Case Study

Shack / Slum Dwellers International: Giving a voice to slum dwellers

image: Shack / Slum Dwellers International

image: Shack / Slum Dwellers International


Project Overview

Implementing Team

Shack /Slum Dwellers International (SDI)


SDI is a network of community-based organizations of the urban poor in 33 countries


Additional Resources




SDI aims to link poor urban communities from cities across the Global South to share successful mobilisation tactics, campaigns, and problem solving strategies with the aim of creating more inclusive cities. Slum dwellers are often excluded from urban development planning programmes. In SDI approach, slum dwellers are encouraged and supported to engage with the state, businesses and other formal institutions to broker deals, forge partnerships, make demands and reach agreements and so become active participants in development processes that seek to improve their lives

Methods in Action



Savings clubs as community mobilization tool

SDI members use savings clubs to mobilize communities. They put forward those members they most trust with their cash as their collectors, and these collectors visit members daily to collect minimum savings and repayments. In the process, the collectors visit each member and develop relationships and an understanding of each person’s living conditions. The collectors from different clubs meet regularly to bank the money and share their observations and insights. The collectors effectively become the leadership core, not elected because they speak well or have power over others but because they are trusted with the money.

Community-collected information for community led planning

SDI provides various tools, such as enumerations and spatial mapping, to help communities to map and survey their local community in order to create a detailed socio-economic profile of the local area. This information is then used to help the local community to plan its own development.

Mahila Milan of Byculla, a slum in Mumbai

Women organized themselves to form a simple street-based savings and loans collective called Mahila Milan that eventually built up enough capital to build thousands of houses and toilets. This savings model became the basis of a horizontal learning exchange. The first meeting (in 1989) saw grassroots women leaders from 10 Asian countries and other parts of India gather to learn from each other and from Mahila Milan’s women about savings and credit. This horizontal exchange is still flourishing with over 3.5 million people in India.

Upgrading of Klong Bang Bua, Bangkok

Many residents who live in 12 informal settlements along the canal Bang Bua are vendors and day-wage labourers working in the informal sector. Klong Bang Bua was the first network of canal communities to successfully negotiate a long-term lease to the public land (owned by the Treasury Department) they illegally occupy thus eliminating the fear of forced eviction from the authorities. Now this community inspires other communities facing similar situations nationally and internationally and attracts community exchanges and learning visits.