertaking cooperation or negotiating complexity. This is a theme that Sennett’s returns to again and again. To make the point more vivid, he alludes to the failures of a piece of software produced by Google programmers called GoogleWave. This program, released in 2010, was meant to facilitate online collaboration among groups. Unfortunately, writes Sennett, Google didn’t understand the social dynamics of cooperation, and made the software overly complex and overly prescriptive. He writes:

Information-sharing is an exercise in definition and precision, whereas communication is as much about what is left unsaid as said; communication mines the realm of suggestion and connotation… online exchanges like GoogleWave, where the visual dominates, it’s hard to convey irony or doubt; simple information-sharing subtracts expression…..Studies of corporations, hospitals and schools that run on email or email-like technologies show that shedding context often means shedding sense; understanding between people shrinks.

In other words, the potential for cooperation is often sabotaged by institutional failures to honor the rich complexity of human expressiveness and social life. There is a bottom-up upswelling of social life that cannot be regimented or known in advance, and that should be honored and leveraged. Why can’t institutions, politics, economics and law understand this?"

Larry English's picture

In the context of settlement (re) development technologies have been useful, but mostly when applied to already established (linear) processes: surveying, mapping and enumeration existed as processes before Google maps, GPS and GIS systems; Similarly, engineering and architecture design, before CAD; construction management, before PM Software and savings and loans before Micro finance software, cell phone interfaces and Cloud banking. Whilst technology has helped to make these processes more accessible and efficient, a point made by Melanie; technology has not yet helped with bringing these processes together as an integrated whole, or ecosystem. These processes and their associated competencies often occur independently of each other. Seldom do they exist in a single organisation! Our experience with CLIFF ( and suggests that the competencies required to deliver human settlement require a range of actors (community based, non-profit, private sector and government) To bring these actors together, and to structure the relationships between them, institutional frameworks are essential. We see these frameworks as the basis for joining up and standardizing processes, and then, for developing the technologies required to support integrated processes. By integrating community development processes, urban (real estate) development and end-user financing, CLIFF partners have been able increase efficiency, target group affordability and institutional sustainability. Based upon these templates, financial modelling, portfolio management and cloud banking technologies are now serving to enhance delivery, fund redeployability and generate the data which is necessary to validate and attract further investment – underlining the increasing importance of community development enterprises as key actors within the urban institutional apparatus.

Larry English, Homeless International

adodoabla's picture

Housing –informal settlements? Judy, Sheela, Tereza & Melanie I thank you for this inspiring topic.
I wish to add my voice to this important and interesting topic. I would like to look at this whole discussion from the angle of an entrepreneur and an urban development expert with a heart to serve humanity.
I have read with great interest all the different views; my heart only goes to the urban poor.
I very much identify with sheela’s point that ‘’the solution for slums has most often been demolition. If not demolition, then it is relocation to some where without all the basic amenities we are singing about.
This brings more un imaginary problems to citizens and a country. Talk of crime, sicknesses, psychological and many emotional problems to mention a few. The indirect cost to a country cannot be quantified.

My problem or issue is why is it that those of us who so much say we are fighting for the less privileged or the urban poor do not fight for good mortgage package for the urban poor. I have realized that there are a lot of good hearted urban professionals out there ready to put their technical expertise at the disposal of the urban poor for them to also enjoy the good planning polices we are advocating for.
My experience indicates that with reasonable mortgage for the urban poor they can easily pay towards their housing needs. The only problem the urban poor faces is that they are not able to save huge monies to afford to build or rent a good place for themselves .Therefore without any alternative the result we experience are slums. It is interesting that the same amount of funds that could have gone for mortgage is now being spent on projects and programmes to scale up, upgrade etc.
The urban poor could also benefit from proper housing, which is well designed technically, planned and constructed with all the services and planning standards.

