Friday, March 28, 2014

Slum Dwellers International

By Kristopher Teubel

As the urban population swells in the near and distant future, urban planners and architects will have to adapt their techniques to accommodate the added strain on urban infrastructure.  There are various methods and tools to use in this effort.  Urban designers have manipulated their use of space in walkable cities versus the well-established methods of vehicle-oriented cities.  A promising aspect of urban design and architecture found in numerous regions of the world is the concept of participatory design.  The inclusion of the local citizens directly in design and building of new urban elements is seeming to produce great results currently that can also be implemented in the near and far future.
            The organization Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI) has been making great strides toward the implementation of participatory design projects.  SDI is a community-based collective consisting of urban poor.  The daily lives of many slum dwellers has lead citizens to believe that there is a greater necessity put upon their own actions to improve their situations.  Often, in areas of low living standards, government inaction and corruption can be found. ("What we do," 2013)
            SDI began in 1996 in multiple slums in India and Africa.  In 1999, they officially became a formally registered entity.  Today, their actions are present in 33 countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Each location has affiliate organizations that work with entities at various levels including national, regional, municipal, and directly in the communities most in need.  Their mission is to connect the urban poor various regions in order to facilitate their mobilization, advocacy, and problem solving. ("What we do," 2013)

            SDI has been able to maintain its connection with individual communities while working on a large-scale coordination effort.  The organization works to promote the design of “pro-poor” communities.  It also acts as a platform for the citizens of the poorer communities to communicate with their local governments.  SDI has done a great job at studying and organizing methods of slum upgrading efforts by the citizens of the slums themselves. ("What we do," 2013)
Inclusive Cities
This has led the organization to develop a set of logical criteria and tools to consider when working to improve conditions in a slum or squatter community.  These include the pooling of money from the community.  Though each household has relatively little income, when working together, communities can amass a collection of fairly quickly.  Mapping of the community by the citizens is a great way to facilitate future projects by ensuring the availability of necessary information at the outset of future work. The promotion of the health, safety, and welfare of women is another integral part of SDI's methodology.  As the more culturally common source of homemaking, women ought to be aided in their integral work of maintaining and improving the communities they live in. ("Making cities inclusive," 2013)
            Progress for the future comes only from those that are audacious enough to work for it.  The notion that whole communities of people should be shunned and marginalized because of their financial situation is ignorant and harmful to more than those who live in the communities themselves.  Thank you for taking interest in the effort to help others.  For more information on case studies and other topics about Shack/Slum Dwellers International, please visit (


What we do. (2013). Retrieved from

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