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Young women and men in urban slums: building resilience and amplifying the voice of slum dwellers - updated 22/12

Enabling young slum dwellers in Freetown and Monrovia to become agents of change and increase resilience of their own communities

Photo of Rehana Merali

Written by

EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Slums dwellers are extremely vulnerable to disasters and climate change, and often lack the information to respond to, or prepare for these, and have limited voice and influence over decisions impacting their lives, including those that could increase their resilience. Improved information flow, within communities and with external stakeholders, can help solve this issue contributing to risk reduction and better disaster management. To do this, young people can play a vital role as mobilisers and catalysts of change. Our idea is to set up youth-led Community Communication Centres in slum areas in Freetown and Monrovia to generate and coordinate information on community-based facilities, risks and assets. The information shared through the Community Communication Centres will help young people (i) mitigate risks of disasters and adapt to climate change impacts, and (ii) influence leaders and decision-makers on slum upgrading and climate change adaptation. Trained youth will: 1. Conduct hazard, vulnerability and capacity assessments of their communities, and implement action plans to reduce risk 2. Carry out community-led surveys and inventories of infrastructures (monitoring their state/functionality) 3. Use data generated to update OpenStreetMap maps of slum communities 4. Develop radio programmes and posters/flyers, to increase awareness and encourage action 5. Undertake advocacy activities on slum upgrading and climate change adaptation

WHO BENEFITS?

Young women and men (15-24 years old) living in the slum communities will benefit from and contribute to efforts to build community resilience. They will be the interface between other community members, organisations and local authorities. All slum-dwellers will benefit from improved resilience. Our idea will be implemented in urban slums communities of Monrovia, Liberia and Freetown, Sierra Leone with a potential to scale up and be ‘exported’ to other countries in West Africa and beyond

HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF URBAN SLUMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE?

Community Communication Centres (CCC) will complement efforts made to date by Y Care International to give a voice to youth in slum areas – in partnership with YMCAs, city councils, and SDI. This idea draws on renewed support from these actors and from OpenStreetMap community. Youth advocates, peer educators trained by the YMCA, school clubs facilitated by the YMCAs, and slum savings groups’ members will all be linked to the CCC. These centres, like those successfully piloted in Monrovia, are designed to be regularly attended by people who get and give information when they move across the community. In the context of climate change, activities at the CCC will be flexible and based on priorities expressed by the community. They CCC will (i) raise awareness around risks associated to e.g. sea-level rise and implications for those living in coastal areas; (ii) develop action to respond effectively to sudden-onset emergencies and adapt to long term gradual changes; and (iii) inform about factors contributing to climate change e.g. over-production and use of charcoal for livelihood and energy – charcoal is the primary source of energy for 90%+ of urban inhabitants in Liberia! They will be a physical entity – over to the community to recommend space and shape! To maximise resources, schools may decide to use kiosks already available in their premises for this purpose. In WestPoint, Monrovia, a newly open community centre is also able to host one of the CCC. Specific needs of (young) women, whether linked to hygiene, security or climate change adaptation, will be considered.

IN-COUNTRY EXPERIENCE

  • Yes, for two or more years

EXPERTISE

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for at least two years

GEOGRAPHIC FOCUS

  • Yes

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF

Alessandra, Caroline, Rehana and Lizz. All members of the International Programmes Team at Y Care International, including expertise in DRR. Passionate about providing vulnerable young people with opportunities and a voice, for a better future! http://www.ycareinternational.org/ http://sdinet.org

IS THIS A NEW OR RECENT IDEA FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION? HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM WHAT YOU ARE ALREADY DOING?

Y Care International and partner YMCAs in Liberia and Sierra Leone have been working for over 10 years with young slum dwellers, focusing on increasing economic resilience through saving and credit groups, improving health conditions of slums dwellers, improving community disaster management and increasing engagement with decision-makers on slum upgrading. This idea brings a fresh approach whilst building on piloting Community Communication Centres established during the Ebola outbreak in Monrovia and years of supporting youth-led DRR actions in Freetown. It will provide a space to share information within the communities and consolidate recent partnerships with: the new Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre (supported by Njala University and University College London (UCL) Development Planning Unit); the OpenStreetMap online community who were active in mapping slum communities during the Ebola outbreak; and UK Universities (Kings College London & UCL) to support research and learning

HOW IS YOUR IDEA DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SIMILAR INITIATIVES? WHAT ARE YOU DOING DIFFERENTLY? WHAT UNIQUE ADVANTAGES DO YOU HAVE?