My question, can we not work out a mortgage system for them as well .All known available mortgages/funding only looks at the middle upper class or the formal set up. “ this is my problem ”

My little research conducted in Ghana indicates that these urban poor we keep on demolishing their houses etc can pay some reasonable amount towards their housing needs when giving an opportunity to do so. Is my prayer that someone’s heart would be touched to set up a long term mortgage funding solely for the housing needs of the urban poor. More often than not the best we do for them if not demolishing is to try to give their environment some phase lift. This approach to me as a technical person and an entrepreneur is more expensive. Why can’t we tackle the problem from the root by also investing into the housing needs of the urban poor. As an architect and urban professional I know very well that the house design of the urban poor can never be the type we may like to live in but we can design some reasonable structures which would be technically sound, all planning and environmental considerations taken care off and a good mortgage package worked out for them.
I advocate that more emphases should be placed into mortgage financing fund for the urban poor with a reasonable number of years.
I am confident that this would reduce considerably the problem of slum formation and the huge amount of funds we put into slum upgrading.
In any case if such funds exist I would be grateful to know about it since I am working on a pilot housing project for the urban poor.
This is my piece lets continue the discussion!

Adodo A-Nuviadenu
Fotco ventures


TerezaHerling's picture

Dear Adodo, I agree with you, there's a lot of effort in solving a problem that could be saved if the public and private sector could join efforts to to prevent the problem of slums. The core problem in the majority of urban areas are the land market, with high prices that turn the housing products unaffordable for the poor. The slums and irregular settlements are the solution for 25% of the urban Brazilian inhabitants. So, this problem is real.
We have to face both aspects of the problem together, and at the same time.
In Brazil, we have a Federal Law, known as City' Statue (Estatuto da Cidade) that launches a group of land acquisition instruments, that foster the destination of urban land to social housing implementation - by zoning, by taxing the vacant land, etc.
In the last three years, Brazil Federal Government launched a housing program, known as Minha Casa Minha Vida, that counts on financial resources of a fund, built on workers and employers' contributions. These resources were applied to subsidize the houses, in order to make them affordable for the urban poor.
So, the production of housing units in a massive approach counted on two fundamental public instruments - the legal support (City Statue) and the financial (public funding). These two instruments are result of a national public policy. In this specific case, the policy were designed to foster the private sector to produce housing units, aiming also to leverage the economy production and face the international economic crisis of 2009.
So, I'd like to affirm that we need to face the slum's, once they are a great part of striking poverty in urban areas, but we need also to prevent new slums to arise, by designing public policies that integrates the resources to acquire land and produce the enterprises.

JudyBaker's picture

Thanks again for all the posts. Wanted to raise another big issue when thinking about the urban poor living in informal settlements -- the vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and natural hazards. The urban poor live typically live in the most precarious areas within cities, typically areas deemed undesirable by others and thus affordable. Residents are exposed to the impacts of landslides, sea-level rise, flooding, and other hazards. Exposure to risk is made worse by overcrowded living conditions, lack of adequate infrastructure and services, unsafe housing, inadequate nutrition, and poor health. A heavy rain can quickly turn into a devastating flood without proper drainage. Attached is a video link to a 5 minute film we had produced on this:, and there's a whole book for those interested....

There are a number of adaptation measures that cities can take to build resilience for the urban poor, but currently they are not happening in most cities. Much of this is around the provision of basic services -- perhaps old wine in a new climate change bottle, -- as well as better information systems (again), capacity building efforts, and importantly, integrated urban planning and managment which prioritizes risk reduction. This means getting multiple stakeholders around the table -- agencies that work on climate change, disaster risk, infrastructure sectors, urban planners, and citizens to understand risks and identify actions to reduce them. Prioritization always includes a number of difficult tradeoffs.

The climate change/disaster risk lens offer a new opportunity and perhaps new resources. Any thoughts on what can be done to channel this to intentisify risk reduction actions for those most vulnerable?

SheelaPatel's picture

Climate change and preparedness to address its challenges: In all the discussions and reflections we have participated as SDI we see critical aspects that must be addressed to face the challenge of climate change.

a. Mapping vulnerability to climate change automatically indicates that the poor are located in the most vulnerable locations the knee jerk reaction is to evict them ( as a solution for their safety) without alternatives. This is a double crisis for the poor. Most cities don’t even know where all slums are located so when disaster does hit the city, its rescuers don’t even know localities to save people.

