Lights, Camera, Impact: Youth Voices Reshaping Slums in Sierra Leone 

How can we harness the potential of young people in our Federation to ignite a wave of social transformation and shape a new era of grassroots advocacy and social impact for the network? 

In answer to a demand from the young members of the Sierra Leone Federation of the Rural and Urban Poor (FEDRUP), a 7-day immersive media-production course was held between 18 and 25 October 2023 at the FEDRUP resource centre in Freetown, Sierra Leonne. The course and graduation ceremony marked the official launch of the Sierra Leone KYC.TV chapter.  

The training program was led by James Tayler, SDI’s Programme Coordinator for Youth and Media, and Xola Mteto, KYCTV Media Officer. Additionally, co-facilitators from Kenya and Zambia were invited to share their expertise and diverse perspectives. From Kenya, John Kimani Thuo, a youth mentor in the Muungano’s Youth Mentors Category, brought extensive knowledge of federation rituals and organising. Jacob Omondi, an advocate in the Emerging Youth Category, showcased his storytelling skills through blogging and provided valuable perspectives on youth advocacy. Lizann Onyango Auma, a program officer responsible for Kisumu City, focused on addressing climate change and providing technical support to the youth and federation in Kisumu. From Zambia, Abednego “MacTavish” Chande, a dynamic media professional, and Royd Ndonga, a member of the KYC.TV Zambia team, joined as co-facilitators. Maryam Ibrahim, the communications lead at People’s Process on Housing and Poverty in Zambia, contributed expertise in co-creation and community engagement. 

The program unfolded in a progression and was structured across theory, technical, and practical sessions. The objectives included understanding the role of media in social movements, developing media skills, instilling ethical considerations, formulating media strategies, measuring impact, and fostering collaboration. The curriculum aimed to equip participants with various media production skills such as filmmaking, audio production, photography and digital campaign design. The program balanced theoretical understanding, technical training, and hands-on exercises, enabling participants to create meaningful content. 

”Collaborating with colleagues from different countries allowed us to appreciate the diversity of storytelling techniques and cultural perspectives,” shared Mohamed Mansaray, FEDRUP trainee.  

“We learned how cultural backgrounds shape narratives, and this knowledge helped us enhance our own storytelling approaches.  

Discussions surrounding media ethics and responsibility were enlightening. We delved into topics such as fact-checking, unbiased reporting, and avoiding sensationalism.  

 These discussions emphasised the importance of maintaining integrity and accountability in our media and filmmaking.  

The training provided a platform for networking and collaboration.  

We established valuable connections with activists from different countries, paving the way for potential future collaborations, co-productions, and knowledge-sharing opportunities.” 

Saudatu Kanu, also from Sierra Leone added: “The inspiring discussion about interview technique and the experience of directing made me understand how to go about collecting interview from my community members. My plan is to create more awareness among the community youths using KYC.TV and to share the knowledge that I learned.” 

Some of the difficult issues grappled with in the workshop included tough questions. How does the digital divide hinder the access and participation of marginalised communities in utilising social media for advocacy? Who owns an image and when can an image become exploitative? Can the power of social media truly drive sustainable social change and reshape the landscape of advocacy for social justice and equality for slum dwellers? 

“I took away several key points that I believe are crucial for our own media endeavours,” Mohammed reflected. 

“First and foremost, I was impressed by the remarkable growth that KYCTV has experienced in both Zambia and Kenya.  

I appreciate the openness with which you shared the challenges encountered throughout KYC.TV’s journey.  

The discussion on overcoming regulatory hurdles, addressing competition, and navigating technological advancements provided valuable insights into the complexities of the media landscape in Zambia and Kenya.  

It emphasised the importance of adaptability, resilience, and continuous innovation to stay relevant and thrive in a rapidly evolving industry.”  

With newfound skills, participants are poised to create lasting social change, but sustaining momentum and building a community remain imperative. Strategies for continued engagement, collaboration, and potential follow-up workshops were discussed.  The Siera Leone youth committed to building youth inclusion at FEDRUP and the ongoing work with SDI ally, Plan International, was flagged as a precedent setting project which should catalyse youth inclusion through locally led adaptation. Watch this space for details, as 2024 will undoubtedly be an eventful year for the KYC.TV team. 

Through compelling storytelling, engaging visuals, and interactive campaigns KYC.TV is becoming increasingly effective at communicating their message, connecting with local and global audiences, and driving meaningful action.  

By equipping the younger generation with the skills to effectively utilise film, photography, and other media channels, slum dwellers can ensure their voices resonate widely. Training young activists in media production not only enables the continuation of advocacy efforts but also cultivates a new wave of storytellers who can authentically convey the struggles and triumphs of their communities, ultimately contributing to the broader tapestry of social change.  

Just as the rain nourishes the earth, may these endeavours nurture positive change in every corner of our communities. 

#DignifiedUrbanLife Youth Summit: Intergenerational Dialogue and Music Unite to Fight Inequality

As the world marks the third anniversary of the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to come together and make sense of what happened and what we can learn from the experience.

