Know Your City Campaign Launches in Latin America

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*Desplácese hacia abajo para español*

SDI is excited to announce that in 2018 we will support organized urban poor communities in Latin America looking to use community-led profiling and mapping to catalyze dialogue with government or other authorities to improve the lives of the poor. Small support grants for this work will be available to organization who show that organized urban poor communities are working toward one or more of the following outcome level changes in their settlement or city:

  • Improved public health and safety
  • Improved livelihoods
  • Improved land tenure security
  • Improved strategic influence of the urban poor

We invite community-based organizations, local NGOs and other entities in Latin America to identify organized informal settlement communities who may need support, and reflect on how profiling and mapping could advance their planning, negotiation or implementation efforts.

Summary of Opportunity

  • Approximately 10 grants to support community groups proposing to undertake community led informal settlement profiling and mapping in order to start initiatives that will improve the lives of the urban poor and engage local and national governments and/or other potential collaborators in community led urban processes.
  • Maximum grant size of $20,000; additional funds can be provided by the community and/or other sources.
  • Use of Know Your City (KYC) profiling tools (and support for adaptation of these to meet local context and purpose of profiling), use of KYC platform, increased visibility as part of the KYC campaign, identification of possible new community groups in Latin American countries; and networking with other community groups in the SDI network.
  • Eligible applicants must be community-based organizations, local non-government organizations, or local authorities supporting organized urban poor communities in Latin American countries.
  • Opportunity to connect with SDI urban poor social movements in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

To apply for pre-selection, please complete the application concept note and submit to before midnight on April 28, 2018.

The application concept note is available in English and Spanish here.

Founded in 1996, SDI is a transnational network of the urban poor bringing together over a million federated slum dwellers in 30 countries on 3 continents. The federations comprise thousands of saving groups networked at the settlement, city and national level to collectively drive a bottom-up change agenda for inclusive and resilient cities. Federations use strategies such as daily savings, peer-to-peer exchange, community profiling, enumeration, and mapping to organize a critical mass of urban poor communities in cities of the Global South. The SDI network places a special focus on the role of women as key drivers of this change.

An initiative of SDI and its partners, Know Your City is a groundbreaking global campaign for participatory pro-poor, people-centered urban governance. KYC unites organized slum dwellers and local governments in partnerships anchored by community-led informal settlement profiling, enumeration and mapping. The campaign ushers in a new era for slum community dialogue and collaborative planning with governments. KYC holds potential to guide not only local governments, but national and international policies, programs and investments at scale, and to contribute significantly to managing the persistent social, economic, environmental and political risks facing cities and nations. 

Please contact for more information.



SDI se complace en anunciar que durante 2018 apoyará a comunidades organizadas de pobres urbanos en América Latina para que emprendan proyectos de perfilamiento y mapeo que fortalezcan el diálogo con gobiernos y otras autoridades con el propósito de mejorar las condiciones de vida de los más pobres. Para ello KYC apoyará con una pequeña subvención financiera a organizaciones de base empeñadas en mejorar su asentamiento, barrio o ciudad en aspectos como:

  • Salud pública y seguridad;
  • Medios de subsistencia;
  • Seguridad de la tenencia de la tierra;
  • Influencia estratégica sobre el desarrollo urbano

Las comunidades seleccionadas tendrán la oportunidad de relacionarse con las federaciones de la red SDI para efectos del aprendizaje entre pares.

Invitamos a organizaciones de base, ONGs, y otras entidades de América Latina a identificar comunidades que podrían participar en KYC, y reflexionar sobre cómo esta participación fortalecería su capacidad de proponer, negociar o ejecutar iniciativas desde la base.

Para participar en la preselección, por favor completen el documento de concepto y envíenlo a   antes de medianoche del 28 de abril de 2018.

El documento de concepto es disponible en idioma inglés y español aquí.

SDI es una red internacional de federaciones de pobres urbanos fundada en 1996, e integrada por más de un millón de habitantes de asentamientos precarios en 30 países de 3 continentes. Al interior de las federaciones, miles de grupos de ahorro impulsan colectivamente en sus asentamientos, ciudades y países, iniciativas que “desde la base” generen ciudades más inclusivas y resilientes. Emplean estrategias tales como ahorro diario, intercambios entre pares y confección de perfiles, catastros y mapas de los barrios informales con el propósito de consolidar una red de comunidades organizadas, con presencia y capacidad para influir positivamente en el desarrollo de las ciudades del sur del mundo. La red SDI da especial importancia al papel de las mujeres como motores claves en este cambio.

La iniciativa Know Your City KYC (Conoce tu Ciudad) es una innovadora campaña de alcance mundial que SDI ha puesto en marcha para promover un desarrollo urbano que no solo privilegie a los más pobres, sino además los incluya efectivamente  en la toma de decisiones. KYC favorece la asociación entre las organizaciones comunitarias y los gobiernos locales al apoyar iniciativas de preparación de perfiles, catastros y mapas de los asentamientos informales, lideradas por los propios habitantes. Además de fomentar el   diálogo y colaboración directa entre las comunidades y los gobiernos locales, KYC ha demostrado tener un gran potencial para incidir en las políticas, programas e inversiones urbanas a nivel nacional e internacional, y así contribuir de manera significativa a un mejor manejo de los riesgos sociales, económicos, ambientales y políticos que enfrentan las ciudades y los países.

Por favor, consulta para más información.

The Challenges & Potential of Innovative Funding Models


**Cross posted from a live chat on** 

Comments by Benjamin Bradlow, SDI 

Good afternoon everyone. My name is Ben Bradlow, and I’m working with Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI), a network of community-based organizations of the urban poor in 33 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. One of the key aspects of our work is to develop mechanisms by which urban poor communities and networks can access finance, in order to put together projects that build more inclusive political processes in their cities and countries. A large aspect of this work was the subject of Katia Savchuk’s recent article on this site about SDI’s Urban Poor Fund International (UPFI):

A central pre-occupation for SDI as a network of grassroots urban social movements, is that the institutions of international development aid need to open up to the voice and agency of the poor. In providing resources to such a network, development aid institutions are acknowledging that the physical outcomes of development — eg. improved access to water and sanitation, housing, land, etc — are most sustainable when tied to improvements in the influence and inclusion of urban poor organizations in the governance of cities.

Look forward to participating in this chat.


A key question that we often ask ourselves is, “how do we understand the nature of impact and scale in our work?” The challenge, then, is to articulate political process of change. By “political,” I mean in terms of changing power relations, and not really in terms of formal political parties. A physical project is never just significant as a physical project. So much of development aid gets stuck in the weeds of single projects that can never be replicated. What we try to do is pursue projects that can attract other actors, especially in local governments, to think WITH communities about how to change the way that they work to include communities in how projects and programs get conceived, planned, financed, and implemented. By seeking to change these institutional relationships, a single project can achieve a city-wide impact, or greater. This process is very hard to see without an appreciation of the political change that is a precondition for success. Political changes can take a very long time, and through very indirect routes.


Part of the challenge is in what both funders and NGOs are hoping to achieve. So much of this sector is hoping to achieve improvements in physical outcomes of development (eg. taps, toilets, houses, etc), but, on their own, NGOs can never take this to scale. So funding in this sector barely makes a dent in our existing framework for thinking about development success.

Meanwhile, the big actors — such as the private and public sectors — reach — or have the potential to reach – much greater scale in their activities, and serve quite different social functions. NGOs cannot replace these sectors, but they can be agents for drastic changes in how they work. Hence, metrics for evaluating aid funding need to appreciate the processes behind physical outcomes, in addition to the physical outcomes themselves.

A related point is to appreciate the differences between funding professional NGOs and grassroots or community-based social movements. So much of development aid is supposed to support people in poor communities, but so rarely do these very people have a voice in how the money reaches them, even when funding goes to local NGOs, and what they can do with it.


Accountability has to be a principle that is internal as well as external. A practice common in the SDI network is to have Federations (the networks of primarily women-led savings groups that are the backbone of SDI) from one or two countries “review” the work of another Federation. For example, Federations from Kenya and South Africa have traveled to Uganda, and vice versa. In such visits, communities from different countries share and learn from each other, while evaluating each other in a spirit of horizontal, mutual accountability, as opposed to stratified vertical approaches that are endemic to the donor-recipient relationship.

Once this kind of horizontal accountability is established, it then becomes much easier to communicate the authentic organizational priorities for accountability that need to exist between recipients and donors.


This is definitely a big challenge, and speaks to the need to consider the ways in which NGO professionals work with grassroots movements. Generally the need for NGO professional work as you describe it, can crowd out the creativity and leadership of community-based actors. We need to be very clear that NGO professionals need to work in ways in that support the priorities of the grassroots, and not dictate to people in such communities. In a sense the question is not what are the “new models that work better,” but what are the new kinds of relationships that lead to a more empowering system for grassroots movements.

This means re-imagining professional work such that it is in this supportive mold that empowers the poor to speak and decide for themselves, and does not encourage professional intervention in the lives of the poor based on what we think we know is “best.” In this sense, the current dominant modes of NGO work with grassroots movements too often replicate the vertical nature of power between donors and NGOs.


Thanks all for a great discussion and thanks for including SDI as part of it.