SDI is a network of community-based organisations of the urban poor in 32 countries and hundreds of cities and towns across Africa, Asia and Latin America. In each country where SDI has a presence, affiliate organisations come together at the community, city and national level to form federations of the urban poor. These federations share specific methodologies, which are enumerated below. In its organisational form SDI consists of a Secretariat, a coordinating team, a Board and a Council of Federations. The Secretariat has an administrative and management function. It is accountable to a Board and a Council of Federations made up of nominated grassroots leaders from affiliated Federations. The Board also nominates a Coordinating team that serves as an executive, responsible for overseeing the implementation of SDI programmes.
SDI is committed to supporting a process that is driven from below. The Secretariat facilitates, and sometimes resources, horizontal exchange and information sharing programmes amongst member Federations. It also seeds precedent-setting projects. These exchange programmes and projects have a “political” dimension, to the extent that they are geared towards catalyzing change processes at all levels, from informal community-based institutions to formal institutions of the state and the market.
Since 1996, this network has helped to create a global voice of the urban poor, engaging international agencies and operating on the international stage in order to support and advance local struggles. Nevertheless, the principal theatre of practice for SDI’s constituent organisations is the local level: the informal settlements where the urban poor of the developing world struggle to build more inclusive cities, economies, and politics.
Community organizations of the federations affiliated to SDI have been using enumerations and settlement profiles to influence resource flows and development opportunities. Initially all the data gathered is to produce collective identity and to gather people facing the same challenges. The data is not only collected about the settlements and analyzed, but is also worked towards making the communities noticeable. Slum profiling is a continuous process, it starts by making sure that the city includes the slums in their list, looks at what the situation of the slum is in terms of factors such as land tenure, access to water, sanitation and other basic services.
This data that the community themselves gather has great values in forming policies that work best for the urban poor contributing towards their development as well as for the government to work out priorities for investments. Country specific Federations seek to realign the relationship of the poor with their political leaders and local municipal authorities on the basis of this data. Self-enumeration gives these urban poor communities an opportunity to speak about the knowledge they have about their settlements as they have access to the data and information. Though the accuracy of the information collected by them is often challenged, however, in many cities that the Alliance works in, especially in Mumbai, this has formed the basis of the Alliance being part of government projects and has been a role-model for other cities to take up community-led process. Once the data has been analyzed based on land ownership, basic amenities of water, sanitation, electricity etc. and needs prioritized, they begin to negotiate with their city and local government to upgrade settlement.