b. Given the investment opportunities that climate change focus in development has produced, there is very little real knowledge about what’s a robust and sustainable strategy and what is not. And everyone seeks to experiment their strategies on the poor. And the poor are supposed to be grateful for this. There must be well developed practices that adequately demonstrate value of new possibilities otherwise through such experimentation even what little the poor have is further downgraded because the experimenters disappear after their have finished their experiment.

c. Leaders from poor communities have to be involved in debates about climate change and strategies for change have to be devised with them and city managers and mayors. Today all of these local actors are ignored in the great global discourse.

soniadias's picture

This is a complex theme....And it raises many questions: what is the the role of local communities? What are the limits of what community organizations can do? What about governments at national, subnational and local levels? Is the focus on community action a way to drive the attention away from government´s responsibilities? How can a collaborative environment be built between govts and communities. There a number of examples in the October 2011 edition of the Environment & Urbanization journal " Community-driven disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in urban areas". One of the examples cited in this edition refers to an experience in the Phillipines developed by The Homeless Peoples´s Federation and an NGO called PACSII who are identifying and profiling at risk-communities in 12 cities and 10 municipalities. They focus on informal settlements located under bridges, closer to cliffs and at other vulnerable sites. This one example of how community action can contribute in terms of providing detailed locally rooted information that can be useful in the context of disasters.

Communities and governments can also team up to carry out environmental campaigns to teach the residents the importance of not cloking drains with litter. Governments should provide adequate infrastructure -piped water supplies, drainage etc - but it is everyone´s responsibility to keep it free from litter. In some shanty-towns in my home city govt officials and locals engage in outreach campaigns to educate the population.

Sonia Dias

Katy Fentress's picture

I agree it is important to examine the existing coping measures of the urban poor when faced-with natural disasters that increasingly can be the result of climate change.
Nairobi stands at 1600m above sea level and it can be difficult to distinguish whether the flooding and mudslides that occur during the heavy rains are a direct result of climate change or simply of soil erosion, clogged-drains and overcrowding. Nevertheless, as the population pressures on Nairobi’s slums increase, it becomes paramount to find long-term and effective solutions for cushioning the effects of preventable-natural disasters.
When it comes to disasters in informal settlements, it appears to be the case that is generally women that are most affected. Coping measures in these scenarios are limited to finding short-term accommodation, picking oneself up and heading back to the same spot to rebuild and resume life as usual, perfectly aware that if the disaster strikes again, the possibility of being directly affected is more than high.
Community mapping and enumeration can go a long way towards preparing relief in a disaster-prone area, because the existing data can be used as a way to identify and count affected communities making it easier to provide them with assistance - if there is no way of identifying whether someone actually lives in the affected place, it becomes harder to ensure that emergency funds go to the right beneficiaries. In Nairobi’s Mathare slum, the Kenyan branch of SDI, Muungano Trust ( has in the past been instrumental in providing this kind of information.
Yet mapping is just one facet of the work to be done. Only through community organization and comprehensive government awareness-raising drives can it be possible to educate people as to the dangers of erecting dwellings in risk-prone areas, providing them with sustainable alternatives and preventing the recurrence of natural disasters.

Katy Fentress
Nairobi Bureau Chief - URB.IM

I'd like to chime in with some recent research about education in slums and for poor rural-urban migrants. Much of what has been said about other services in this conversation applies to education too. In a recent paper for UNICEF, I found that children from middle-class and poor urban backgrounds in Bangladesh faced many of the same obstacles, including violence in and around schools, poor quality teaching, insistence on private tuition, and a school system that was de-facto privatized, at least at the secondary level. (There was, however, a large NGO presence mainly at the primary level and used exclusively by the poor). But the biggest difference was in the middle-class families' ability to negotiate this system, strategize, move their children between schools, hire better tutors, and so on.

A second paper analysed household survey data in Bangladesh and Vietnam focusing on the specific difficulties for rural-urban migrants. Even adjusting for their generally greater poverty, recent migrants had worse educational outcomes than children from households that had lived in the city for longer. In Vietnam this is partly due to a household registration system that has specifically limited services for non-registered migrants. As well as lifting these explicit barriers, what seems to be needed is reform to deal with the mobility of populations and to help new migrants settle in the city and get the services they are entitled to.

