Building Capacity, Creating Identity, and Shifting Decision-Making from the Bottom Up

19 September 2018

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The end of 2017 marked the end of a four-year strategic planning period for SDI and the close-out of various projects and contracts in support of implementation of that plan. To report on the successes, challenges, and impact of our work over that time, SDI produced a Basket Fund Close Out report, available in full here. In this series of blog posts, we present excerpts from this report that highlight some of the key learnings and impact of our work over the past four years and point towards areas for continued growth in the new Strategic Plan, launched this year.


SDI’s overall program outcome for our previous strategic plan was:

“Creation of local, national, and transnational organizations of that build their capacity, create institutional identity, and produce multiple tiers of leadership. These trigger new institutional relationships amongst government, private sector, and civil society to alter decision making processes.”

The capacity of SDI’s global network of slum dweller federations to develop and implement their local change agenda, to create clear and recognizable institutional identity, and to nurture multiple tiers of leadership has grown considerably since 2013. During this time, the reach of the network has expanded:

  • The number of cities SDI works in grew from 409 to 482
  • The number of savings groups grew from 7,971 to 9,604
  • The number of youth engaged in SDI programs grew from 7,940 to 20,963
  • The KYC campaign grew from 7 to 136 cities

The capacities of the network have expanded, allowing for increasingly strategic deployment of SDI tools such as savings, community-driven data collection, and peer-to-peer exchange; systematic community-led learning, monitoring, and evaluation; collaborative governance of a global network; and the development of impactful interventions i the areas of energy justice, resilience, and climate change.

A clear and recognizable institutional identity was created, including the collaborative development of a Theory of Change,  a clear SDI brand identity, the KYC Campaign, and a clearer, more accessible communications strategy.

Lastly, SDI has shifted institutional relationships and decision-making through increasing impactful partnerships with city authorities at the local level, global alliances with city networks such as UCLG, UCLG-A, C40, and 100RC, private sector partnerships aimed at fostering inclusive investment and decision-making, and increased influence in shaping global policy towards greater inclusivity – most obviously evidenced by content in the New Urban Agenda and SDG 11.

One significant change story that captures the essence of SDI’s achievements in building federations, partnerships, and informing city planning is the Know Your City Campaign. At city, national and international level there is increasing recognition for the extraordinary contribution of the Know Your City campaign to understanding and taking action to reduce urban poverty and exclusion. Anchored by SDI’s community-led informal settlement profiling, enumeration and mapping, the KYC campaign supports partnerships between local and city governments and organized slum communities.

The campaign was established as a joint program between SDI affiliated federations and the United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG-A), with support from Cities Alliance. It has become a powerful force for community organization, participatory local governance, partnership building, and collective action to implement global commitments to “leave no one behind.”

SDI has driven the expansion of the campaign throughout Africa and into Asia and Latin America. In addition, it has driven linkages between the Campaign and actors in the resilience, climate, private sector, and innovative finance spaces. The achievements and aspirations of the KYC campaign are well captured in the Know Your City: Slum Dwellers Count publication, launched at the World Urban Forum. The publication brings together institutions at the forefront of global pro-poor data-driven solutions that hold great promise for enhancing inclusiveness and resilience at scale. It details the work of organized communities of the urban poor to collect systematic data on conditions in their settlements and fill critical gaps in knowledge. It presents examples of enlightened local governments seeking to change the status quo through collaborative and inclusive city planning and management, it captures the essential partnerships of public, private, and community actors working to make fundamental change.

Download the full publication here.


SDI’s Basket Fund represents a commitment from SDI’s partners to join a global network of slum dweller organizations in their long-term struggle to combat poverty and exclusion in cities. In a development sector dominated by consultants and specialists, SDI adds value as a unique organization channeling resources directly to the poor for the development and implementation of their own strategies for change. This arrangement represents an understanding by SDI’s partners that systemic change won’t be projectized or fall neatly into a funding cycle, but requires long-term multi-pronged collaboration to continuously garrison the gains and push the boundaries.

On both fronts SDI made substantial inroads during the 2013-2017 period.