Enumerations, Mappings and Surveys

Enumerations, mapping and surveys of slums are critical processes for community mobilisation. Through these information-gathering tools, communities assert knowledge about themselves and the conditions in which they live, and leverage this knowledge into tangible outcomes.

Frequently, neither the municipality nor the state has detailed information about a slum community. This lack of information often becomes the basis upon which slums and informal settlements are refused services. Self-conducted enumerations and surveys allow communities to speak from a position of knowledge, and give the poor ownership over information that is critical for understanding collective conditions, legitimizing claims to land and benefits, identifying real solutions, and negotiating with authorities.

Recognizing the accuracy of community-led surveys, authorities have increasingly partnered with the Federations and Mahila Milan on slum surveys, ranging from city-wide slum counting and profiling to detailed socioeconomic baseline surveys for upgrading or resettlement projects, often used for eligibility determination. Federations have innovated tools like biometric ID cards to ensure accuracy and transparency, many of which have been adopted by governments.

These joint exercises are an important step towards moving beyond traditional ideas of data collection and information management as mechanical exercises that can only be done by professionals towards participatory planning with the poor.

For this process to work, communities must themselves be involved in collecting information about housing, services, and infrastructure at both household and settlement-wide levels, and then use this information to explore solutions through negotiation with relevant authorities. The actual task of collecting and processing data generates an understanding that community problems can be dealt with only through collective effort. Thus, data gathering and analysis are not detached, mechanical exercises done by third-party professionals, but rather, powerful political tools that strengthen bonds within communities.

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