Media Making an Impact: #ChangeOurPicture

Originally published on urbanet, SDI presents the work of youth slum dwellers across the SDI network linked to documenting issues linked to resilience, livelihoods and housing.

A photo competition called for urban residents in African countries to portray how they use media to change the narrative on their environment. Slum Dwellers International presents some beautiful results of the #ChangeOurPicture competition.

The CoHabitat Network in partnership with Slum Dwellers International (SDI) and The Bartlett Development Planning Unit announced a photo competition for urban citizens across Africa, aimed at documenting how they make media to make change.

Presented with a theme and using a cell phone camera, the competition portrays the innovative ways in which communities document their history as well as the histories of how homes and cities are built. Communication through media thus becomes instrumental to approaches to development and social change.

The power of grassroots movements is reflected in the structure of the competition: “Federations” from informal settlements organise around collective goals they identify. Having agreed on the need of a platform for creative storytellers to document their lives, the Federations, in partnership with the CoHabitat Network, initiated the competition.

Own Your Narratives

“Nothing for us, without us” is a slogan of the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) across the SDI network. This slogan serves as a reminder that grassroots must remain at the forefront of planning and that it is essential for residents to own the narratives that emerge from their communities.

Informal settlements are hubs of resilience and innovation. When media emerges as a key mode of communication, it highlights the dynamic lives of those living in informal settlements, constituting an opportunity to shift the conversation.

All across Africa, people are building their cities and are documenting the social production of habitat. Documentation –for example through photography – recognises these processes as meaningful, thus acknowledging these people’s actions as contributions to society.

Pictures Telling Stories

To make media to make change, it is essential to recognise the power media has across languages and cultures. As a photography competition relying on cell phones, #ChangeOurPicture is open to anyone, including those living in informal settlements, across Africa. Photos serve as a tool of storytelling; they capture informal spaces as spaces full of innovation and resilience.


Small teams across Africa submitted photographs with captions that were taken with cell phones. They focus on themes that speak to the varied landscapes and most pertinent issues of those living informally. These captions serve as snapshots of a larger story of their lives, challenges, and their perseverance within urban slum environments.

In order to encourage diversity of submissions, when the competition was first announced, there was no theme. The process of establishing themes emerged from a consultative process with youth media makers from across the SDI network. The below photographs are a sampling of the submissions – and of the immense talent of media makers across Africa, narrating the beauty and the pain of life within informal settlements.

They say my neighborhood is informal but we have the joy of life. Despite the determination of the defenders, our goal scorer keeps his cool.
Federation in Burkina Faso

Money & Livelihoods

I’ve always believed that one woman’s success can only help another woman’s success…… You will be defined not just by what you achieve, but by how you survive.. © Bernadett Nkhoma, Federation in Zambia


Before the cock go wake up, every soul and spirit don wake up de look 4 wetin to chop up and down. Na wetin go make you real hustler for lag nai be that oo, as Dem de talk am, no food for lazy man. We no go give up becos say pepper never red. Last last we go de alright.
© Nasu Abdulaziz, Nigeria Slum/Informal Settlement Federation

Courage & Heroism

“As a young producer, I want to put a smile on someone’s face with my work through storytelling. What keeps me going is the people, their story and self motivation. My favorite quote, “Life is a battlefield, don’t rest until you win the battle.” – Nasu Abdulaziz
© Shawn Okechukwu Samuel, Nigeria Slum/Informal Settlement Federation

All submissions to the #ChangeOurPicture competition can be viewed here.

Slums Made Better Together: Impact and Continued Learning

With innovative media being published by grassroots communities, this competition seeks to continue learning and encourage this type of knowledge dissemination.

A selection committee working on civic urban media will engage those with the most creative photography, identifying the finalists that will move forward in the competition process. The grand prize to be won in this competition is the opportunity to participate in an exchange with other media makers from across the continent. The finalists will receive the training and the resources needed to develop their photo series into a documentary.

The work will continue to be shared with partners and stakeholders around the world, as a traveling exhibition that engages the world with pertinent issues such as climate, informal slum upgrading, livelihoods – and the shared, social production of communities.

2019 Community-Led Habitat Award for Africa: Call for Submissions

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We invite you to learn more about the 2019 Community-Led Habitat Award for Africa, an initiative of the CoHabitat Network, and submit your project today!

Deadline: 31 March 2019

In Africa, millions are faced with insecure and inadequate housing. But around the continent, there are inspiring examples of how communities are developing innovative and affordable housing solutions and upgrading their neighbourhoods sustainably.

The Community-Led Habitat Awards, an initiative of the CoHabitat Network, recognise inspiring community-driven habitat solutions from across the continent with the aim to advocate for the expansion of community-led urban development and housing.

Share your story to be part of a growing network of actors securing housing rights and implementing people-led habitat solutions.

Gain visibility and public exposure to advocate for the expansion of community-led housing.

Learn from your peers.

Participate in the World Habitat Awards.

Awards will be given in the following three categories:

  • Best Project Award
  • Best Video Award
  • Best Partnership Award

More information regarding each category is available below. Submissions are welcome in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

Visit to apply!

Download the Tutorial here.

Deadline: 31 March 2019

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Award for best community-led habitat / upgrading project.

Open to all resident-led groups or grassroots organizations working on issues of habitat and the built environment. The nominated project must be already implemented and must have resulted in changes to the built environment (e.g. housing, infrastructure, public space).