SDI and Know Your City TV’s Youth Summit is bringing together youth and elders from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Kenya and South Africa to create a federation song for the #DignifiedUrbanLife campaign, which is set to launch this Friday the 31st of March.

This campaign aims to be a powerful platform for change and progress, providing a unique opportunity for different generations to share knowledge, ideas and experiences.

SDI and Know Your City TV’s Youth Summit

The SDI and Know Your City TV‘s Youth Summit seeks to bring together youth and elders to create a federation song for the #DignifiedUrbanLife campaign. This campaign is a response to the immense challenges exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly for youth living in informal settlements. Through the summit, the aim is to mobilise groups of women and young people to create a federation song, utilising the age-old medium of song to transmit knowledge and values.

#DignifiedUrbanLife Campaign

The federation song is a unique opportunity to bring together different generations to share knowledge, ideas and experiences. Through intergenerational dialogue, young people can learn from the wisdom and experience of the older generation, while the older generation can learn from the creativity and enthusiasm of youth. By combining the two perspectives, we aim to create a powerful platform for change and progress. The federation song is a unique opportunity for bringing together different generations to share knowledge, ideas and experiences. By coming together and collaborating, we can create a song that is both inspirational and motivating. It can be used to raise awareness of the challenges faced by people living in slums, while also providing a platform to inspire and empower them to come together and find sustainable solutions to the problems they face.

Our Workplan

The #DignifiedUrbanLife campaign includes a step-by-step guide for community mobilisation and communications strategy. Our Zimbabwe, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Kenya and South Africa affiliates appointed youth groups with experience in music production to lead the campaign. The steps include intergenerational dialogue, choir recording, youth remix, international collaboration and coordination, distribution, and monitoring, evaluation and outreach.

International Collaboration and Coordination

A small team from each country join us in Cape Town at the SDI Secretariat, bringing audio stems and demo along with behind-the-scenes videos, archive video, images, and documentation for a one-week hack-a-thon. At the hack-a-Thon, they will develop a targeted audience campaign strategy, coordinated media products, a policy shift strategy and plan of action, and a monitoring and evaluation framework.


Once the song, media products, and policy strategy have been developed, the next step is to promote and distribute them. This includes launching social media campaigns, creating music videos or other visuals to accompany the song, and distributing materials to the target groups.

Monitoring, Evaluation and Outreach

The final step is to monitor and evaluate the success of the campaign. This wil include tracking the reach of the campaign, as well as measuring the impact it has had on the target groups. We aim to do this through surveys, interviews, or other methods.

The #DignifiedUrbanLife campaign is an inspiring example of the power of intergenerational dialogue and music production to fight inequality. It provides a platform for different generations to come together and share knowledge, ideas and experiences, while also creating a powerful platform for change and progress.

This Friday the 31st of March marks the launch of this exciting campaign, and it is sure to be an inspiring event.

KYC.TV Online Training: Lessons Taught and Lessons Learnt

Towards a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for and by youth in slums

credit Nigerian Slum Informal Settlement Federation nose mask


Photo credit: Nigeria Media Team

With in person learning exchanges put on hold due to Covid-19 lockdowns, and in response to a demand from participants for training on social impact media, filmmaking and storytelling for change, KYC.TV hosted a number of well attended online learning exchanges between March and September 2020. Each training was hosted on Zoom and simultaneously livestreamed on Facebook to increase accessibility and reach. 

The first session, held in April, was a stock taking exercise to get participant input and better understand what the needs and demands for training were. As the coronavirus pandemic spread to more SDI affiliated countries, federations were confronted with fake news about various aspects of the pandemic. Before long, it became clear how dangerous and destructive these fake news reports were – misrepresenting the disease and increasing the risk of infection. In response, KYC.TV hosted its second online training session to help  participants identify and analyse suspected fake news posts.

As the borders closed and hard lockdowns were enforced in one country after another, participants began requesting updates from their peers in order to better understand their own situation and get a sense of what their futures could look like. This third KYC.TV session was very insightful and helped build pan-African solidarity amongst the youth participants. 



As the youth began to adjust to the “new normal” of living in various stages of lockdown, we attempted to bring “regular programming” back to the online training curriculum – turning our focus to storytelling methodologies that would continue to build the participants’ creative capacities. In response to a call for more formal training on documentary storytelling, KYC.TV’s fourth online training session was the first in a series of short courses in small and larger groups focused on new and innovative approaches to this accessible and impactful style. The second session in the documentary masterclass series focussed on story structure and how to move events forward in a film in a coherent and structured way that tells a story, has an emotional impact, and serves as a catalyst for change. 

Considering creative and resilient response to the economic impacts of lockdown became critical over this time. In the next session, KYC.TV provided a platform for young entrepreneurs from Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Nigeria and other countries across Africa to talk shop and encourage their peers to start their own businesses or professionalise their service offering.

