SDI Council affirms program of in situ upgrading, community planning, learning

by James Tayler


By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat

SDI renewed its commitment to a program of community-driven slum upgrading, planning, and learning, at the meeting of its slum dweller governing Council. The gathering of over 40 leaders of urban poor organizations from 13 countries in Africa and Asia, took place on 2 to 4 March in Nairobi, Kenya.

The Council is the governing body of SDI, and is made up entirely of community-based leaders in affiliated “mature” federations. During the meeting, the Council agreed that the SDI network should support a sustained process of action-based learning around in situ slum upgrading.

In many countries in the Global South, much of housing development that is designed for the poor, provides shelter at the periphery of cities, and often uproots communities. Further, these developments tend not to put a dent in the scale of informal housing that accommodates the poor in cities.

SDI’s Urban Poor Fund International (UPFI) provides finance for projects that affiliate poor people’s federations undertake to build a practical set of experiences for community-driven urban development. As a program of SDI, the Council agreed that UPFI must focus on projects that prioritize in situ solutions, including incremental provision of services and shelter improvements.

UPFI funds will also be used to support the emergence of “centers of learning” in seven cities throughout the SDI network. This means that federations will use funds to create a set of projects at sufficient scale to show how people’s organizations can work with their governments to begin addressing the monumental challenges of urban growth, and prevalence of slums.

Methods of community-driven development planning are an integral part of the upgrading projects that SDI-affiliated communities pursue. The Council therefore approved a program of exchanges around large-scale enumeration, self-survey, and mapping activities that are taking place in six cities in Uganda, Lilongwe (Malawi), and in the Philippines.

The Council also approved the induction of its 14th member, the Uganda Slum Dwellers Federation, which is active in 6 cities in the country (Arua, Jinja, Kabale, Kampale, Mbale, and Mbarara). Further, the Sierra Leone Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor will be invited with observer status at the next Council meeting.

The two-day Council meeting included a meeting of the Board to approve the Council resolutions, and was followed by a one day meeting of all the federations to discuss community-driven methodologies for monitoring and evaluation of their work. It was agreed that, in order to reach meaningful scale, federations have to continuously be self-critical of their methods for capturing learning, monitoring work, and then evaluating results.