Strengthening networks and building alliances to improve health and accountability in informal urban spaces
One in three urban dwellers now live in precarious, marginalised areas, including informal spaces; this is an estimated 881 million people in low- and middle-income countries. People living and working in informal urban spaces face interconnected challenges, including multiple intersecting health risks and vulnerabilities, and complex, fluid governance arrangements, involving a mix of actors, with often longstanding neglect from state institutions. Social accountability strategies toward improving health and wellbeing of people living and working in informal settlements need to catalyse state responsiveness; create ‘actionable’ and targeted information flows and interfaces between state and citizen actors; and build collective citizen networks and state capacities and incentives for action and mutual learning.
To generate new knowledge, the ARISE approach focuses on harnessing the capacities of urban marginalised people to identify, analyse and communicate their experiences of intersecting inequities, wellbeing, health and governance, and to build alliances for new governance arrangements. ARISE aims to collaboratively develop and pilot social accountability strategies for equity, equality, and wellbeing by working with local stakeholders, with support from researchers in study sites.
One strategy to support change adopted by ARISE is to facilitate meetings and dialogue between marginalised people, policy makers and governance allies. In study sites located in Kenya and India, ARISE research partners have strengthened networks between community-based organisations (CBOs), non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and governance actors in health. The CBOs and NGOs act as intermediaries between urban marginalised communities and formal governance allies. Stronger relationships between the intermediary networks have underpinned a joint understanding of challenges faced by people living and working in informal spaces and enabled pathways for increased representation of the priorities of urban marginalised people in approaches to urban development and health and wellbeing interventions.