SDI Co-developed a Working Paper on Locally Led Adaptation

As part of our climate justice work, SDI co-developed a working paper entitled “Locally Led Adaptation From Principles to Practice”, highlighting the value of Locally Led Adaptation (LLA) in managing climate risks faced by local communities and Indigenous peoples.

The paper was co-developed by a consortium of global partners working together to deliver the Adaptation Action Coalition’s Locally Led Adaptation Workstream. These partners are Centro para la Autonomía y Desarrollo de Los Pueblos Indígenas (Center for the Autonomy and Development of Indigenous Peoples), the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute, ENDA, Huairou Commission, the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, the International Institute for Environment and Development, Save the Children Australia, Slum Dwellers International, SouthSouthNorth, and World Resources Institute.

Presently, LLA recognises that there is value in local knowledge and expertise in addressing climate risk and ensures that local actors on the front lines of the climate emergency have equitable access to resources to build adequate resilience.

READ |The Worlds Poorest Have the Strongest Resilience, yet Their Voices Remain Unheard

May 2022, saw more than 70 organisations and governments across the globe endorsing eight Principles for Locally Led Adaptation which provide foundational guidance for an approach to adaptation which emphasises priorities on the ground.

There is a growing focus placed on ensuring that adaptation finance is accessible by grassroots players. Simultaneously, there is a growing body of knowledge and research offering guidance for the implementation of LLA and underscoring it as a global priority.

What the working paper addresses

The working paper SDI co-developed, reviews 21 examples of approaches to implementing the Principles for LLA through interventions, programmes and policies across Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and the Caribbean and Latin America. The aforementioned paper provides real-life examples of how funders and governments can follow through on their commitments to fast-track and scale the implementation of LLA. Governance and financing processes that prioritise the agency of grassroots actors are vital for LLA. Adapting these processes to redress power imbalances and emphasise local priorities can be complex and challenging. This paper provides examples of approaches to make these shifts and demystify funders and governments’ steps to operationalise and scale adaption.

Subsequently, these approaches can be utilised to turn investments and commitments to LLA into policies, practices and actions to ensure that grassroots partners have equitable access to climate finance and are the centre of decision-making processes.

The Principles for Putting LLA into Practice

Principle 1: Devolving decision-making to the lowest appropriate level
Principle 2: Addressing structural inequalities faced by women, youth, children, people living with disabilities, the displaced, Indigenous peoples, and marginalized ethnic groups
Principle 3: Providing patient and predictable funding that can be accessed more easily
Principle 4: Investing in local capabilities to leave an institutional legacy
Principle 5: Building a robust understanding of climate risk and uncertainty
Principle 6: Flexible programming and learning
Principle 7: Ensuring transparency and accountability
Principle 8: Collaborative action and investment 

Recommended Strategies for Advancing LLA

Based on the review of 21 projects, the paper found recommended strategies for advancing LLA.

Early on funders and governments should pursue opportunities to scale LLA by increasing the amount of climate finance it allocates, improving the quality of finance by making it more accessible and flexible for grassroots actors, and adjusting governance and decision-making processes to ensure that those actors have agency in adaptation planning and implementation.

Undoubtedly, the Principles for LLA must be addressed holistically to ensure that adaptation investments, policies and interventions enable and scale LLA in a multitude of ways simultaneously.

Funders and governments are to commit to advancing active learning and research on LLA processes, outcomes and impacts to continue to fill knowledge and evidence gaps and improve the collective understanding of best practices for equitable and effective LLA.

We encourage funders and governments to ensure social equity is integrated into LLA efforts. This may include building such considerations into standard practices, processes and decisions, and investing in mechanisms which are specifically designed to support groups that experience disproportional vulnerabilities.

SDI co-developed this working paper alongside incredible partners. W encourage engagement around the implementation of the Principles of LLA and its importance in pro-poor urban development and ensuring grassroots players are at the fore of climate change solutions. 

Read the full report here

SDI case studies featured in the UCLG GOLD Report

SDI case studies from across the network have been featured in the latest United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) sixth edition of the GOLD Report

The report was jointly produced by UCLG and Knowledge in Action for Urban Equality (KNOW). The report aims to understand the state of urban and territorial inequalities worldwide and call for a step change in local and regional governments’ place in tackling the global challenge. 

Over the past year, SDI has worked across our network to add to knowledge bases in informal settlement upgrading, urban sanitation equality and resilience. Several case studies from our network feature in the report, which has now been published.

Read the full report here

SDI Case Studies 

Experiences in informal settlement upgrading: Zimbabwe & Namibia

Two cases of community-driven informal settlement upgrading were exemplified in Freedom Square, an informal settlement in Gobabis, Namibia and Dzivarasekwa Extension, and an informal settlement in Harare, Zimbabwe.

In Gobabis, the Community Land Information Program is utilised by the community to drive data collection with the methodology which was developed by the Namibian SDI alliance to obtain community-driven enumeration and mapping data. This they use to negotiate alternatives to proposed relocations by their municipality. The negotiations resulted in no families being relocated from their sites and a total of 1110 households obtained land, totalling 4173 inhabitants in total.