What is different: - establishment of youth-led Community Communication Centres in the heart of slum communities, increasing access to information to ALL community members - combining community-led assessments, academic research and OpenSource technology to collate, verify and share data on urban slum communities: free and widely available within and outside of Monrovia and Freetown (to anyone with an internet connection), and responsive to changes in community risk. Our unique advantages: - young slum dwellers are at the centre of the idea, designing and implementing activities to support their communities - YMCAs are well-established, trusted local organisations embedded in local slum communities and able to mobilise young volunteers - building on existing partnerships with a range of stakeholders for implementation and learning (communities, academics, community-based organisations, I/NGOs, City Councils) - building on combined YCI and YMCA experience and expertise in youth programming and DRR

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR IDEA?

- Data on climate change impacts in the targeted slum communities: accurate data at local level doesn't exist currently - The sustainability of the Community Communication Centres; to what extent will community members use the centres in the longer-term? - How do we ensure Maps and data generated on slum communities is accessible to all slum dwellers, ensuring that we 'leave no-one behind'?

WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?

Due to the informal nature of slum settlements, there is limited investment by government in infrastructure development and service provision for slum dwellers. Also, decision-makers are less accessible and responsive to slum dwellers; leaving them 'feeling neglected' (beneficiary, Monrovia). Our beneficiary feedback found most community members are unaware about climate change and issues surrounding it; and also lack an understanding of the role that they themselves could play in response to risk. Despite this, community members have shown willingness to engage with these activities "We are interested as this will help us reduce risks to our lives" (Slipway slum community, Monrovia)

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BASED ON FEEDBACK FROM YOUR COMMUNITY?

To develop this concept, we have worked together with our YMCA partners to generate new ideas, drawing learning from existing approaches and expertise, contacted other OpenIDEO applicants and carried out focus group discussions with young people, community stakeholders & leaders in Monrovia and Freetown. This idea has also been informed by learning from the Final Review Workshop held in November 2015 for our multi-country slum project, with participants from 4 West African countries including slum dwellers from 5 slum communities. Our initial idea included the use of SMS technology. Based on feedback from slum dwellers, this approach has been removed as it would exclude some community members with no access to mobile technology. Instead, our concept includes more focus around youth-led radio programming and other community-based IEC activities such as theatre and film projection, and talks from relevant government authorities. The engagement with government authorities will create space for young people to influence on decisions related to climate change adaptation and slum upgrading, and facilitate two-way communication. Research and learning components have also been strengthened following consultation, building on existing relationships with academic institutions e.g. UCL and SLURC (based in Freetown and London). Finally, further consultations with the OpenStreetMap community to ensure data collected can be represented and accessed via this free OpenSource platform

WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?

87% of disasters last year were climate-related. Flooding in Freetown earlier this year and the Ebola outbreak in both cities disproportionately affected those living in slum communities. We believe in the power and agency of young people to bring about positive change in their own communities. Building skills and understanding of local young people to adapt to and manage disaster and climate risks will contribute to increased resilience and improved quality of life in slum communities. Increasing young people's voice, engagement and influence over decision-makers at all levels will bring about lasting change in urban slum communities.

How does your idea connect to the broader system of the city where you plan to implement?

This idea will benefit from support and resources from a wide network, including slum dwellers’ federations, local/city-wide authorities, CBOs, schools, as did the pilot communication centres during the Ebola outbreak. This idea also connects to, and complements, city-wide initiatives that Liberia and Sierra Leone YMCAs with their partner slum dwellers' federations are supporting, i.e. the Comic Relief-funded Freetown Urban Slum Initiative; and the 2016-20 Liberia Country Programme, funded by Cities Alliance/Comic Relief, aiming to achieve a “Strengthened organisation and participation of slum dwellers and working poor in city governance, inclusive planning and pro-poor service delivery.” The Community Communication Centres will support the overall strategy and activities for mobilizing young slum dwellers to capture and disseminate relevant information and lead informed advocacy on investment priorities, including disaster preparedness and adaptation to climate change.

26 comments

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Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Rehana,

Below is some more feedback from our experts. Looking forward to your thoughts!

I feel the scope of the youth needs to be further defined. Open street maps is a great start but there's many things that can be achieved through that data. To solve a problem, we need dive deeper into what is it that we're trying to address. What is the big problem you are trying to solve?

