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Recap of the Community-Led Development session: Leaving the resilient world behind

After the successful sessions on Community-Led Development and Human-Centered Design last year, which were organised in collaboration with Butterfly Works, The Hunger Project and The Movement for Community-Led Development, we are continuing the conversation in 2021. On June 17th, our third Community-Led Development and Human-Centred Design session took place. A session in which the role of (I)NGOs was highlighted and where we drew strong conclusions: the resilient attitude of (I)NGOs, which was certainly visible during covid-19, is not moving us forward to a better future. Time to connect to local initiatives that might have a different approach.

29 June 2021

Jan Fransen and Beatrice Hati of The Centre for Frugal Innovation in Africa (CFIA) presented their insights about the projects they work on and how to connect these to other organisations. After the presentations, we discussed possible new ways of working, the relationship of (I)NGOs to local initiatives and how resilient (I)NGOs can be during disasters or other urgent changing circumstances, like Covid-19.

The session started with a presentation by Jan Fransen, who is a researcher at the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS) and part of Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR). Jan started by emphasizing how people live in informal settlements and that these people have a lot of agency and resilience; a lot happens in these communities but is often low quality, invisible, unconnected. External support often fails, because the support structures are not that well adapted to these conditions. CFIA uses frugal innovations as a means to enhance resilience and capacity in informal communities. It does that by using frugal innovations as a mindset (wherein challenges are framed as opportunities), as a process (that works because it is indigenous, affordable and adaptive) and as an outcome, wherein the yield is simple and robust. With the usage of several examples that CFIA uses to work together with informal communities, Jan concluded that (I)NGOs should focus on the multileveled and the unconnected character of these communities and enhance frugal innovation, capacity and social capital. In times of resilience, (I)NGOs can take on three roles. What these roles can be, you can read in his Powerpoint via this link.

After Jan’s presentation, Beatrice Hati, who is a researcher and urban planner at the Kenyan office of CFIA, began her presentation about how local initiatives responded to crises in Nairobi’s informal settlements. She outlined that more than half of the urban residents in Nairobi live in informal settlements, causing that they are excluded by state response and that they evolved a high level of self-organisation into community-based organisations. The CBOs playground is functionally and practically different from other development actors, which enables them to effectively respond to local challenges. CBO’s react to disturbances on different scales, as spatial, temporal and thematic scales. So can small scale actions, as turning a dumping site into a playground, make a big impact on the community as it crosses socio-economic, physical and environmental spheres. By creating safe spaces by external resources, when they are appropriated, localised and properly managed, they can significantly boost the growth of local initiatives.
As Beatrice emphasised, there must be a collaboration with local communities and (non-) governmental institutions, because cities only can be healthy, livable and resilient when they are created by everyone. How you can do that as (I)NGO, you can read in here.

After the presentations, two themes were discussed. The first group discussed how you can give as (I)NGO immediate support to frugal initiatives during crises, such as covid-19. The second group discussed the lessons learned that can be used for supporting community initiatives towards long term improvements in the resilience of formal and informal communities.

This year we will offer six sessions in cooperation with Butterfly Works, The Hunger Project and The Movement for Community-Led Development, and the proposed topics of the next three sessions are:

  • Session #4: Exploring tools and localisation tactics for cross-cultural co-creation – September 16th 2021
  • Session #5: Shift the Power in strategic partnerships with MoFA – October 14th 2021
  • Session #6: What obstacles are in our way and what can we jointly do to overcome them? – November 25th 2021

Visual by Asis Percales via