Aside from the specific issue of population mobility, however, I'm actually wary of seeking innovative solutions in education for poor urban groups. My point would be simply that the most obvious and old-fashioned solution - build more government schools in line with increase in the urban population - has in many cases not been tried. But creating the political will for that solution to be implemented is an area where innovation can certainly help. In poor urban areas in some contexts there is apparently a sense of solidarity and community that can result in collective action. But this is far from guaranteed, in places with high turnover of people, diverse places of origin, and under stress from poverty and threat of eviction. Maybe this is exactly where NGOs and campaign groups need to come in, overcoming some of the obstacles to political engagement that range from illiteracy to the direct threat of political violence.

The issue of Environment & Urbanization last year on Documenting the undocumented (written by Sheela Patel among others) has some nice examples of how this can happen: through a series of initiatives associated with SDI in different countries, residents of slums documented their own numbers and the shortfalls in service delivery, as a first step towards advocating for better services. But as far as I could spot, none of the cases highlighted education, or were used to advocate for better education. Is this because education is really not a high priority problem as far as slum dwellers are concerned? It could, of course, be the case that there are severe shortfalls in education provision, and this is seen as a major problem by slum dwellers, and yet not as big a problem as not having a reliable water or electricity supply. Nevertheless, I wonder if there is an element of education being neglected in the design of research and monitoring initiatives, in favour of the basic environmental and housing concerns more often associated with slums?

Gaurav's picture

Thanks Judy for inviting me to comment on a topic that is very close to my heart, and as ICT specialist for Africa urban, integral to the work I do here. The objective of this particular blog is to highlight the imminent inevitability of leveraging ICT as an instrument of poverty reduction, especially in context of Africa’s urban poor. I also find Sheela Patel’s point on ICT scale-up particularly relevant at this juncture and, through another blog, shall put forward some ideas in response.

To begin with, it is no surprise that the social compact between cities and the urban poor in Africa is under great duress, exacerbated by the inadequacy of local governments to address the pressures of growing urbanization. Consider the case of Uganda, where over 60 per cent of urban denizens live in slums most oftenly characterized by lack of basic services, overcrowding, tenure insecurity, makeshift dwelling units, crime, and very poor sanitation. This situation has been brought about by manifold reasons along economic and institutional dimensions. The most obvious is that investments in Africa’s urban infrastructure and services have simply lagged behind the growing demographic and economic importance of urban centers, resulting in the mushrooming of unplanned townships, urban poverty, and deteriorating urban environment. And while urban development planning and management is a decentralized function, most local governments lack not only physical planners but also the appropriate tools for preparing urban development plans and guiding developers. A key contributing factor is also the lack of data-driven feedback amongst local governments regarding the reach and quality of urban services, particularly those associated with the poor (because, for example, in-person meetings are expensive, and the poor are often unable to take time away from work to attend meetings). To illustrate, consider the scenario in Accra, Ghana, where a major portion of local assemblies’ resources (about 95%) are channeled into provision of urban services delivery (such as municipal solid waste and sanitation management) through a system of private contractors. Yet, for slums there is no mechanism to monitor the frequency of lifting, routing efficiency, overflow and waste pick-up performance of private contractors. As a result of weak monitoring or data-gathering capabilities, officials there do not have the means to effectively survey ground-level conditions concerning the poor, or track the impact being made by ongoing schemes.

Against this backdrop, it becomes clear that efficiency of urban transformation will be fundamental to addressing poverty in Africa’s cities. Given the prevailing situation, local governments in Uganda, Ghana, and elsewhere in Africa are seeking solutions that can help them perform more inclusive spatial planning, devise better M&E strategies, and overall, make their city management more responsive in ensuring the delivery of vital services to the urban poor. In view of successful e-initiatives worldwide, there is growing recognition amongst Africa’s municipalities that good governance requires mechanisms such as ICT to enable the inclusion and representation of all urban stakeholders, extend the reach and quality of public services, as well as ensure accountability and integrity of local government actions. This has led to an ICT phenomenon at the sub-national-level, in which cities across the region are beginning to utilize new technologies and applications to amplify the benefits of urban agglomeration, albeit with varying degrees of success. For an in-depth look at ICT for addressing issues related to Africa’s urban poor, readers are encouraged to peruse ‘Good Urban Governance through ICT: Issues, Analysis, and Strategies’ available at .