As the programme picked up momentum and new participants joined, we felt it important to provide a special session for everyone to re-introduce themselves, building unity and relationships amongst the participants. Simultaneous translation of English to French in each session also attempted to bridge any barriers between participants. In an effort to alleviate the burden of translation, the team decided to offer some sessions in French. But one of the lessons emerging from this first phase of online trainings is that effective simultaneous translation is key. Going forward, there are plans to ensure that this is done in a more formal, professionalised way – ensuring that all participants are able to contribute and participate equally. 

Our next session took place in the wake of the upheaval and indignation that swept across the world following George Floyd’s murder by US police. We took this opportunity to explore themes of morality, ethics and reporting, and discussed the influence and impact of citizen journalism on society at large and challenged the participants to consider how they can use their own storytelling to catalyse change. 



In our last four sessions, we brought in special guests to present on a variety of storytelling tools and skills relevant to the participating youth. Special guests ranged from fellow federation youth to professionals from the film/media industry. Sessions seemed to really come alive with a co-presenter that was from the federation, while special guests from the industry drew an audience and helped inspire the participants to professionalize themselves. First, we spoke to Richard Bockarie from Sierra Leone, who described how they designed a mobile app for data collection and offered tips to participants about how to make their own mobile apps. In the Shooting for the Edit masterclass, we built on the previous masterclass training, exploring the different types of shots that should be captured on a shoot and how to use these in the final edit. Our next masterclass focused on cinematography, featuring special guest Leo Purman, a young cinematographer making waves in Los Angeles and New York. He offered practical tips and tricks for developing skills as a cinematographer and how to approach production to get the best results. The last masterclass, “Getting to Grips with Lightroom,” was co-hosted by KYCTV participant Sam Okechukwu from Nigeria, a rising star in the Lagos photography scene who excels at mobile phone photography and Lightroom manipulation. 

credit Know Your City TV Zambia Zambia Awareness


 Photo credit: Zambia KYC TV team

Major takeaways from this first phase of online training include the insights into how effectively peer peer training is, and the impact of featuring special guests from the industry. Going forward we will identify different tutors from federation media teams to prepare and co-present the content and continue to invite special guests. However, special guests need to answer specific questions from the participants and the participants themselves should have some say in who is invited to the MOOC.

A number of participants requested certifications. While this is an important psychological reward, on investigation we found potential employers or investors are actually less impressed with a certificate of participation than with a well worded and insightful letter of recommendation. Certificates simply state that the participant was on a course, while a letter of recommendation is far more personal, providing insight into the character and capability of the participants. As reward and motivation, we will issue letters of recommendation to participants who show work with distinction.

Credit Mukuru Youth Initiatives stay fresh maxresdefault


Photo credit: Mukuru Youth Initiative

We all also realised that it is important to adhere to the principle of learning by doing as outlined in the SDI theory of change. Retention of knowledge is very low if it is not linked to action. The MOOC will be designed as a program of action and deliverables from each student will link directly back to their individual learning goal that impacts on their own built environment. The thrust of the MOOC will be co-creation, and this learning cannot be theory based: we are looking to learn as much from participants as we are to teach them.

It is encouraging to see how eager participants are to learn, and how easily they were able to pick up the skills taught and use them to create relevant media. In the next phase of our online training curriculum we are hoping to scale up and diversify the training. There is huge demand for practical, task orientated knowledge production around creating social impact on ground in informal settlements. As the pressures of climate emergency and increasing inequality bite these skills will be hard tested. Time is of the essence, we need to prepare and face resilience. 


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.

SDI Rituals: Profiling & Enumeration through the Vusi Ntsuntsha Project


A piece written by Camila Yanzaguano, Erica Levenson, Manuela Chedjou, with photography by Ana Holschuch. 

Every year SDI hosts students from The New School, as part of their International Field Program. During the internship the students, alongside the SA SDI Alliance and Know Your City youth from the Western Cape, documented the data collection process and community organising of the Vusi Ntsuntsha project. 

Bridging the gap in data surrounding informal settlements is one of the main priorities of SDI. As the profiling process has developed SDI has relied more and more on the community participation of residents of informal settlements. The lack of data on informal settlements is a major issue, and speaks to a larger oversight of informal settlement residents. For this reason, community participation in the data collection process is crucial. Through SDI’s ‘Know Your City’ Campaign (KYC), this profiling and enumeration work is active across 32 different countries, in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, serving as an engine for active community participation. The initiative’s main goal is to produce valuable data on informal settlements so that the data can be used to determine what and where service improvements are needed.

Settlement profiling and enumeration is a process driven by the community for the community. The process helps to organize communities and define the most pressing problems in their settlement, as well as provide a space for communities to discuss priorities while encouraging cross-learning. Through social interaction, residents of informal settlements learn from each other and give helpful suggestions regarding the implementation of development projects.

Informal settlements are typically built by the residents themselves, and the conditions of the construction are not always under local or national codes and regulations. In South Africa in particular, there has been a steady increase in the number and population of informal settlements in the last two decades. The lack of information and data on these settlements has made authorities’ attempts at improvements extremely prolonged. Thus, the KYC initiative aims to expedite slum upgrading projects by compiling crucial data, all the while engaging communities in the process.


photograph taken by Ana Holschuch at Vusi Ntsuntsha meeting.

