Urbis: The Urban Capacity Laboratory was a three-year learning initiative launched in September 2007 by the Development Innovations Group to strengthen the capacity and strategic growth of carefully selected pro-poor organizations. The focus of the Urbis program included slum improvement, provision of basic services (water and sanitation), land tenure regularization, and financing for the urban poor, with advocacy as a cross-cutting theme. The program’s learning agenda was designed to help practitioners in the field of urban poverty alleviation understand how to amplify the voice of the poor to improve poverty reduction strategies.

DIG selected eight cities (Sao Paulo, Brazil; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Casablanca, Morocco; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire; Luanda, Angola; Durban, South Africa; and Mombasa, Kenya), based on the needs of the poor and opportunities to reduce urban poverty. In Abidjan, for example, DIG worked with a pro-poor network to increase slum dweller access to potable water and influence over a water subsidy. In all of the cities, DIG developed and applied methodologies that supported the capacity and strategic growth of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) serving the urban poor. Capacity building efforts included training, technical assistance, study tours, publications and toolkits. The Urbis program partnered with organizations managed by slum dwellers, NGOs, microfinance institutions (MFIs), private firms and government agencies. These partners were all focused on improving the lives of the urban poor and were just a step away from unlocking new opportunities for themselves and for the populations they serve. By the end of the program, the Urbis team conducted 677 training events and provided 5,053 days of technical assistance to 19,847 individuals, enabling 547 organizations to grow and represent and/or serve the urban poor more effectively.

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