Despite the rise of ICT in Africa, there remain significant challenges that hinder the application of ICT towards mitigating conditions of the urban poor. These include weak ICT infrastructure; high costs to ICT access; general lack of awareness on power of ICT platforms; non-citizen centric governments, and so forth. Sustainability of ICT solutions remains a key challenge. In a quest to better understand these barriers, and devise strategies to overcome the same, the World Bank is piloting various ICT solutions in the region in partnership with local governments and NGOs. The smartphone-based 'Taarifa', amongst other tools, has yielded some interesting results. Lessons learnt from the piloting of Taarifa are being shared in a subsequent blog.

Gaurav Relhan
ICT Specialist, The World Bank

Gaurav's picture

Sheela - Your views on the need and necessity for scale-up and sustainability of ICT solutions strike a resonant chord with my own experiences with implementing ICT solutions in Africa’s urban context. The fact remains that ICT is only a means to an end, and for ICT to be harnessed in a manner that addresses poverty, it is imperative that governments consider themselves to be integral stakeholders of ICT solutions and also have a vested interest in ensuring their success. Based on my experience, I am tempted to take this blog as an opportunity share with the readers few strategies that seem to have worked, atleast to a certain degree, when it comes to uptake and adoption of ICT by local actors. In a nutshell, there is still hope!

Let me explain. Similar to conditions in many parts of India, cities in Africa are often awash with conditions that hinder the leveraging of ICT for effectively tackling poverty issues. Infrastructure, cost, weak governance are some of the key reasons. Yet, new political economies are being created in the region through the emergence of ICT platforms for social accountability. As demonstrated by the variety of social accountability–based ICT initiatives, ranging from the Facebook and Twitter-fuelled Jasmine revolution in North Africa to Kenya’s GPS-powered ‘Map Kibera’ project, ICT tools do comprise today an increasingly powerful medium in the continent to facilitate large-scale citizen feedback/dialogue on public-sector policies and services -rendering citizens and businesses the ability to place pressure points on governments for demanding reform, transparency, or action.

One of the ICT for social accountability initiatives I have been involved with is the piloting of a smartphone-based tool for capturing and displaying geo-referenced data on local government program outcomes. This tool is called ‘Taarifa’ - a customizable application that allows users to take photographs of projects or issues and enter descriptive information (e.g. number of beneficiaries, sector, source of grant financing etc.). The data generated automatically populates a web-based interactive map, accessible to all. The website allows the user to view data points by sector, funding source etc., and generate summary statistics related to project progress and impact. This provides an entirely new and rich source of data to deepen the supervision of the projects, track the performance of local governments, improve the effectiveness of M&E systems, and potentially provide a public-friendly way to disseminate information on the positive impacts of the program and bring additional transparency to the use of government resources. Taarifa is also capable of working seamlessly in ‘offline mode’, i.e., when mobile data signal is not available.

Taarifa was initially piloted within framework of an urban project in Uganda, intended to provide local government officials a more streamlined and effective means to perform monitoring of urban initiatives. It has since been adapted and implemented in several other World Bank-funded projects in Uganda and Ghana, with Nigeria in the pipeline. In Ghana, the tool has been deployed in context of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) who use the tool to monitor and map urban service delivery quality. In both Uganda and Ghana, the tool has achieved self-sustainability in the sense that local actors now pool-in their own resources for operationalization and further scale-up of the tool. To get a look and feel of the tool, readers are encouraged to browse and .

Gleaning the lessons learnt from the piloting experience, I would like to say that the key factors contributing to scale-up and sustainability have been discerned to be:

• The financial, social and political benefits of using ICTs need to be communicated to governments early-on in the process to secure their ongoing support. Public sector actors must be committed to acting upon the information yielded through ICT use. To this end, it is necessary to ensure that governments find adequate value--social, political, or financial--in using ICT systems.

• Institutions should invest in building technical capacity for developing and using ICT applications. Technical capacity – including knowledge of different ICT systems, ways to manipulate these systems and ability to provide training – needs to be developed among government agencies and other organizations to capture the full potential of ICTs.

• Ensure reliability of data collection through cross-verification of input data. Although ‘Taarifa’ improves the monitoring and evaluation process, cross-verification of M&E data at a sample of sites can help ensure reliability and accuracy of data.

• The technology and platform should be tested in a pilot before scaling up. In addition, the technology should be customized to the local context and supported with adequate field training.

• In context of CSOs/NGOs, who often have meager resources, the process of collecting data by these actors through ICT should be monetized. In Ghana, CSOs were encouraged to formulate a business case regarding performing monitoring of urban issues using Taarifa on a contract basis with local government. The money can then be ploughed-in by the CSOs to facilitate them to do the work as well as maintain the ICT platform. Local government could see that, in the long-run, this payment-based mechanism would help save money through facilitation of proactive, synchronized addressal of issues.

Gaurav Relhan
ICT Specialist, The World Bank

Paula Restrepo's picture

Here are some basic thoughts from what I have learned on slum upgrading experiences;

- Slums house a very heterogeneous population, standarized solutions (i.e. uniform apartment building blocks) will not match the needs of all of the population.
- Involving communities in slum upgrading projects increases the sustainability of investements and generally their level of satisfaction.
- Creating temporal buffer zones between informality and formality (i.e. when giving titles allowing a couple of years of subsidies on housing taxes, when connecting to legal electricity allowing a couple of months paying a subsidized amount and learning about household real electricity consumption) reduces the shock of passing from informality to formality on vulnerable groups.

I also believe we need to start making more Impact Evaluations on slum upgrading interventions to start building a more evidence-based practice.

brianenglish's picture

I think Melanie's question (How can ICT promote more inclusive cities?) places ICT where it should be, as a tool. And I think Judy has identified many of the categories where ICT is being applied effectively as a tool: mapping, mobile banking, government monitoring, disaster management and transparency of data.

It might also be useful to unbundle the "ICT" within the question and ask: How can the World Wide Web, social media, Web 2.0 applications, mobile phones, and/or smart phones be used to enable marginalized communities to get connected with each other and with information sources that improves their participation, collaboration, communications, and empowerment.

We are only at the beginning of testing out new methods of applying ICT in development. And I think there is a tremendous amount of uncharted territory and plenty of gains to make.

Gartner's "hype cycle" characterizes what we can expect as ICT gets folded into development solutions: there may be over enthusiasm from inflated expectations, followed by deep disillusionment, and finally a realistic view of its contribution to productivity.

The digital divide will prevent the direct use of ICT by many urban poor, as will literacy and digital literacy. But mobile phones and accessing the internet on phones is becoming more widespread, especially amongst young people, including "the poor".

Beyond direct engagement with ICT, NGOs and other supporting stakeholders of the urban poor are becoming increasingly connected and empowered through many ICT tools, enumeration and mapping being one of the most popular examples. As Larry English pointed out, ICT has already improved the efficiency and effectiveness of many established processes within these institutions.

I think there is something to be said for the improvements of ICT on the ecosystem of institutions trying to address urban poverty. The fact that we are having this conversation on-line illustrates some of the gains we have already made: we are able to converge around an interest/topic, across geographies, and at a fraction of the cost of hosting a conference. Tools like this were largely unapproachable ten years ago for "users", and non-existent twenty years ago.

Here are a couple examples from my own personal experience within my organization, Global Communities (formerly CHF International) where we have used ICT to strengthen our services and service delivery to slum communities in India.

1. In Bangalore, we have supported a social enterprise called LabourNet ( to provide low-wage informal sector job seekers with improved skills, support services, and connections with jobs. LabourNet uses mobile phones and web-interfaces to gather and provide information about worker qualifications and job requirements and then connect job seekers with employers. We have helped LabourNet register 40,000 members and then use the power of this membership to negotiate affordable health and accident insurance and access to bank accounts. So in this case, the use of ICT helped lower the transaction costs of collective action.
2. In 2011, we developed and launched Skills Connect (, a job portal developed for informal workers, in partnerships with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and LabourNet. Skill Connect gathers information on both demand and supply of the informal workforce in order to fill the information gap and make connections between job seekers and employers. This portal serves as a neutral platform for bringing together employers, job seekers, vocational training providers, and third party service providers. 65 corporations have participated in a market survey so far, which captures their immediate- and near-term human resource needs for entry level, blue-collar jobs. Job information can be queried by geography, sectors and job profiles.
3. In Bangalore we used Walking Papers ( to map slums with community members. These are printable maps that are taken into a community, drawn on and then scanned back into OpenStreetMaps ( using a geo-referenced bar code. “OpenStreetMaps” is a collaborative project to create a free editable map of the world by volunteers using copyright free sources and the widespread availability of GPS tools often available in mobile phones.
4. In Pune, we partnered with the Pune Municipal Corporation to develop a program called ‘Utthan’ (‘to rise from the bottom,’ in Hindi). This program collected information on the physical and socio-economic conditions of Pune’s slums and used this information to empower residents and local government officials to undertake development projects. The data was collected by an extensive network of 1000s of volunteers that reside in the slum communities. More importantly, we then helped slum communities organize neighborhood planning processes and completed over 80 projects in 2 years. Read more:
5. In Bangalore, as part of our programs with waste collectors we worked with a young "scrap collector" to improve his reputation as a respected service sector worker. He was already connecting with friends on Facebook through his phone and was tech savy. So we developed a website for him called “recycling guru” (a name he chose) where neighbors can schedule their recyclables to be picked up on-line and alerts are sent to his cell phone. Read more here:

As Ben Bradlow's comments clarified, and I agree, online interactions can never replace the full dynamics of in-person cooperation and communication. But ICT tools should not be looked at in isolation or as a panacea. They can supplement real world interactions at lower transactional costs and even help organize real world meetings (like which enables online crowd sourcing for off-line, in person meetings.). As some web developers approach solutions, we can also create more "mashups".

Brian English

JudyBaker's picture

The development community is now deeply engaged in discussing what will follow the MDGs in 2015. The slum target has been heavily debated -- the original target was vastly underestimated, and in some countries the wording was misinterpreted and misused for the wrong purposes. Yet surely a focus on improvement of living conditions for those living in slums is welcome. What might a post-MDG target for the urban poor might look like? Please share your thoughts!

SheelaPatel's picture

Post MDGs: I find that setting targets is like a double edged sword and while in today’s world time lines and deadline make each time frame appear as though you are standing on the edge of a precipice and unless you make the next plan you are diving off the cliff. Everyone is struggling to develop new goals, new investment plans, in the meanwhile the world is getting even more divided with fewer and fewer people owning most of the much hyped GDP and those who are poor are getting more and more disenfranchised.

We have to consider how the state of governance that has to be the skeleton on which everything else is built upon is almost completely distorted and state institutions allowed to abdicate from responsibilities to the most vulnerable, being allowed to be inefficient, allow rampant corruption, often dismantled and the state and market are allowed to assume that markets and private sector will fulfil the vacuum. I am not antagonistic about private sector and in no way devalue their role and contribution, but I have seen very little evidence of their sustained and scalable contribution to addressing issues of acute or chronic poverty and vulnerability. NGOS and Philanthropy do have a role to play but no one can substitute the role of nation states to address the needs of the poorest and vulnerable and neither should they be allowed to abandon this role and function.

TerezaHerling's picture

I totally agree with Sheela. The private sector can never fulfill the vacuum that weak public sectors happen to leave. As some previous comments, the land is the most valuable good in the urban territory, The legislation and regulation instruments have to be developed and implemented by the public sector, aiming to redistribute the urban wealth and bring some equilibrium in land assessment.
I am not also an antagonist to the private sector, but their redistributive approach is very limited.
The State has to assume its leadership in the land's price regulation, or the poor families' housing alternatives will be reduced in the urban tissue.

CarlinCarr's picture

As for post-MDGs...this is a new urban area that requires new goals to address these growing interdependent needs in cities. Urban environments are complex, and has been discussed on this forum, land values create a very different relationship with tackling urban-based poverty. In order to devise new targets, we have to discern what we want our cities to become. The rhetoric that has led Mumbai's "development" lately has been to create it into a "world-class" city. On the surface, this goal would seem like an ambitious but admirable for a city with a cross-section of needs and issues to tackle. Surely, heading towards "world-class" will improve conditions across the board, right?
As I pose this question to you, police are ridding Mumbai's streets of hawkers, because they are making it "dirty." A world-class city, of course, needs to be a clean city with no eye-sores like slums and hawkers. Slum land is being converted into malls, shining signs of "progress" in the city. These state-driven improvements to the city are goals that dismiss a majority of its residents. These types of top-down goals are driving city policy and development around India.