Enumeration, settlement profiling, and mapping are some of the processes that KYC is involved with and led by slum dwellers. Gathered data has facilitated sanitation improvements as well as the construction of transportation infrastructure, such as the paving of roads within several informal settlements across the SDI affiliated countries. As a result, residents of informal settlements have received improvements in roads, potable water, and sanitation- improvements that they have needed for some time. In some cases, communities have been able to get access to health services, construction of community centers, and schools.  

Enumeration is a community-driven process that has been used by the SA SDI Alliance for years. Enumeration is essential to profiling residents of townships: how many residents per household, what resources they have and do not have, and so on. The data gained by enumeration is then presented to governments and used in requests for resource provisions. In other words, by having an exact number of people residing in each area, it becomes simpler and quicker for the government to budget, plan, and implement upgrading projects at the sites. 

The South African (SA) SDI Alliance has been working in informal settlements for years and has come together with communities to develop the Vusi Ntsuntsha project through community participation. The Vusi Ntsuntsha project was stalled for twenty years, but with leadership commitment and contributions from members of the Vusi Ntsuntsha community, the project was recently re-established. The ultimate goal of the project is to build affordable, proper housing for community members using subsidies from the South African government. With the help of community leaders and the Alliance, the Vusi Ntsuntsha project is making impressive progress. 


photograph taken by Ana Holschuch around profiling and enumeration of the Vusi Ntsuntsha project.

Community members have to be ‘visible’ to the government in order for any project to be planned. Profiling and enumeration create an undeniable visibility of residents and their needs. Through enumeration many important questions are answered: how long respective people have lived in their respective settlements and how they make a living. The data collected is ultimately used to ensure that all residents’ needs are accounted for in planning and service delivery. The data collection work of communities has gained organizations such as SDI and the SA SDI Alliance worldwide recognition. By collecting necessary information, the Western Cape Provincial Government was able to screen all Vusi Ntsuntsha beneficiaries and to provide a response about members who qualify for grants, and set new options for those households who do not qualify. Today, at least half of the 800 beneficiaries have been enumerated and verified, becoming formal members of the Vusi Ntsuntsha project. 

Vusi Ntsuntsha’s process of profiling and enumeration has been crucial to the projects movement and success. Community members not only created valuable data but also gained knowledge during the process. Today, new projects, such as Mossel Bay, are starting with the support of the SA SDI Alliance. Vusi Ntsuntsha leaders and members are exchanging their knowledge on enumeration with Mossel Bay members. Community participation emerges as a key way to give power to the people within informal settlements. Communities are becoming more visible,  capitalizing on their rights as citizens. 


Citywide Profiling, Mapping, & Enumeration in Monrovia, Liberia


The Liberia slum dwellers federation (FOLUPS) and support NGO (YMCA) have made and impressive contribution to achieving the intended outcomes of the Cities Alliance-supported Liberia Country Program (LCP). Since 2016, they have organized slum dweller communities across Monrovia (reaching over 60 settlements); and undertaken a community-led city wide slum profiling and mapping effort (completing over 91 of Monrovia’s 113 settlements), completed a household enumeration in West Point, and organizing settlement forums for communities to verify their data and identify shared priorities for intervention. The federation will share its work with all LCP members at the upcoming city forum in April.



To date, the Liberia federation (FOLUPS) has profiled and mapped the following Local Government Areas (LGAs) within Greater Monrovia:

Congo Town LGA Profile (5 settlement profiles); Garwolohn LGA Profile (13 settlement profiles)

  • Monrovia City Profile (10 settlement profiles)
  • New Georgia LGA Profile (15 settlement profiles)
  • New Kru Town LGA Profile (22 settlement profiles)
  • Gardnersville LGA Profile (11 settlements)



Savings groups are the building blocks of all SDI federations. Federations throughout the network know that savings groups do more than collect money – they collect people and build a critical mass. When the savings groups are networked, federations are born. During phase one of this project, the Liberian federation, Liberian Urban Poor Savers (FOLUPS), has achieved:

  • 272 savings groups spanning 61 communities
  • 7,991 members (F: 6,979 M: 1,012)

As can be seen from the savings group data above, close to 90% of members are women. Throughout the SDI network, women’s membership and leadership are prioritized as a deliberate strategy for building the voice of women and nurturing a culture of dialogue, collective priority-setting, peer support, trust, and collaboration. Savings groups offer a safe space for women to learn and grow their leadership capacities and go on to combat the structural exclusion of women’s voices in urban governance. In Liberia, women federation members led clean-up exercises identified as priority action during the settlement forums. The women report that this federation effort increased compliance with community resolutions to improve environmental sanitation and the active participation of slum dwellers in the regular community meetings and clean-up exercises.