Photo of Rehana Merali
Team

Hi Chioma, thank you for this comment!
Following on from it, and based on most recent consultations with our partner YMCAs, (Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre – https://www.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/dpu/sierra-leone-urban-research-centre) and HOT (Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team – https://hotosm.org/about ; they have published an idea here: https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/urban-resilience/ideas/ramani-huria-open-map-participatory-urban-mapping-for-connected-and-resilient-communities-in-dar-es-salaam), we have rephrased our problem statement and tried to better respond to the question ‘what is the problem we want to solve’. We hope that this is clearer now – the problem that we want to solve is the limited information available for most slum dwellers around risks associated to their communities and related to climate change and what they can do about it. Radio and TV shows inform about climate changes and disasters around the world but very rarely encourage actions at the local level, with concrete examples, materials to refer to, and people to engage in discussions with.
At YCI, we feel that young people can play a great role in mobilising communities, raising awareness and making a change. Youth have specific needs due to their particular age of transition but they have also many assets in terms of energy, social skills and motivation to attend and organise social events, etc., that they can use to mobilise people (their peers, their parents, their siblings, etc.) around issues that are important to them or their families. More importantly, they speak the language people want to hear, not NGO-jargon. The YMCAs in Africa, following their philosophy ‘Subject to Citezen’ (http://www.africaymca.org/empowering/our-work/subject-2-citizen/), promote this and constantly make efforts to create the right space for young people to take action. We believe that the Community Communication Centres can contribute to creating this space, specifically in slums communities. For example, youth at the Community Communication Centres will be able to develop and disseminate messages on the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in simple English or local language through outreach fora and other media.
The link with the OpenStreetMaps community is there to ensure information can be shared beyond the community limits and can be brought at city-wide/national level. It is for this same purpose that we have engaged with SLURC. We totally agree with you – maps cannot be the end of our idea. Maps are useful when they are used. To date, YCI supported the YMCA in Sierra Leone to establish DRR youth-based groups in Freetown. Young people members of these groups would benefit from improved mapping skills as this would strengthen their action panning processes. We also feel that the information they gather should be available for other community members at all times – not only when they carry out awareness-raising sessions or mass events. The presence of Community Communication Centres will help make this information available to anybody interested.
Young people at the centres will also be able to develop leadership skills. This will benefit in two ways: on the hand, it will improve youth self-confidence which is generally quite low as demonstrated by our latest needs assessment and baseline surveys; and on the other end, it will make young people reflect on their responsibilities as citizens and will potentially challenge their stereotypes, including on gender-related issues.

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Thanks Rehana!

Photo of Sunandan Tiwari
Team

Hi Rehana

I believe you need to explore existing institutions (formal, informal) that could be leveraged to implement your idea rather than creating a new one (i.e. communication centre). The innovation of your idea lies is your ability to do so. Managing an institution is a major challenge that could suck up a lot of time and resources, and therefore avoidable to the extent possible so that energies can be directed towards the main goals.

You would also need to explore further how your idea will be sustained 

Hope these help

Sunandan

Photo of Rehana Merali
Team

Hello – apologies for the late response. Thanks for this question. There might be some sort of misunderstanding.

Our idea is not about creating a new institution; it is more about creating a space. In a couple of pictures above, you can see how a community communication centre can look like. It is basically a booth – a small stall where young people can sit or stand, keep their information sheets to hand out as well as their records of information received and their list of community members available to help on any particular issue. So in our minds and based on the experience we had with the ‘emergency’ community communication centres in Monrovia last year, during the Ebola outbreak.

Of course, as we have now also detailed in our response to Giok below, the idea is to partner up with existing ‘community structures’ as our friends in Liberia call them, and with any stakeholders or existing facility/service available that is interested in the information that can be gathered by the community communication centres for either nurture the centres or make use of the information. For example, the partnership with SDI-affiliate slum dwellers’ federations in both Liberia and Sierra Leone will ensure that information gathered is used to inform community choices about upgrading or slum developing; the partnership with SLURC will ensure that local/localised information will be linked with other information/knowledge at a wider, city level and that this information and knowledge will inform advocacy initiatives and challenge decision-making processes that affect the lives of those living in informal settlements; etc.

On the sustainability point, this is really important! Learning from the piloted Community Communication Centres show that we should invest on this and in particular in partnerships with other structures that remain in the slums beyond the end of a project. Some strategies are outlined below, in the same response to Giok I mentioned earlier.

Another lesson learnt about sustainability from the pilot experience is that stipends do not really help continue the activities. Stipends were necessary during the emergency because ‘Ebola must go’, but voluntary civic participation to fight climate change implications and reduce disaster risks is what this idea wants to promote.  For example, a suggestion from Monrovia community was about involving CBOs in the management of the Community Communication Centres. The CBOs could establish a system of gifts whereby young people collecting information for the centres or participating in outreach activities would receive a gift e.g. a wrist ban, pen, copybook, etc. Youth that will bring a friend along could receive a double gift and CBOs seem supportive of this.
Linking up with schools, slum dwellers’ federations as well as local CBOs will help achieving this in the long-run!

Also, our idea will be linked to other existing initiatives both in Monrovia (as part of the 5-year Liberia Country Progamme supported by Cities Alliance, Comic Relief and SDI) and in Sierra Leone (as part of the 5-year Freetown Urban Slum Initiative also supported by Comic Relief).

Photo of Giok P CHUA
Team

Hi Rehana
How the project be funded?
Donations?
Or Self HELP with Seed Capital?

We got to relook at the funding models.
Why dont you relook at how to create skillsets in your folks to earn from internet services such as Fiverr etc so that they have earning power for social mobility

Photo of Rehana Merali
Team

Thank you for your comment. This aspect of project planning is always challenging, thank you for pointing it out. I like your suggestion of using crowdfunding/ micro grant platforms such as Fiverr or Kiva. We could definitely look into training some of the volunteers to access this technology. The main challenge of course remains the internet access/connectivity, but it might be something our YMCA partners can support us with. 

At the moment, we are mainly thinking of partnering up with (i) local schools that can provide human resources – our partner YMCAs facilitate Y-clubs in those schools that dealt with hygiene/sanitation issues among others topics, (ii) local councils that can provide a space/authorise the use of a space and can contribute to the low-cost maintenance of the centres – this partnership worked really well during the Ebola outbreak in Monrovia. For example, the pilot Community Communication Centres that you can see in one of the pictures above was based next to the Township hall in WestPoint, and (iii) slum dwellers’ federations (Slumdal in Liberia and FEDURP in Sierra Leone) that can also contribute human resources and ensure the sustainability of the centres – these federations, both affiliated to SDI, consist of savings groups that mobilise savings mainly to community purposes. The link to SDI website in our text above. The collaboration with academia/research institute like SLURC will also provide support, including financial, to the centres and this is where our trained youth could actually provide their skills and knowledge in exchange of remuneration/funding for the centres. There is definitely scope to explore funding opportunities linked to technology and the internet as well!

Overall, we feel that the Community Communication Centres will not require a lot of financial support. The main point/challenge will be in terms of human resources – this was what we faced during the emergency response project in Monrovia when we first piloted this idea. However, this should easily be overcome thanks to the partnerships outlines above. Also, both the YMCAs and the slum dwellers’ federations are voluntary associations that promote and foster voluntary engagement for civic purposes with quite a lot of achievements so far!

Photo of Khadija Robinson
Team

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Photo of Isaac Njlah Konfor
Team

It would be interesting if you develop education kit for schools such that every year the children continue to learn about the situation and the solutions. In that case it would be more sustainable as the importance of your intervention will be seen in the school program.

Photo of Rehana Merali
Team

Thanks Isaac! That's a good idea. Our partner YMCAs already have links with primary and secondary schools, so we can explore whether this may be possible...

As an addition to our comment dating back to a few weeks ago, Isaac, you will be pleased to hear that based on feedback received from both community members and partners on the ground, we are now planning to link up our Community Communication Centre to the schools where the YMCA facilitate clubs (mainly health clubs focussing on hygiene/sanitation/SRH/etc.). We feel there might be strong links there and that young members of these clubs could be motivated to volunteer at the Community Communication Centres. Also, because every year there are new students, the link between the schools and the Community Communication Centres will allow the latter to every year benefit from the energy and motivation of new volunteers!

Photo of Riya Choksi
Team

Very inspiring :)

Photo of Rehana Merali
Team

Thank you Riya!

Photo of Catherine Allinson Future Earth Ltd
Team

Dear Rehana, I have been looking for a project here at OpenIDEO to solve one of the challenges we are having which is "where to house our Community Cockpit" and your Community Communication Centres would be one solution (alongside schools, health centres, internet cafes). To tell you a bit more... the Communities Cockpit is to be designed by the community itself to house all the data and information that e.g. your users would collect and add it to open source data and information about risks, planning suggestions, initiatives, cool products and services which are of benefit to the community. Are you planning to create a centre in Accra? And will the centre be linked to the internet?

