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Our approach

Addressing the challenges in informal urban settlements requires a new understanding of how to strengthen accountability for improved health and wellbeing across a range of public and private, informal and formal actors. Effective accountability for change can be advanced by ‘vertical integration’ of accountability strategies, in the form of broad coalitions of champions within and beyond formal spheres of power, coordinating action at multiple levels to tackle the root causes of unequal access to services and opportunities.


ARISE will harness the capacity of poor people in informal urban settlements to collect, analyse and communicate their experiences of inequities, wellbeing, health and governance, and build alliances for enhanced governance and accountability, both within settlements and with decision-makers.


Our approach brings insights from a range of fields and disciplines that have not previously worked together on this challenge, using a participatory approach and qualitative and quantitative research methods. This includes:

  • Inter-disciplinary partnerships between researchers, NGOs, community-based organisations (including organisations of informal urban dwellers), service providers, government officials and private actors. Together, we will test new solutions.
  • A new partnership of researchers, building on initiatives that link the underlying factors affecting health and wellbeing, governance, accountability, health systems and urban infrastructure.
  • Exploring and measuring overlapping inequities within an approach that goes beyond a narrow focus on social accountability mechanisms (such as score cards for services) towards triggering change in power dynamics through social accountability strategies to catalyse state responsiveness. This includes creating targeted information flows and interfaces between state and citizen actors, building collective citizen movements and state capacity, as well as incentives for action.
  • Developing analyses by people living in urban informal settlements and stimulating mutual learning across diverse contexts.


Conceptual frameworks

ARISE will critically review the relationships between concepts of governance, accountability, power, urban environment, wellbeing, health, inequity and social inequality. We will develop preliminary inter-disciplinary conceptual frameworks fit for a diverse range of informal urban settings. These frameworks will be used to understand accountability processes at different levels, forms of governance and power in specific contexts, and social and political dynamics; and to identify opportunities for marginalised urban groups to improve their health and wellbeing. We will adapt and develop methodologies for key stakeholders – from citizens to the state – to navigate and influence governance processes. These will be guided by participatory, citizen-led approaches in which stakeholders set the agenda.


Empirical case studies

We will map community and governance structures and carry out a local stakeholder analysis to identify exclusions, gaps, their socio-political factors, and key marginalised groups. These groups may include rickshaw pullers or rag pickers, people organising against eviction threats, and social groups such as adolescents, female heads of household, the elderly, people living with disabilities or recent migrants. We will map formal and informal providers and services to assess who is served and where, whether they reach the most vulnerable populations and address their priorities.


ARISE will conduct qualitative and participatory research, including collective visual methods, to help marginalised residents analyse their health and wellbeing; their social, political, economic and health vulnerabilities; their trust in and access to a range of governance actors; the ‘everyday politics of access to services’; their capacity, support networks and accountability strategies; and their priorities for action. It is likely that issues will include relationships between security of housing tenure; official identity; access to basic services; environmental risks, including heat and flooding; mental health; sexual and reproductive health and rights; violence; and chronic health conditions.


We will collect metrics that reflect people’s lived realities, inequities and priorities for change. We will combine these with existing data (from India, Kenya and Sierra Leone) to analyse and understand interrelated inequities in wellbeing and the conditions shaping these disparities, and package these for use by residents in increasing visibility and demanding action.


Social accountability strategies to advance equity and wellbeing  

In order to strengthen accountability strategies and improve service provision and responsiveness, ARISE will identify priority issues for action and potential allies among governance actors. We will convene groups of residents with formal and informal service providers across multiple sectors and key decision-makers, such as local leaders and city authorities, to discuss priorities and find solutions. We will support marginalised residents, with key stakeholders, to test strategies and mechanisms, and monitor and evaluate progress from residents’ perspectives. This includes facilitating participatory ‘learning events’ where experiences will be shared. ARISE will feed findings back into health and governance systems. On an ongoing basis, we will document failures, understand the reasons and incorporate learning.