Once we realized most of the profilers, enumerators and forum facilitators were men, we made a special effort to increase the participation and leadership of women and youth through hands-on learning-by-doing, including setting benchmarks for female participation


An imminent threat of eviction led the federation to prioritize household enumeration of Monrovia’s oldest and largest informal settlement, West Point. Day in day out, the federation – dressed in bright red Know Your City bibs and gumboots – trekked from house to house administering the enumeration questionnaire and mobilizing federation members. Peers from other federations in the SDI network supported the Liberians in this effort as part of a learning-by-doing exchange. Snapshots from the enumeration report are shown below as well as additional research (Younghyun Kim 2017) on West Point’s risk profile undertaken in partnership with the federation using the enumeration data.


Day 2-3


Keep an eye out for the full Monrovia profile report and West Point Enumeration Report, due to be launched in the coming months.

Know Your City takes Latin America by storm!


Earlier this month, delegates from countries across Latin America gathered in Lima, Peru for the inaugural Know Your City Latin America learning exchange.  The exchange was a success, providing an important opportunity for community groups and their support organizations engaged in Know Your City community-driven data collection work to develop a shared vision for the Know Your City Latin America campaign and to learn more about SDI’s governance, tools, and methodologies. Participants were able to build a solid basis for further collaboration in the region, affirming their interest in strengthening peer learning and experiential exchanges with the SDI network.

Some of the highlights and key learnings from the exchange are outlined by the team below.

Some of our key achievements & outcomes:

  • We identified the need to develop a vision for SDI in Latin America as a top priority, understanding that the Know Your City work is an entry point – an opportunity for SDI to establish links in Latin America and for us to get to know each other;
  • We developed a general understanding of SDI, including the Theory of Change, governance systems, and federation membership;
  • We learned about SDI’s expectations around calls for funds, contracts, reporting, and budgeting;


We discussed what makes SDI ‘different’ and ‘attractive’ in its approach to addressing urban poverty. Some of the key points include:

  • SDI’s practical approaching, with the entry points into community organisation being rooted in concrete actions and practical tools such as data collection and daily savings, as opposed to a political or institutionalised network. This speaks to SDI’s being rooted in urban poor communities in need of everyday solutions.
  • SDI’s priorities come from the bottom up, determined by demand from the communities themselves.
  • There is huge potential for intercontinental peer learning through engagement with and in the SDI network. The size, scope, and reputation of the SDI network give credibility and leverage to local struggles.


In drawing the week of learning to a close, a number of items were identified to take forward the energy and learnings from time together in Lima. Some of these include:

  • Deeper learning on use of data collection tools, including SDI’s web-based data platform. A series of tutorials was proposed and is already in the planning stages.
  • Increased learning on savings and mobilization through tutorials and experience sharing
  • Regular group calls to follow up on successes, challenges, and ongoing work
  • Producing / translating SDI content into Spanish in order to keep the Latin American groups up to date on the latest SDI news, ideally via social media, newsletters, WhatsApp, etc.
  • Deeper learning on advocacy strategy and achievements from across the network. There was particular interest in learning more about the South Africans’ experience managing government subsidies and upgrading funds.
  • A request emerged for the Brazilians plus 2-3 other Latin American communities to participate in an African Regional Hub meeting in 2019
  • Adding further resources to the Google Drive folder established for the exchange in order to make it a resource centre for Latin American groups.

There was an undeniable interest among the groups present to learn more about SDI and become increasingly engaged as part of the SDI family. The role of the Brazilian federation was highlighted as being crucial in bridging regional, cultural, and language gaps in this process. There are great opportunities for impactful work, but it was noted that this will require energy, resources, and support from the SDI network, and an open-mindedness to adapting language and opening to complementary approaches and models linked to existing networks and spaces in Latin America.



Know Your City: the Process, the Platform, and the Campaign

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The end of 2017 marked the end of a four-year strategic planning period for SDI and the close-out of various projects and contracts in support of implementation of that plan. To report on the successes, challenges, and impact of our work over that time, SDI produced a Basket Fund Close Out report, available in full here. In this series of blog posts, we present excerpts from this report that highlight some of the key learnings and impact of our work over the past four years and point towards areas for continued growth in the new Strategic Plan, launched this year.

Fundamental to effective learning and influence is the quality and accessibility of the knowledge produced. SDI’s commitment to increased rigour in settlement profiling meant that 2013 – 2017 was a watershed period for this work which has come to be known widely as SDI’s Know Your City work and campaign.

The Process

Since the SDI network was founded, grassroots profiling, enumeration and mapping has been at the heart of the organizing process. Pioneered by slum and pavement dwellers in India, community profiles and enumerations have served to organize the urban poor and make informal settlements visible to city authorities throughout the Global South. These data then ground dialogue and partnerships between communities and local government aimed at improved security of tenure, basic services and housing. As such, the information becomes power for the organized slum dwellers who gathered it. Power balances shift between the community and city officials. Instead of beggars or protesters, the community asks officials to recognize them as partners with information and ideas for how to make changes that will benefit cities and informal settlements. For over 20 years, SDI’s peer-to-peer exchange programs have helped to spread and refine the practise of community-led profiling and enumeration from the congested slums of Mumbai throughout SDI’s network of close to 30 federations. As more and more federations undertook the process, it became clear that the data could play a powerful role in global advocacy aimed at enhancing the hand of each local federation to influence urban policy and practice. Without a measure of standardization in data collection tools and a transition to digital data management, the aggregation and dissemination of data is limited. SDI federations agreed to design a single, standardized informal settlement profile tool and to adopt and co-design support technologies to enhance data accessibility.