In Harare, the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation, Dialogue on Shelter for the Homeless Trust, the City of Harare and the Central Government are all working together to ensure the construction is ongoing to secure land for 480 families. These families are the primary beneficiaries of land for housing development to ensure secure tenure and the provision of adequate water and sanitation facilities among a range of other essential services.

READ MORE: Voicing the urban poor: New report highlights experiences from an energy justice programme

Developing pathways to urban sanitation equality – a case study of the simplified sewerage solution in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania 

The Centre for Community Initiatives (CCI) in Tanzania, funded by SDI and UCL, implemented simplified sewerage systems as a pilot in Mji Mpya – Vinguguti in Ilala Municipality in the city of Dar-es-Salaam. The sewerage systems are a sewerage network constructed using smaller diameter pipes laid at a shallow depth and a flatter gradient than conventional sewers. Currently, there are 170 toilets which have been connected to the simplified sewerage network which also feeds into waste ponds for processing. 

The project highlights the importance of community participation, the critical need for collaboration of actors, the great opportunity for the utility to scale up the innovations and the crucial role of the local government in the processes.

Find these and other case studies are featured in the latest UCLG GOLD VI Report. 

Read the full report here

Voicing the urban poor: New report highlights experiences from an energy justice programme

A new report published in the Field Actions Science Reports aims at voicing the urban poor and their experiences from the Energy Justice Programme.

Authors David Sheridan the Slum Dwellers International (SDI) Energy Justice Programme (EJP) coordinator, Mwaura Njogu a Renewable Energy Engineering Consultant, Andrew Maki the Co-director of Justice and Empowerment Initiatives (JEI) and Frederick Agyemang the Project coordinator EJP Ghana all work within the SDI Network.

SDI is committed to project typologies that produce learning at scale around clean energy access as part of our informal settlement upgrading agenda and empower the urban poor. Since 2014, we have been actively involved in the field of access to energy in Africa, India and the Philippines with our SDI Energy Justice Programme leverages community-led collection of disaggregated energy access data, community empowerment programmes and pro-poor access models. With the growing need for access in slums, our model offers bottom-up, innovative and adaptable methodological options for catalysing pro-poor change at settle, city and global levels.

Read the full report here.

The EJP is a demonstrative case study of SDI’s actions to improve access to essential services in slums and thereby empower the urban poor. The programme uses all of SDI’s tools, including the Know Your City (KYC) data collection programme, to generate grassroots and tailor-made solutions to energy access in slums. 

Energy for the urban poor

Energy is a key condition for developing essential services in these neighbourhoods. SDI’s EJP has active projects in 12 countries, namely Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia, India and the Philippines which has enabled affiliate federations to provide improved energy access. Approximately 25 000 distinct households with nearly 100 000 beneficiaries in total benefitting from the improvements. 

According to the report, lack of access to sustainable energy is a significant barrier to slum development. The EJP sets out to leverage SDI’s core rituals of community-led settlement profiling, women-led savings groups and peer-to-peer exchanges to develop innovative solutions to critical service delivery gaps and scalable energy access projects to integrate into wider settlement upgrading programmes.

Data products produced as outputs from the EJP, such as this report, are vital tools for influencing and negotiating with key stakeholders.

The longstanding work of SDI’s Kenyan affiliate with the Nairobi City County Government (NCCG) resulted in the Mukuru informal settlements being designated as a Special Planning Area in 2017. This breakthrough subsequently demonstrated the application of community mobilisation methodologies and participatory approaches to slum re-development planning and implementation. In collaboration with NCCG, Kenya’s SDI affiliate coordinated the work of developing a comprehensive spatial plan for the redevelopment of Mukuru.

This model is a great example of utilising SDI’s work as evidence and negotiating with influential decision-makers. 

The report highlights, that SDI’s Energy Justice Programmes ratchet effect which reveals that the evidence can be used to influence decision-makers, and cooperate with them (public, private, local and international), which can result in the adoption of contextual legal frameworks, just like Mukuru SPA and may assist in guaranteeing the institutionalised co-creation process in the long-term. 


The report emphasises some key learnings in terms of project design and impacts, which were identified between the inception of the EJP and now. According to the reports, there is no “one size fits all” approach to a project. The authors do not propose a unique solution to each context, but rather a strong methodology to legitimise each energy solution emerging from and required in a specific context. 

Savings groups can fund solar energy systems. Within the SDI network, savings groups have been particularly adapted to the improvement of energy access in African slums. These groups can be a practical financing solution, especially for the EJP, with the model itself being easily replicable and adaptable. 

Training community members on the technical aspects of solar systems is integral to the implementation plan. 

Solar energy systems have great spillover effects. The transition to low-carbon energy systems is increasingly considered an important point in delivering energy for urban-poor communities. This recognises that communities must play an instrumental role in the implementation and management of these energy transitions. Thus far transitions have been slow, but by including communities to drive and co-create the opportunities for energy transitions, the adoption of innovative technologies may be accelerated, and more inclusive in terms of policy development and it enables capacity and skills building to support new and current economic activities. 

Download the full report.