Submission Process: Create project profile on; upload project information, and photos, and submit.

Selection Process: Two-step selection process:

  1. Shortlist of projects by committee of SDI representatives, community leaders, and academia
  2. Shortlisted projects will be contacted for additional info/questions if needed.

Prize: 2-3 winning projects will be invited to the CoHabitat Network regional hub hosted at the UN Habitat Governing Council, 27 – 31 May in Nairobi to present winning projects and to share experiences with peers. The winning projects will be have the chance to enter the shortlist stage of the prestigious World Habitat Awards, organized by our partner World Habitat.

Visit to apply!

Watch the Tutorial here or download it here.

Deadline: 31 March 2019

More information:

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Award for best video documentation of issues related to built environment & informality.

Are you a young person living in an informal settlement? Have you made a film to draw attention to your settlement and how to overcome its challenges? Do you want to win a prize for the Best Community Activist Film and be flown to Nairobi to receive it?  Then enter the 2019 Community-Led Habitat Awards ASAP!

An award for best video documentation of issues related to built environment & informality open to all Know Your City TV teams and any other and other civic media teams for documentation of issues related to the built environment and urban informality.

Submission Process: Create a partner profile on for the your youth media team; upload video and link video to project profile.

Project Assessment Criteria:

  • Technical quality of the production: Quality of the production in terms of sound, camerawork and editing
  • Creative approach to storytelling
  • Social impact: call to action or take-home message

Selection Process: The public will be able to vote for their favourite Video on between April 1st and 25th.

Prize: Invitation to the CoHabitat Network regional hub hosted at the UN Habitat Governing Council, 27 – 31 May in Nairobi to present winning project and to share experiences with peers. The winning team will produce a short video during the regional hub to be shared via all CoHabitat Network digital platforms.

Visit to apply!

Watch the Tutorial here or download it here.

Deadline: 31 March 2019

More information:

Project Call-Partnership


Award for best partnership between a community-based organization of the urban poor & local government.

Organized communities of the urban poor are invited to nominate public authorities or government officials for best partnerships, policies, public programs, MoUs, upgrading projects/plans that demonstrate active community participation and partnership.

Submission Process: Create a partner profile for the federation, support NGO (and public authority) on for; upload description on the Partnership.

Assessment Criteria:

  • Community leadership: What was the degree of community participation in formulating the policy, program, MoU related to this partnership?
  • Scalability: Is the partnership more of a one-time subsidy or a sustainable financial mechanism that would allow for large-scale impact?
  • Replicability: Can the Partnership be replicated in other countries or cities or is it very context-specific?)
  • Leverage: To what degree has this partnership leveraged additional resources for the community, e.g. technical support, land, funds for housing / upgrading projects, etc.
  • Impact: What has the impact of this partnership been to date on the lived experience / built environment of the urban poor?
  • Political independence: Is the Partnership dependent on a particular political setting, government official, or momentum, or is it formalised to the extent that it can they be sustained through political changes?

Selection Process: A committee of SDI representatives, community leaders, and academia will assess the submitted Partnerships.

Prize: Invitation to UN Habitat Governing Council, 27 – 31 May in Nairobi, and to CoHabitat Network regional hub to present winning project and to share experiences with peers. The winning partnerships will be featured in a short video produced during the event by SDI’s winning media / KYC.TV team.

Visit to apply!

Watch the Tutorial here or download it here.

Deadline: 31 March 2019

More information 


CoHabitat Network is a network of community-led housing organisations and allies from across the world, working together to implement housing rights through collective, non-speculative, people-led solutions. We want to make community-led housing more widespread and attainable, so that communities are empowered to improve their homes, neighbourhoods and lives.

Slum Dwellers International (SDI) is the regional focal point for the CoHabitat Network in Africa and hosts of the first edition of the Community Habitat Award.

SDI is a network of community-based organisations of the urban poor in over 30 countries and hundreds of cities and towns across Africa, Asia and Latin America. In each country where SDI has a presence, affiliate organisations come together at the community, city and national level to form federations of the urban poor that drive a bottom-up change agenda for inclusive cities. The federations comprise thousands of the most vulnerable women, men, and youth who are mobilized around dynamic savings schemes networked to drive a collective, bottom-up change agenda for inclusive and resilient cities and to influence global development. Federations use tools and strategies such as daily savings, peer-to-peer exchanges, community profiling, enumeration, and mapping to organize a critical mass of urban poor communities in cities of the Global South – enabling them to engage with local and national government as partners in development rather than beneficiaries, and to shift development agendas to be more inclusive and pro-poor and ultimately more resilient and sustainable. Organized communities co-produce citywide strategies for securing tenure and increasing access to basic services, housing, and livelihoods with their local and national governments.

The World Habitat Awards recognize and highlight innovative, outstanding, and sometimes revolutionary housing ideas, projects, and programs from across the world. Every year, two winners receive £10,000 each and a trophy, presented at a global UN-Habitat event.

urbaMonde is a non-profit organization supporting cooperative housing solutions in Switzerland and France and facilitating the CoHabitat Network globally. is a collaborative and interactive database of community-led housing and habitat projects. Join the network and interact with a growing community of peers!

More information:


How to apply :

Download a tutorial on how to apply here.

Download the project call here: