Our Practices for Change
Each day groups of women in slum neighbourhoods and settlements walk from home to home, and gather small change from each other in order to collectively address the livelihood struggles they share.
Through daily interactions, and weekly community gatherings, savings group members begin to articulate what problems exist within their community, creating a sense of shared identity for the women of urban poor communities.
Whilst SDI does not exclude men, the reality is that the savings groups are comprised mainly of women. Women are often at the center of the household – responsible for the provision of food, school fees, clean water, and a place to sleep. By targeting the poorest women in a settlement, one can be sure that the settlement’s most vital needs will be addressed.
Additionally, the structure of savings groups allows members to access short-term loans, which are otherwise largely unavailable to the urban poor. This system of savings & credit prepares communities for medium and large-scale financial management necessary in the slum upgrading projects they are likely to pursuit. Often regarded as the cornerstone of SDI, these savings groups link together to form “federations.”
Central Participation of Women
For SDI, the central participation of women is not just an ideal but a critical component of a gender-sensitive mobilization strategy, which sees men and women re-negotiating their relationships within families, communities, and organizational forms such as slum dweller “federations”. By prioritizing the leadership potential of women, federations alter traditional male domination in communities, in ways that actually strengthen grassroots leadership.
Recognising that women are often the true engines of development, SDI uses the savings and credit methodology to develop their leadership capacity, financial management skills, and confidence. By entrusting women to handle such important monetary systems, whereby they are in charge of the precious savings of their neighbours and friends, communities begin to understand the potential of women as public decision-makers and powerful agents of change. In fact, savings and credit activities, apart from their clear financial benefits, serve as a means to bring women out of the home and into the public sphere in a manner that men rarely resent.
Enumerations & Mapping
Community planning activities build political capital for communities both internally and externally. Within communities, activities like enumeration (household-to-household socio-economic surveys) and mapping create space for communities to: identify developmental priorities, organize leadership, expose and mediate grievances between segments of the community, and cohere around future planning.
Such activities serve as a platform for engagement with governments and other stakeholders involved in planning and setting policy for development in urban centres. A key aspect of community planning activities is that communities own the information they collect. When they share the data with government, they are able to create new relationships — and even institutions — that make the poor integral role players in the decisions that affect their lives.
SDI federations cannot address informal settlement challenges on their own, but they can catalyse change. The key to reaching community driven development at scale is the inclusion of external partners. SDI engages with governments, international organisations, academia and other institutions wherever possible to create relationships that benefit the urban poor. By opening space for slum dwellers to engage in international advocacy at the global level, and by drawing international partners into local processes through key local events, opportunities are created for key partnerships to develop that can impact at both the local and global level. Ultimately, the aim is to create situations in which the urban poor are able to play a central role in “co-producing” access to land, services, and housing.
There is not, and never will be, a one-size-fits-all approach to upgrading of informal settlements. Each settlement is unique in its challenges, but there are common themes. Informal settlement upgrading is not simply “site and service” or the provision of a “top structure” house. Upgrading is any intervention that improves the physical conditions of a settlement, which in turn enhances the lives of its inhabitants.
The most critical emphasis is that this process should happen in situ, where communities already exist. Relocations should always be as a last resort. However in situations in which they are unavoidable, such as in flood planes or along railway lines, the federations work to ensure that decisions are made in conjunction with the community.
SDI projects do not deliver land, services and incremental houses as ends in themselves, but do so as a means to draw in politicians and policy makers in order to challenge and transform institutional arrangements and policies. For SDI this is not only a matter of delivery but also one of deepening democracy.
Horizontal learning exchange from one urban poor community to another is the primary learning strategy of SDI. Participants within the savings networks learn best from each other. When one savings group has initiated a successful income-generating project, re-planned a settlement or built a toilet block, SDI enables groups to come together and learn from intra-network achievements. The community exchange process builds upon the logic of ‘doing is knowing’ and helps to develop a collective vision. As savers travel from Cape Town’s Sheffield Road to Kenya’s Mukuru Sinai to India’s Pune, the network is unified and strengthened. Such learning happens not only at the street level but between towns, regions, provinces, and nations. In this way, locally appropriate ideas are transferred into the global dialogue on urban development through dialogue between slum dweller peers.
Additionally, horizontal exchanges create a platform for learning that builds alternative community-based politics and “expertise,” challenging the notion that development solutions must come from professionals. In this way, communities begin to view themselves as holding the answers to their own problems rather than looking externally for professional help.
The pool of knowledge generated through exchange programs becomes a collective asset of the SDI network. When slum dwellers meet with external actors to debate development policies, they can draw from international examples, which influences government and other stakeholders to listen.
Academic / Research Institutions
African Centre for Cities (ACC)
ACC is a research centre on urban development in the African continent, housed in the University of Cape Town, South Africa. ACC works with SDI to produce documents and research on the work of SDI and its affiliates.
Association of African Planning Schools (AAPS)
AAPS is a network planning schools in universities throughout the African continent. In 2010, SDI signed a Memorandum of Understanding with AAPS to develop internships and relationships between affiliates planning schools and SDI affiliates in countries in Africa where both are active.
Institute for Policy Alternatives (IPA)
IPA is a centre for policy study and learning based in Accra, Ghana. SDI works with IPA as one of its partners to develop a learning, monitoring and evaluation (LM&E) framework for understanding its work at both the global level and for many of SDI’s affiliate federations in East and West Africa.