The Platform

The decision was made to create a Know Your City (KYC) data platform to house and analyze the SDI network’s slum settlement data. The federations remained laser focused on their principles and insisted: technological support and standardization could not substitute face-to-face engagement; the technology had to be simple and was pointless if not useful to local communities; and the transition had to ensure it did not exclude those without technological capacity. Two iterations of the KYC platform have been developed in conjunction with community profilers and enumerators throughout the network. KYC 1.0 proved that SDI’s profiling and enumeration processes could use standardized tools to enable global aggregation, while preserving the community organizing and inclusive social processes that give SDI’s data its power. KYC 2.0 proved this data would be of tremendous use to communities, governments and development partners in understanding informality and guiding upgrading plans. KYC 3.0 seeks to institutionalize people-driven data as the core starting point for building and monitoring inclusive and resilient city development. To do so, the platform and the community process must step up to yet another level in terms of its accessibility, data rigor, and data visualizations. This new iteration will reflect SDI’s improved TOC and measurement of resilience outcomes and will be housed on SDI’s own platform built in Bangalore by the federation’s partners.

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The Campaign

Community-managed profiling and mapping and the KYC data platform are the two legs upon which the Know Your City campaign stands. In 2014, SDI, Cities Alliance and UCLG-A launched the Know Your City campaign in order to promote the institutionalization of people-driven data in government and development partner programing. At the conclusion of 2016, SDI signed a new MOU with UCLG-A to expand partner cities and is working with Cities Alliance to embed people-driven data in all its global programing, monitoring and evaluation. Cities Alliance has supported a Joint Work Program (JWP) to expand the reach of KYC. The Know Your City campaign has proven its capacity to anchor partnership through the organization of slum dwellers at city scale to gather data on the informal settlements. Local government-community partnerships then use this data to set baselines, plan and monitor development interventions, inform policy and practice, co-produce upgrading agendas, and jointly implement urban development that fully capitalizes on the comparative advantages of each party. SDI is partnering with the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) to expand the campaign throughout Asia. In phase 1, settlement profiling was carried out by communities in Davao Philippines; Jhenaidah, Bangladesh; Jogjakarta, Indonesia; Yangon, Myanmar; and Battambang, Cambodia.

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Change Story 2: KYC Campaign Touches Down in Latin America

This year, SDI expanded the Know Your City campaign to Latin America to support organized urban poor communities looking to use community-led profiling and mapping to catalyze dialogue with government and/or other potential collaborators to improve the lives of the poor. Small support grants for this work will be available to organizations who show that organized urban poor communities are working toward outcome level change in their settlement or city linked to: Improved public health and safety; Improved livelihoods; Improved land tenure security; or, Improved strategic influence of the urban poor.

Selected groups will have access to the standarized KYC profiling tools, use of the KYC platform and increased visibility as part of the KYC campaign. The expansion of KYC to Latin American provides an opportunity to connect and network urban poor social movements in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. At the World Urban Forum, SDI secured preliminary commitments from UCLG and partnersh such as TECHO and HFHI to partner in this initiative.

In Recife, the community and support organization INTERAÇÃO (SDI’s Brazil Affiliate) and Habitat for Humanity International are using the KYC framework to strengthen the organization and capacities of poor and vulnerable groups threatened by eviction. Using the data, communities can defend and negotiate for improve tenure security and services. Particular importance will be given to the residents of informal/precarious settlements in the areas most valued and subject to real estate pressure. Information on the different favelas will also be used to develop a city-scale vision that communities will use in proposing or establishing alliances and influencing urban policies. This will serve to strengthen the involvement of these communities and influence the revision process of the Recife Master Plan through spaces for dialogue with the local government in the perspective of ensuring adequate housing spaces for the poorest.

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Profiling Progress per Hub, 2013-2017

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SDI’s Basket Fund represents a commitment from SDI’s partners to join a global network of slum dweller organizations in their long-term struggle to combat poverty and exclusion in cities. In a development sector dominated by consultants and specialists, SDI adds value as a unique organization channeling resources directly to the poor for the development and implementation of their own strategies for change. This arrangement represents an understanding by SDI’s partners that systemic change won’t be projectized or fall neatly into a funding cycle, but requires long-term multi-pronged collaboration to continuously garrison the gains and push the boundaries.

On both fronts SDI made substantial inroads during the 2013-2017 period. Download the full publication here.

