SDI argue that they work within the system in order to change it. The beginning point for SDI is the acknowledgement that poor people living in shack settlements are and will continue to be the major producers of houses in the South. In the globalised South, squatter camps, slums and shanty towns represent a real solution to the housing crisis experienced by the poorest of the poor. Contrary to the vision of civil society, the houses and structures constructed out of the detritus of urban waste and surplus are the logical answer to the need for shelter without tenure (Dr L Podlashuc - Class for Itself: an examination of praxis of Slum Dwellers International - UTS 2006)
SDI praxis of house building reflects their realisation that the top-down pressure from the IMF, World Bank etal on Southern state’s housing delivery needed to be matched by an opposite force from below. These authorities would have to feel the pressure from the homeless poor and for this pressure to have any lasting effect it had to be from organised communities ready to drive their own autonomous Development. If these organised communities were federated and were able to replicate people-driven housing development on a large scale supported by transnational alliances of shack/slumdwellers, then the pressure on government would intensify. This process SDI understood would generally oblige the state to participate in dialogue. SDI’s house building praxis appears in this light to be an understanding that what countries in the South need is not participation by the people in a government process, but government’s participation in a people’s process. It seems that the social movement soon recognized that in this regard the local federations of homeless people would play a vital, pioneering role. This represents a paradigm shift in the way economics and politics are understood in industrial society: for the first time the lumpenproletariat have the power and capacity to be a profound influence on the dialectics of society. (Dr L Podlashuc - Class for Itself: an examination of praxis of Slum Dwellers International - UTS 2006)
The agenda underpinning SDI’s vanguard praxis of house building is legitimising the poor’s claim on the ‘city’, to teach in situ how poor people not only survive in cities but how, more than any other class, they give cities their shape and their definition. And that this capacity must be recognised, valorised and utilised within broader, systemic developmental agendas. At the same time it is informed by a radical agenda, which seeks through realigning the relations of production in the favour of the poor to challenge Northern narratives on democracy and participation, as SDI’s Joel Bolnick states “We must make a distinction between mechanisms of learning and mechanisms of delivery. We are more interested in mechanisms of learning (and bringing) communities closer to participatory, democratic, accountable systems of governance.” (SDIa.2000)
The creation of generic horizontal relations and networks that encourage the poor to build their own domains in the face of the market’s (hegemony) demands also creates the possibility of a new social framework. By locating the building process within the milieu of the poor, and ordering the knowledge base around this mode of production in a horizontal, non-hierarchical and transnational form, SDI has evolved a praxis of housing production embedded in the conditions of social reproduction of the lumpenproletariat that reconfigures social relations in a deeper democratic form so that the poorest of the poor become a transformatory force from below. In this sense, building houses is a means to lumpen collective agency.
SDI affiliates range from groups of a few hundred (at present) in Zambia to more than a million-and-a-half in India. Some are decades old, others have been in existence for less than a year. SDI has a presence in the following countries; Cambodia, India, Kenya (see "Camp of Fire" project), Namibia, Nepal,South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Thailand, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Uganda, Colombia, Indonesia, Malawi, Lesotho, Tanzania, Zambia, Argentina, Brazil and Ghana.
Some critics (citation needed) also point out, on the basis of guilt by association, that SDI also has support from the Gates Foundation. Some analysts (citation needed) argue that SDI's position gives it the opportunity to make real deals that help real people. In 2005 it was estimated that its 5.6 million members across 14 countries had amassed nearly $32 million in savings, helped secure land for 125,000 families and created 79,500 new housing units. However others point to academic research to argue that civil society is now a key target area for imperial interventions. On the basis of this, SDI's critics conclude that SDI really functions as a 'sweet-heart' partner for governments giving them the illusion of credibility and thereby enabling genuinely popular shack dwellers' organisations to be marginalized or even, as in South Africa, criminalized. This issue is the subject of ongoing debate that will ultimately be resolved in practise.
SMITHSONIAN'S COOPER-HEWITT, NATIONAL DESIGN MUSEUM TO PRESENT "DESIGN WITH THE OTHER 90%: CITIES" AT THE UNITED NATIONS.
Apr 18, 2011; WASHINGTON -- The following information was released by the Smithsonian Institution: "Design with the Other 90%: Cities," the...