International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)
IIED is a UK-based research organization with a strong emphasis on building links with Southern practitioners and academics. SDI has a long-standing partnership with the Human Settlements unit of IIED, which has often produced research on SDI-affiliated federations.
SHARE – Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity
SHARE aims to generate the knowledge that is needed to improve sector performance and drive progress on sanitation. SHARE is a global partnership with partners in Africa, Asia and Europe.
Society for Participatory Research In Asia (PRIA)
PRIA is a centre for learning and promotion of participatory democracy based in New Delhi, India. SDI works with PRIA as one of its partners to develop a learning, monitoring and evaluation (LM&E) framework for understanding its work at both the global level and for many of SDI’s affiliate federations in Asia.
Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the discovery and development of independent artists and audiences. Through its programs, the Institute seeks to discover, support, and inspire independent film and theatre artists from the United States and around the world, and to introduce audiences to their new work.
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
We are focused on the areas of greatest need, on the ways in which we can do the most good. From poverty to health, to education, our areas of focus offer the opportunity to dramatically improve the quality of life for billions of people. So we build partnerships that bring together resources, expertise, and vision—working with the best organizations around the globe to identify issues, find answers, and drive change.
We believe all people should have the opportunity to reach their full potential, contribute to society, and have voice in the decisions that affect them. We believe the best way to achieve these goals is to encourage initiatives by those living and working closest to where problems are located; to promote collaboration among the nonprofit, government and business sectors; and to ensure participation by men and women from diverse communities.
MISEREOR is the German Catholic Bishops’ Organisation for Development Cooperation. For over 50 years MISEREOR has been committed to fighting poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America. MISEREOR’s support is available to any human being in need – regardless of their religion, ethnicity or gender. Changes cannot be prescribed from outside. MISEREOR therefore believes in supporting initiatives driven and owned by the poor and the disadvantaged.
Norad – The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation – is a specialised directorate under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Sida (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency)
Sida is a government agency working on behalf of the Swedish parliament and government, with the mission to reduce poverty in the world. Through our work and in cooperation with others, we contribute to implementing Sweden’s Policy for Global Development (PGU). We work in order to implement the Swedish development policy that will enable poor people to improve their lives.
Sigrid Rausing Trust
SRT is a UK grant making foundation, founded in 1995 by Sigrid Rausing to support human rights globally. Since then, the Trust has given away approximately £208.3 million to human rights organisations all over the world.
Social entrepreneurs are society’s change agents, creators of innovations that disrupt the status quo and transform our world for the better. By identifying the people and programs already bringing positive change around the world, we empower them to extend their reach, deepen their impact and fundamentally improve society.
Tides is a nonprofit organization that works at the heart of today’s most critical issues, supporting grantees and programs that are core to our country’s nonprofit infrastructure and social service delivery. We work in partnership with people whose work confronts issues like global warming, AIDS treatment and prevention, and economic disparity. Bringing together people, resources, and innovation, Tides is a convener and connector for those in our community and beyond.
Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR)
ACHR is SDI’s sister network of organizations of the urban poor. ACHR was formed out of a People’s Dialogue in 1987 of activists and community organizations to address the challenge of forced evictions in informal areas in Asian cities.
United Cities and Local Government — Africa (UCLGA)
UCLGA is the African chapter of United Cities and Local Government (UCLG), the global network of city governments. In 2011, SDI signed a Memorandum of Understanding with UCLGA to pilot city-wide strategies for community-based informal settlement upgrading.
United Cities and Local Governments
United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) represents and defends the interests of local governments on the world stage, regardless of the size of the communities they serve.
Women in the Informal Economy: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO)
WIEGO is a network of organizations of informal traders in countries throughout the Global South. As another network of informal dwellers, WIEGO and SDI work to build broader understandings of the contributions of informality to the development of cities, and create space for organizations of the poor to influence policies and practices in cities.
Cities Alliance (CA)
Cities Alliance is a partnership of major multilateral donor agencies, Northern country donor agencies, Southern country governments, and networks of cities. CA is housed in the World Bank. As the global network of the urban poor, SDI is a member of CA and serves on its Consultative Group, equivalent to a board of directors.
Global Land Tools Network (GLTN)
The Global Land Tools Network brings together a range of international networks and organizations to address the challenges of land tenure with regards to the inclusion of informal settlements and residents in cities. In particular, SDI works with GLTN on developing tools for community-information collection practices, such as enumeration, to form the basis of dynamic GIS technologies for understanding and managing urban development.
UN-Habitat has developed a unique position supporting urban development and the planning and building of a better urban future for next generations. This key process supports economic growth and social development, and reduces poverty and inequalities.
UNDP works in more than 170 countries and territories, helping to achieve the eradication of poverty, and the reduction of inequalities and exclusion. We help countries to develop policies, leadership skills, partnering abilities, institutional capabilities and build resilience in order to sustain development results.
World Urban Campaign
In April 2013, SDI officially joined the World Urban Campaign, a lobby and advocacy platform on sustainable urbanization for “Better City, Better Life,” coordinated by UN-HABITAT. The World Urban Campaign brings together partners from across sectors. It is designed to facilitate international cooperation, and acts as platform to converge organizations in order to collaborate on solutions and build consensus towards a new urban agenda for the Habitat III conference that is expected to take place in 2016.
Y Care International is the international relief and development agency of the YMCA movement in the UK and Ireland. We work with YMCAs and other youth organisations around the world, to help disadvantaged and vulnerable young people enrich their lives and to build a more just world, free from poverty.