Despite this, some very good examples of working with the poor are worth laying out here. One interesting movement is through self-construction improvement practices. The idea is that the poor are already building their homes, so provide them with the materials and technical assistance to improve materials and safety. You can read more about how microHome Solutions in Delhi and URBZ in Mumbai are working on these types of programs on a larger scale: microHome Solutions has even proposed to create Technical Assistance kiosks in slum areas to help train local masons.

As cities in India and elsewhere aspire to new goals--be it shining in the likeness of Shanghai or meeting benchmarks set from outside--a more inclusive way forward needs to be created. The diversity of circumstances in cities sets up a need for a new way of tackling poverty that is both highly cross-sectoral and participatory, requiring any benchmarks to take this into account.

Mumbai Bureau Chief

Diana Mitlin's picture

As global institutions and official development assistance agencies reflect on what should follow the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), this is an opportunity to change a critical flaw — the partiality of their targets.

Halving the proportion of people with inadequate incomes, halving the numbers who suffer from hunger and halving the proportion of people without safe water and basic sanitation are all past targets as is the 100 million out of 'slums'. At one level I can understand this approach – but at another level it is extraordinary.

What is human progress if it does not involve the acceptance that every child and adult is able to secure the basic needs required for good health? I find it amazing that, in this age of prosperity, such basic values seem to have been forgotten. As the significance of inequality is documented and discussed among both government and development agency staff alike, surely a critical first step is universal access – a real commitment to provide safe and sufficient water, sanitation and drainage that reduces the risk of faecal contamination, and health care and emergency services for all. Achieving this target would make a significant improvement to the quality of life of low-income urban dwellers living in informal settlements - and to many more.

My second proposal is as important but even trickier – and far from the approaches favoured by the MDGs. We are in danger of creating more and more segmented urban centres – divided cities in which rich and poor do not meet, do not have a chance to share ideas and experiences, do not have a chance to either work or have fun together. Our urban vision - like much urban management - is sadly lacking. We appear more concerned with providing glossy shopping malls than with enhancing the quality of urban life. Like Richard Tomlinson, I have had the experience of watching students engage with the organized community activists that are part of the SDI network, and I have seen how they are excited and engaged at the activists’ commitment to urban development. And I think part of this excitement is because these community groups have a positive vision of an urban future for all.

Part of that urban vision has to be integrated towns and cities – places in which urban citizens can learn to understand each other through daily interactions. It is not so difficult to achieve this. Efforts to support integrated cities might include good-quality public schools and health centres, spaces for informal traders across the city including in central and higher-income areas, rich and poor neighbourhoods constructed and developed side-by-side, and central city areas kept for recreation – parks or open spaces alongside rivers or coastal reaches. The vision to go to the city scale with universal service provision that I discuss above is a critical part of integrated cities.

A demonstrated commitment of city governments to work for all is going to become important in the context of climate change. Trust is going to be even more difficult when changes in climate undermine decisions made by local authorities, for example, about where the urban poor might locate, and about the services that are provided and the costs that are charged. Citizens will need to understand each other’s needs and interests if we are to have any chance of managing cities to the benefit of all and achieving an equitable urban future.

Sonia talked about the ways in which garbage collectors contribute to the city – and how this needs to be part of a systematic process. Sheela talked about the ways in which SDI groups contribute to new ideas and show how service delivery can be improved through community and city partnerships. Other posts have discussed how technology (ICTs and other kinds) and finance are critical tools. Such tools will be critical to the creation of building cities for all their citizens – just as the other ideas of sectoral partnerships are important and partnerships between civil society and the state, and the public and private sectors. We need them all and many more.

I am constantly reminded that we get good at what we practice – my suggestion is that the MDGs commit to universal services and integrated inclusive cities – even if they don’t achieve complete success, we could at least practice how to do this at a more substantive scale.

Diana Mitlin, IIED and the University of Manchester