Highlights from the Nigeria Federation: A year of hard work shows great results


Port Harcourt Federation volunteers launch a new savings group in Diobu waterfront

Despite being one of the younger affiliates in the SDI network, the Nigerian SDI Alliance – comprised of the Nigeria Slum / Informal Settlement Federation and support NGO Justice & Empowerment Initiatives – is doing impressive work building a solid foundation of networked savings schemes, using community-collected data to negotiate eviction alternatives and improved living conditions for their communities, forming active partnerships with government and other urban decision makers, and building capacity and momentum in local youth to catalyse greater change. Below are  some highlights from the affiliate on their activities over the last year. 

Federation Strengthening

During the period the Federation’s savings groups and membership continued to grow through outreach to new communities and strengthening savings groups in existing Federation communities. In Lagos this was primarily supported by the LGA Coordinator system set up by the Federation in 2017 where 2 strong Federation mobilizers have volunteered to take the lead in supporting other savings groups in their LGA. The LGA Coordinators convene meetings with representatives of the savings groups within their LGA, and also provide support to new groups or reenergize ‘inactive’ groups within their LGA.

The LGA Coordinators also generally serve as point persons for all Federation activities within their LGA (e.g. profiling or enumeration efforts). LGA coordinators effectively serve as ‘second tier’ leadership within the Federation even though there is no formal overall leadership structure.

Additionally, in order to emphasize the importance of savings as a core ritual, the Federation instituted a policy that all Federation volunteers would be required to submit copies of their savings passbooks on a monthly basis to show that they are active savers – this cuts across all aspects of Federation work, including that of the media and the profiling/data teams. This has helped to ensure that all Federation work continues to be anchored by community level savings groups as the fundamental building block of the Federation.


General Manager of Lagos Urban Renewal Agency and his staff in Orisunmibare community for a planning meeting with the Orisunmibare Upgrading Committee

Know Your City

To support community planning and partnerships outlined below, we have developed a number of maps, charts, and graphs that present the Federation’s profiling and enumeration data towards specific purposes. When a community completes profiling – a simple map of the community is produced and given back to the community for their own records and use. In Port Harcourt, towards building a collaboration with the Ministry of Works around improving community drainages, we have also developed drainage maps.


In both Lagos and Port Harcourt the Federation has been working to put their data to work – primarily in the context of engaging with government. In Lagos, our engagement with Lagos Urban Renewal Agency (LASURA) towards upgrading Orisunmibare community (and potentially 2 others) is largely informed by the enumeration process carried out in the community together with several LASURA staff. In Port Harcourt, the Federation is working with both the Water Corporation and the Ministry of Works towards community upgrading efforts – improving access to water on one hand, and improving drainages on the other hand. The interest of the Water Corporation and the Ministry of Works to work with the Federation was, in both cases, piqued by the data that the Federation had already collected.

The Federation has collaborated with the Department of Geography at University of Lagos and LASURA towards localizing and measuring indicators for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 – particularly around access to services and climate change resilience and adaptation. The Federation and JEI developed a household survey module that can be added on to our standard enumeration form to capture data about SDG 11.

Another collaboration that the Federation developed was with the Landlord and Tenant Association of Apapa LGA, tackling access to electricity (overbilling and estimated billing). This partnership evolved from a single paralegal case assisting Federation members wrongfully arrested and detained at the instigation of the electricity distribution company to try to silence their advocacy for better access to services, to an LGA-wide house numbering effort facilitated by the Federation towards negotiating better terms of service with the electricity distribution company. Because of the federation’s efforts, the member of the Lagos State House of Representatives for Apapa LGA and the Police Area Commander have participated in meetings to try to resolve the simmering dispute – and have largely supported the Federation’s position against extortionate billing. This negotiation process is still ongoing, however, it has afforded the Federation a lot of productive learning about mass mobilizing and using data to push for improved access to services, while drawing (political) allies to the cause.


Samuel Akinrolabu with the head of the Landlords and Tenants Association planning for mass house numbering across all of Apapa LGA to generate data to use in negotiations with the electricity distribution company


In Lagos, our partnership with Lagos State Urban Renewal Agency has continued to develop primarily through the process of working towards an inclusive in-situ upgrading process in Orisunmibare community. This process – the first of its kind in Lagos – has included community-level data collection through a participatory enumeration together with LASURA, establishment of a community upgrading committee, and dozens of planning meetings to date. As a result of these efforts, LASURA was able to obtain a budget from the State Government for 2018 to specifically support their engagement in the planning process in Orisunmibare.

Separately, the Lagos Federation has been engaged in an Affordable Housing Working Group set up in 2017 to think through mechanisms and designs for affordable housing in Lagos. The working group includes members from the Lagos State Ministry of Housing as well as a group of urban planning, architecture, and housing professionals. During the period numerous meetings were convened and a proposal for a government-backed housing trust fund that is truly accessible to the urban poor is being developed.

