Be the first to like this
In 2005 Sattherthwaite and D’Cruz made the bold assertion that ‘Perhaps the most significant initiative today in urban areas of Africa and Asia in addressing poverty… is the work of organizations and federations formed and run by the urban poor or homeless’. With growing numbers of NGOs in urban areas, as well as pressure on governments to increase citizen involvement in decision-making, large-scale Organisations of the Urban Poor (OUPs) are becoming recognised as potentially important civil society actors in urban decision-making and implementation. Urban poor federations such as Slum Dwellers International (SDI) have spread rapidly through the developing world, while at the same time NGOs have begun supporting umbrella groups as longer-term representatives of the urban poor.
In Kisumu (one of the fastest growing cities in Kenya and focus of the 2007 post-election violence), both SDI and NGO supported groups are operating in several wards of the city, attempting to perform similar functions of representation and coordination in the community. However, there are differences both in their supporting organisations, and in the way the groups themselves are structured and function internally. For example, while NGO supported groups may be seen as less antagonistic, and therefore perhaps better able to connect to local state actors, they may also be more constrained by the same overarching structures of donor aid and financing that has been found to limit the NGOs which support them. So how representative are they? Do they increase solidarity? And how do they influence, or are they influenced by external actors? This paper presents early findings from research into the Horizontal and Vertical Social Capital of SDI and NGO supported umbrella groups in Kisumu in order to understand how effective these groups are in their intended role as bridges between external partners and the community.