Delila Khaled, Executive Vice President; and Marianne Carliez, Director of Program Management/Urbis Program Manager


February 2, 2009

Delila Khaled and Marianne Carliez sat down to talk about the program and the plans for the Community of Practice Website.

What is the need for Urbis now?

The world is witnessing an enormous increase in urban populations, particularly in developing countries.  The simultaneous rapid growth of slums places further pressure on housing and infrastructure and leads to violence and security threats.  Governments, the development community or any institution that claims to be addressing poverty can no longer ignore this serious problem.  For their part, communities require information about how they can address the issues most important to them, including housing, services (such as water and sanitation), economic opportunities, education, safety, healthcare, and access to financial services.  Urbis, therefore, grew out of the urgent need for donors and practitioners to find low cost, high impact methods for effectively reducing urban poverty and devising replicable, sustainable models for improving the lives of the urban poor.

Why Development Innovations Group?

Development Innovations Group is in a unique position to address urban challenges because of our dual expertise in urban community services and financial services.  One of DIG’s particular strengths is in capacity building, specifically related to sustainable development projects in urban environments.  We have learned that the solution does not come through throwing money at a problem, particularly as financial resources are finite and increasingly scarce.  Instead, it is critical to help the organizations working on behalf of the urban poor unlock the community’s existing ability to address their own problems.  For example, in Mombasa, Kenya, Urbis is helping to raise community awareness about the existence of decentralized government funds (known as devolved funds) and how the community can access them.  Urbis developed a toolkit that provides guidance about accessing the funds, and the program has trained community members to develop plans, which they have successfully presented to government officials.  Our intervention in Mombasa was low cost and high impact – thus far, we have distributed over 3,000 toolkits.  DIG did not provide the local population with any funds, but rather armed them with information that they can continue to use to access resources and address their ongoing needs long after the Urbis program has ended.

Our approach through the Urbis program allows us to drill down to address specific and unique problems, and at the same time step back and view capacity building at a global level.  Through this approach, we are learning what strategies work for sustainable social change by taking into account culture, city demographics and socio-political context.    


Why have you created this website?

People are starving for information about how to address the serious problems related to rapid urbanization.  We have created the Community of Practice to connect communities from different countries in a low cost, environmentally friendly way, and to share what we have learned about how to address issues that matter to the urban poor: housing and land tenure, access to basic services, access to finance and employment, etc.  We recognize that it is equally important to engage donors and practitioners to address urban challenges.  Some donors, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have come to understand that sustainable solutions to the problems related to urban poverty are going to come from the poor themselves. 

The goal of this website is to provide an avenue through which donors can learn from the experience of pro-poor organizations, as well as allow DIG to share what we are learning through Urbis about the design and implementation of capacity building of pro-poor organizations.  We hope the network of practitioners and donors will do the same, as we believe that by working together, it will be easier to arrive more quickly at lasting solutions to the problems slum dwellers face.

What kind of participation are you seeking from visitors to the Community of Practice?

Since we launched the website, DIG has been posting articles and capacity building materials collected or developed through Urbis.  We encourage visitors to download them (free), to test them, and to provide feedback as to how these resources are helpful and what other materials might be useful to practitioners on the ground.  We also encourage urban practitioners to share their challenges, lessons, and best practices so that that we can engage in thoughtful dialogue and build on our experiences.  Additionally, we are only an email away and we are happy to discuss strategies for capacity building events with any individual or organization and provide recommendations based on the Urbis experience.  We also recognize that not all of our partners in this work have regular internet access and, therefore, we hope visitors to the website will share those resources that they find useful.  We hope that the Urbis Community of Practice will be an essential tool for all those interested in reducing urban poverty.

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