IHS conducts research on Nairobi's informal settlements during Covid-19

How do smart and frugal processes explain differences in Community Resilience in Nairobi’s informal settlements during Covid-19?

The current pandemic requires us to reframe what a city is. The past decades' urban competitiveness has played a vital role in urban development strategies at the expense of urban resilience. We therefore plea for urban transformations, starting from resilient communities. Resilient cities deal with shocks based on abundance instead of efficiency, diversity instead of specialisation, local on top of global trade and social networks and cohesion on top of economic development. This requires new urban visions, polycentric planning and governance, as well as embracing diversity and non-compliance. Together these form a system of change.

In this context, it is also essential to investigate the concept of resilience in resource-constrained informal settlements. Regarding this topic, IHS is conducting a research coordinated by Jan Fransen in partnership with the Centre of Frugal Innovation in Africa (CFIA) the Vital Cities and Citizens (VCC) and the Ghetto Foundation. The study traces how historical processes result in different levels of community resilience in three of Nairobi's informal settlements. It focuses on vulnerabilities related to health, safety and livelihoods. Not much is known about how and under what conditions evolutionary processes lead to resilience in resource-constrained informal settlements. The research has theoretical and practical relevance. First, it fills a void in understanding how historical processes lead to community resilience in resource-constraint informal settlements. Second, it brings together and gives new meaning to the concepts of smart cities and frugality from the perspective of informal communities building up resilience from below. 

The primary stakeholders of the project are community-based organisations and NGOs in Mathare and Korogocho informal settlements in Nairobi & Nairobi city council as they learn what works and doesn't work in enabling the communities to cope with Covid-19. The secondary target group of the study is researchers and professionals on community resilience in informal settlements. The case study indicates how resilience builds up over time within informal settlements, and it offers a research agenda and generic policy advice as the topic is hardly studied to date.

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