Slum Surveys: Making the Invisible Visible

Our work with Slum/Shack Dwellers International and Muungano Support Trust in Kenya was recently featured in the Guardian Weekly.  The article focuses on the detailed enumeration and surveying work by slum dwellers around the world, organized by such organizations as our partner, SDI.

In the Mathare informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya, UC Berkeley, the University of Nairobi the federation of slum savings groups called Muungano wa Wanavijiji and Muungano Support Trus

t, have worked for the past five years surveying and mapping residents and their living conditions. Importantly, these are not surveys to only document the unjust living condition, but more importantly help build local power by organizing residents and providing them with one important tool to negotiate for improvements with government.  What the community surveying work also reveals is that local people are experts that must be trusted to drive policy and investments, not merely act as 

researchers or respondents.  

Our collaborative informal settlement upgrade plan for the entire Mathare valley in Nairobi, which emerged in-part out of local knowledge from slum surveys, is one example of the type of outputs slum dwellers are capable of producing from this work.

 No longer capable of ignoring the urban poor, international organizations, donors, governments, academics and NGOs should take note: slum surveys build power for lasting change.

Professor Jason Corburn