India, Kenya and South Africa are arguably the most frequently referenced Federations in the SDI network – both internally and externally. This is the result of a combination of factors, including the geopolitical space occupied by these three countries. Equally important is the scale of the 3 Federations in terms of the number of settlements, number of members and the experience and capacity of the leadership at settlement, city and national level. Kenya is especially important, since unlike South Africa and India, the slum dwellers in Kenya work in an environment in which urban development policy is still fluid and where opportunities for grassroots impact seem relatively positive for now.
All SDI affiliates share a number of common features – such as the central participation of women, the mobilisation through savings, the use of community based information management as advocacy tools, and so on. This sometimes leads to the misconception that all Federations are replicas of one another. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This week we focus on SDI’s Kenya alliance as it proceeds with pre-project planning for a number of highly relevant upgrading projects in Nairobi, Thika and Kisumu. This concentration of the spotlight on our Kenya partners simultaneously provides interesting information about these important activities and demonstrates how SDI affiliates are both similar and different. Savings schemes and networks in Kenya share a great deal with those in other countries but are by no means identical. Context has moulded and shaped them, creating modifications of a theoretical prototype into significant differentiations. The Kenya alliance is especially important in this respect because it has celebrated diversity without discarding the central purposes of its various organisational forms. Its structure bends and reshapes itself in order to respond creatively to external realities, but its purpose remains the same.