The key tool for promoting collective action and active citizenship in communities of the urban poor is profiling, enumeration and mapping. This well-established Slum Dwellers International (SDI) tool involves slum dwellers collecting and analyzing data from their settlements, often at city-wide scale. To collect the data communities formulate and administer their own enumeration forms (household questionnaires). The uniquely rich information gathered by slum dweller federations is a powerful tool for communities pursuing active citizenship. It fosters an accurate understanding of the local environment, facilities more effective and targeted community negotiation for services, and empowers communities to engage other urban development stakeholders as equals with invaluable information to contribute. It should also be noted that enumeration and mapping are important vehicles for building community cohesion and the capacity for collective action in slum settlements.
The profiling and enumeration process is a defining moment for slum communities. The process unravels particular details of a settlement, thereby enabling communities to understand themselves. It spurs reflection in the community about who belongs to the community, what resources the community has, and which resources are lacking. Since the federation collects their own information they automatically own it. It also means that their findings are more accurate than when collected by outsiders who at times conduct surveys and calculate projections and estimates. The NSDFU and ACTogether Uganda have, since 2002, conducted 174 settlement profiles, 177 GIS maps, 168 settlement maps and 19 city-wide profiles.
The table below from Dobson, Lutwama and Mugisa (2014) highlights the benefits of community gathered data.
Benefits of Community-gathered Data.
|Data collected by communities||Data collected by others|
|The data remains ‘alive’ in the community||The data is analyzed in complex ways and is rarely returned to the community|
|The data contributed to a realignment of power between the community and the authorities||The data reinforces the power of those outside of the community and the gap between their knowledge and that of the community|
|The process of data gathering organizes communities in a way that facilitates productive engagement with other urban development stakeholders (esp. government)||Has no impact on community organization|
|Generates a dialogue on planning at the community level||Generates a dialogue in professional/academic circles|
|Is often more comprehensive owing to improved access to those in informal settlements and is a product of dialogue which reduces misinformation||Often relies on samples and is prone to misinformation from communities (whether because of community strategy or suspicion)|
COMMUNITY VOICE: “In communities we know the number of settlements, services and origins of the people. We know how they spend their money and how they would like to develop their areas. You cannot plan from the office but if you go to the ground and speak to people and learn from them it can help you plan better.”
Katana Goretti, Treasurer of Ugandan Federation