Engaging the Youth 


KYC.TV media team in Port Harcourt on a shoot focused on access to health services in Federation communities

During the reporting period the youth Federation’s Know Your City TV team grew and matured by leaps and bounds – transforming from a group of young Federation members interested in making media, to a much more organized, focused, and talented team taking their own initiative to launch new projects. This transition was anchored by a regular series of trainings, exchanges, and other engagements that served to hone skills, build excitement, deepen engagement of the KYC.TV team with the larger Federation, and sharpen our collective focus on making media for change.

The other major area of youth engagement was in further training and growing the KYC profiling and data teams in Lagos and Port Harcourt – which led a number of intensive efforts to enumerate several settlements towards planning upgrading, house number communities towards engagement with electricity distribution companies, and refine data capture processes — both for KYC and for the Nigerian Federation Savings Database.

Follow the Nigeria federation and their support NGO Justice Empowerment Initiatives on FacebookTwitter for regular updates on their work.

Report for Youth Exchange to Nairobi, Kenya


This report was written by Moho Mofokeng, a youth leader from Orange Farm, South Africa. 

The purpose for this exchange between the South Africans, Kenyans and the Paraysam youth was for sharing ideas and helping each other as they have a similar project they youth is working on. Kenyans are doing numbering while the South Africans are doing the street naming project and the two projects are almost similar and both a necessity for every community to have.

Day 1.  28-08-18

South African youth met with the youth from Kenya and the Kenyan KYCTV youth. Everyone introduced themselves and the South African’s were the first to be given a platform the share their work, ideas and everything that they do how and how far are they as well as plans for future projects etc.

Joseph Muturi who is the Muungano (federation) coordinator explained his position in the organisation and what they do as well as their plans, and on how the South African team was different from other youth who was present on the day regarding saving because it was what he had picked on the South African youth that they emprise and practice daily saving.  Later on we got to learn and hear the Mukuru (Nairobi) side of doing things, they shared and explained their ways of collecting data, mapping, enumeration and also the way in which they mobilise.

Kate from the KYCTV and who is also a member of the federation shared how she got engaged with saving with the organisation, she further explained the challenges they had faced by not having toilets eg; the dirtiness and smell their area had which lead to many people getting sick they call it the “fly toilets”, and it made them come up with the idea of coming up with the toilet project which was a success after they’ve presented the idea to the city and the Marubi water, and it brought change and job creation to the unemployment federation youth Nairobi. She later talked about the evictions happening around Nairobi and on how the community have been affected by it. They have seeked help from the government by informing area chief and by also sending a petition to government.


Day 2. 29-08-18

The South African met with the members of Muungano and the community to see how they number their address and what we have realised was that their house numbers are way different from ours like for example their address goes like: RVS/A/202B hence we only have 4-5 numbers and the map which they have done themselves for doing the project.

  • RVS-cluster
  • A-cluster code
  • 202-house number
  • B-door number

We then shared the reason why we do street naming and the challenges we had faced for not having our streets named. People have been dying on our watch while we wait for the emergency service and lots of incidents happening and the emergency services can not reach the community, also mails getting mixed up because they will be delivered to wrong address so the youth took upon themselves to name their streets and how we did it.

Day 3. 30-08-18

We were taken Kibera to view the demolished houses, schools and churches and this area is where the recent eviction and demolishing took place as its said it’s a government land the area is supposed to be a road joining the other big road on the other side. And now most of the people were homeless, kids are now not going to school, most of the community members moved to railway houses that led people working as housekeepers in order to pay for rent and the other side that we saw is the side for people who can afford and it is called “Langata”

Later on that day we went to Kambi Moto to see the houses built by the federation members.  On our way there we were able to see the eviction taking place, shops and other business were evicted and demolished.

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At Kambi Moto members had planned the houses and the size themselves which were first side 4 scale meters and it took them several years to take place reason why they wanted to do things by themselves it is simply because government will want to build big houses and not all people will be able to get a house,34 houses were built at first phase and second phase has 28 get a house one must be a member of saving because the houses are from loan from saving

To be part in the construction you must have the following:

  • Saving book
  • Active member of federation

Houses were not enough for every member so some who could not get houses made withdrawals so they can rent to reduce labour. Fed-up mamas were part of the construction. We even went to see their community centre where they have their meetings,the youth also opened a business of washing cars from their savings in order to get a little income since they are not working.

Kambi Moto members aim was to construct houses in 2003 they started with the housing with the money from the federation (AMT) is the term they use for (UPF) the group they have formed, they would get loan from the AMT to build so AMT gives them 80% and 10% will come from each member another 10% will be from the saving this is only for members who save and attend meeting.


DAY 4 31-08-18

We met with the area chief and the people from the slums to share how they do their savings and mobilization, the south African team shared and made the people who were part of the meeting how important and how our challenge is similar to theirs.

On the last day of exchange, the participants visited Riara village in Mukuru where the federation met with a number of community mobilisers. The exchange participants gained a broader understanding of the community planning process anchored under the following:

  1. Mapping
  2. Formation of clusters
  3. Numbering and data collection
  4. Creation of occupancy registers
  5. Formation of cells(nyumba kumi)
  6. Formation of subclusters (baraza ndogo)