SLUM CHANGE MANAGEMENT
For decades, projects to bulldoze slums and relocate residents to high-rise dwellings seemed like a
straightforward housing solution for people living
in shantytowns from Kenya to India to Brazil.
But this top-down approach disrupts informal
economies and disconnects people from jobs and
the relatives and neighbors with whom they had
shared and bartered to survive. It also triggers protests, as seen in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil earlier this
year after favela residents refused to accept alternative housing and make way for a 2016 Summer
And with slum populations climbing globally—
to more than 860 million people in 2013 from 725
million in 2000, according to the United Nations
Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat)—
new approaches are necessary.
Many project sponsors are now trying to employ
more creative and collaborative slum redevelop-
ment efforts focused on stakeholder management.
In Kenya, the national government has tapped
rehabilitated criminals working at the Youth
Reform Self-Help Group to help oversee housing
infrastructure and services in Nairobi’s sprawling
Kibera slum. The largest slum in Africa, it’s home
to at least 800,000 people.
Paritosh Sawant, CEO of the real estate development firm Om Shiv Group in Mumbai, India, says
a major challenge for slum redevelopment project
teams is winning the trust and support of skeptical
and often marginalized residents. Respecting communities and enabling residents’ autonomy is essential.
Om Shiv is participating in a slum redevelop-
ment program sponsored by the state of Maha-
rashtra (which includes Mumbai) through which
developers buy property and build new housing.
(The state’s Slum Rehabilitation Authority wants
to make Maharashtra slum-free by 2022.) Chal-
lenges the company has faced during its project
in Mumbai, which began in 2011 and is slated to
end in 2017, include persuading slum landowners
to sell property and dealing with residents who
are “very insecure about placing their trust in the
developer,” Mr. Sawant says. They think “the devel-
oper is going to make a handsome profit at their
To keep slum projects in India on track, he adds,
sponsors must respect local customs—to the extent
of being willing to contribute financially to religious
festivals and marriages of slum dwellers. When gov-
ernment approval processes drag on for years, these
kinds of stakeholder management techniques can
help maintain local support for delayed projects.
“Patience is a very important virtue,” Mr.
Act Locally, Think Locally
The earthquake that struck Haiti in early 2010 left
more than 1. 5 million people homeless, swelling
the size of the country’s slums. Since then, UN-Habitat and other organizations have launched
projects to help improve earthquake recovery
efforts in slums. For example, UN-Habitat and the
Haitian government have partnered on a two-year
project to upgrade slums in the cities of Cap-Haïtien,
Milot and Les Cayes, which is slated for completion in December.
Kibera slum in
“You don’t want
to be perceived as
directing the work
that people can do
The key is having
that local voice.”
—Dave Hampton, re:ground LLC,
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA