Urban Poverty Reduction: Communities Know Best

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Street meeting with women's groups to prioritize issues in Jorapara, RaipurIn April 2015, the Universitas Programme of KIP International School published a special thematic issue of the journal Universitas Forum entitled "Inclusive urban development and poverty reduction: Learning from innovative practice".

The project was carried out through funding from the International Development Research Centre of Canada, in collaboration with Winnipeg’s International Laboratory on Urban Development and Poverty Reduction, to which CCEDNet Manitoba collaborates.

Experiences from 12 cities, representing 10 countries and 4 continents, show in the form of articles or videos how community-led projects can reduce poverty effectively.

Whether tackling poverty through improved housing, women’s empowerment or health initiatives, each experience teaches the lesson that poor communities have knowledge around the issues that affect them and can provide valuable and sustainable solutions.

Still, community efforts have little hopes of having long-term effects if governments are left out of the picture. Governments are key partners and their support and engagement should not be neglected at any stage.

Moreover, research appears to be an effective tool in the hands of communities. When partnering with researchers that document and analyze existing processes, communities have been able to leverage their experiences to strengthen their position and achieve further results. That has been the case for the non-profit organization Zimbabwe Parents of Handicapped Children Association, that advocates for more housing for one of the most marginalized people in Harare: single mothers with children with disability. Interviews held to produce the video for the systematization of their experience have served to make local authorities accountable for their pledges to support ZPHCA's ask, and led to the official allocation of housing stands that will allocate 100 families.

With no doubt, Community Economic Development finds its space in this conversation as well. An article by CCEDNet Manitoba’s Regional Director Sarah Leeson-Klym and ACU's Brendan Reimer walks us through the evolutions in CED in Winnipeg, and how community efforts have adapted to and, at the same time, helped shaping this approach in the last twenty years.

Woman Selling Products in Ndiaye Mekhe, SenegalAn experience from Ngaye Mékhé, Senegal explores the development of an endogenous economic dynamic around leather craftsmanship. Based on the transformation of traditional knowledge into a territorial resource, this has been structured into a local economy, employing people and generating incomes. In acknowledging that globalization threatens this bustling value chain, the research highlights the need to create a strong vocational training sector to promote the leather business and its competitiveness.

This issue of Universitas Forum shows that, in spite of all the challenges, there are successful examples all around the world to improve social and economic outcomes for those living in poverty. While acknowledging that each community knows best what its members need, general lessons from other contexts can still be drawn and can be used to stimulate the on-going conversation on poverty reduction in international forums, such as UN-Habitat’s World Urban Forum 7, where the issue was launched, or the International Exposition held in Milan, Italy, where the issue will be presented in the following months.


Mareike Brunelli is a Senior Research Assistant at the Urban and Inner City Studies Department of the University of Winnipeg, and Intern at the Universitas Programme of KIP International School. Originally from Emilia-Romagna, Italy, where she gained her Master’s Degree in International Cooperation and Human Rights Protection at the University of Bologna, Mareike moved to Winnipeg to work on the thematic issue of Universitas Forum on urban development and poverty reduction. Mareike is also working with KIP to present the practices around food security and local development in place in Manitoba at the International Exposition held in Milan in 2015.