In Malawi, Documenting the Outcomes of a Social Process

by James Tayler

Mapping exercise in Mtandire

By Noah Schermbrucker, SDI Secretariat 

SDI reporting procedures need to capture tangible city-changing outputs that flow from community centered processes. While describing the social process is important, mature affiliates need to demonstrate the impact made through engagements and partnerships. Indicators of these impacts include: community participation in citywide planning and decision-making, the accessing and leveraging of resources from outside sources, the impacting of resource flows and policy at the citywide, regional or national level, formal MoU’s with government, and scalable slum upgrading projects. Of course, the social processes at the core of SDI’s work are the foundations on which these changes are built.  They are part of a continuum whose outputs create conditions for more inclusive pro-poor cities.

Reporting within the SDI network is often weighted towards describing the social process. For emerging federations and affiliates, strengthening the core SDI rituals will encompass a large percentage of their work. But for mature affiliates, reporting should capture the concrete outputs of strong SDI rituals and processes. The below excerpt from a report by the Malawi SDI affiliate NGO demonstrates how linkages between social processes and concrete outcomes fit within a citywide and national strategy of inclusive change. A number of brief observations follow the report. 

The collection of enumeration data in Senti informal settlement, Lilongwe, has demonstrated the capacity of the community around data collection, capture and analysis. The settlement has been useful as a learning ground for communities from both Lilongwe and other districts all over the country with regular exchange visits taking place. The settlement is currently involved in improving its roads and footpaths as well as waste management using community-generated resources in the form of a Community Development Fund. The Senti Community Fund, the first of its kind in the country was based on the SDI (Federation) norm of savings but located at the community scale. This may pave the path for leveraging further resources from local and central Government. Each household is contributing MK100 (0.3 USD) to the fund per month that will be used by the community according to the needs identified in their development strategy.

Mapping exercise in Mtandire

This quarter also saw the settlements of Chinsapo and Mtandire finally negotiating with the Lilongwe City Council to implement community centered projects. These included the use of local women contractors for construction works and community monitors in fund and quality control. All the labour was also sourced from within the two settlements.  Construction included new water kiosks (and repair of dilapidated facilities), grading of roads and footpaths, construction of footpaths and storm water drains. Neighboring communities came to learn from the works undertaken. The Lilongwe communities learnt from their counterparts in Blantyre where a project funded by the African Development Bank (ADB) supports community contractors to implement water and sanitation infrastructure projects. 

Water point in Mtandire


In Blantyre, Nancholi-Cluster 1, presented their community development plans to the Blantyre City Council (BCC) through the Engineering Department. The department certified the infrastructure plans and promised to provide technical personnel and assistance. Learning exchanges were key to passing on modes of best practice. Furthermore, the establishment of a community development fund by the Senti community has led to many visiting communities around Lilongwe and Zomba considering the same option.

Informal settlements in the cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Zomba made significant strides in settlement planning. Collaboration with the planning school at the University of Malawi-Polytechnic was a significant step in this process. The university has committed to providing annual planning support and studios – with a new settlement selected this year. The project has opened up doors to new possibilities and avenues for constructive engagement with other stakeholders & directly impacts future planners. 

The Malawi Alliance also engaged in discussions with the Ministry of Land and Housing and the Department of Surveys for the provision of satellite images to aid the process of mapping and community planning- the more detailed images will greatly assist the planning outputs and capacities of communities. The members of The Parliamentary Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure were lobbied to support the establishment of small slum upgrading projects. The Parliamentary Committee supported this initiative and requested a private members bill to be drafted. 

The Tenure Dialogue Session held in Lilongwe provided a platform for the urban poor and other urban stakeholders to discuss tenure security for the poor. Key to the meeting was the Ministry of Land and Housing who announced the process of drafting the Malawi Urban Policy as well as sensitization of MPs on the proposed revised land bill. The Participatory Budgeting Process started by Blantyre City Council (BCC) created a forum where the prospects of the 2013-2014 budget were discussed. 

Collective budgeting allowed communities to realize that Constituency Development Fund (CDF) was being underutilized by their Members of Parliament (MPs). The communities have lined up priorities, but lack funds.  Communities started engagements with individual MPs to discuss ways of further utilizing these untapped funds in line with their development priorities. A National Steering Committee on Slum upgrading was initiated comprising of Government Officials, CCODE, and relevant stakeholder. This body is expected to assist with advocacy at the highest levels of Government. 

The information captured in the report speaks directly to a national strategy with internal learning and focused exchanges as key components in fostering replication (e.g. Initiating settlement funds, sanitation provision). The report illustrates how the federation has incrementally built political relationships and accessed resource flows within the city. The linkages between different cities and processes underscore a cogent national strategy for slum upgrading rather then a singular, and uncoordinated approach.

On closer examination, and in discussions with the Malawian federation, it is clear that the alliance wishes to create citywide systems into which newly leveraged resources and capital can flow. For example sanitation loans through the African Development Bank are channeled and managed through a community based system with residents applying along certain criteria and loan repayment monitored through appropriate checks and balances. It then becomes a matter of channeling political and economic support towards proven community based systems. This opens up massive potential for scale through attracting government funds and other external resources.