Photo of Rehana Merali
Team

Thanks Catherine. The Community Cockpit sounds like a great idea! We would be happy to explore synergies and collaboration. The Communication Centres are intended for Freetown, Sierra Leone and Monrovia, Liberia, where we currently work with YMCA and other partners. Do you have plans to work there too? We do not have direct presence in Accra, but our partner, Slum Dwellers International, works with its affiliates there, so we could help to facilitate contact if that would help?

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Congrats on making it to the Feedback Phase Rehana! We would love it if you can take some time to answer the new Refinement questions that we've added to your original idea submission form. To answer the new questions, hit the Edit Contribution button at the top of your post. Scroll down to the entry fields of the new Refinement questions. Hit Save when you are done editing.

Also, here's a useful tip: When you update the content of your post, it'd be helpful to indicate this in your idea title by adding an extension. For example, you can add the extension " - Update: Experience Maps 11/16" to you idea title. This will be a good way to keep people informed about how your idea is progressing!

Photo of Libby Powell
Team

On Our Radar are collaborating with YCare in a wider capacity to explore the use of basic mobile tech, particularly SMS and voice, to ensure more excluded and offline communities are able to engage in civic reporting and dialogue with duty bearers. We fully support this concept and will share relevant learning to enable them to use mobile to extend the depth and breadth of their reach.
Libby Powell, CEO, On Our Radar

Photo of Rehana Merali
Team

Many thanks Libby! YCI looks forward to further expanding our collaboration with OnourRadar. For others’ benefit, please see the inspiring work of OnOurRadar here: http://www.onourradar.org/

Photo of Catherine Allinson Future Earth Ltd
Team

Great idea and this is exactly the kind of initiative we see feeding into the resilience.io Community Cockpit (WASH with other sectors to be added later through scale up). Your centres are just the kind of hub essential for the community to come together and via their own Cockpits gain access to their own cultural histories and policies of the day to strengthen their sense of identity and voice. Happy to work with you in the future.

Photo of Rehana Merali
Team

Hello, thanks for your comment and the link. Your model looks very interesting and with a lot in common with our theory of change (sorry it's not available on the web, so no link can be provided). And having a centralised platform to gather and store all information about the communities could definitely complement and enhance the work of our hubs, so yes there is really scope for collaboration!

Photo of Catherine Allinson Future Earth Ltd
Team

Dear Rehana,
Regardless of the outcome here - please do let's keep in touch - my details are futureearthmail@gmail.com (OpenIDEO - I hope it is ok to put contact details here - if not, do please remove from this post) or via The Ecological Sequestration Trust website "ecosequestrust.org" because we will definitely be continuing to work in Africa.
Best wishes, Catherine

Photo of Timothy Gachanga
Team

Hi Rehana,

Karn has directed my attention to your unique project that aims to give voice to slum communities. As Karn has suggested there is a lot we have in common and would love to be in your team so that we can build on each others idea.

Wishing you the best,

Timothy

Photo of Rehana Merali
Team

Hi Timothy, for sure! Please see my comment to Karn's one. It would be great to further explore how our ideas could work together in practice and to use your idea of a travelling exhibition to share the messages from our youth-led community communication centres. Young people's rained in disaster risk reduction in the slum communities where we work usually use visual materials when raising awareness in their communities and the exhibition could help them doing so even more effectively. Thanks Karn for linking us up!

Photo of Karn Shah
Team

Hi Rehana,

Love this idea. It's very important to engage the youth and give them the ability to influence decisions related to their community. I think there are lots of potential for collaborating with another idea I've come across - https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/urban-resilience/ideas/travelling-exhibition-on-effects-of-climate-change
This idea complements your idea by educating the community members (with a focus on a similar demographic as your idea) about the potential impacts on climate change on their community, and makes them think about ways of making their community more resilient. Your idea then enables the community members to take the next steps - gathering data, create action plans, raise further awareness, etc. I see a potentially useful collaboration :)
All the best,
Karn

Photo of Rehana Merali
Team

Hi Karn, thanks so much for this link! Yes there is definitely scope for collaboration with Timothy's and your ideas. These are techniques/methods that the young people managing the hubs and trained in disaster risk reduction could use to share their knowledge with their peers and raise awareness on climate change more widely in their communities. And a participatory approach should be adopted as it has been suggested in some of the comments to your ideas, so as to make the slum dwellers active designers of the stories and posters, etc.

Photo of Vinh Pham
Team

Hi Rehana, this idea is great. Will slums dwellers receive any training programs ? as I see many activities relating to management, assessment and organizing that require these skills

Photo of Rehana Merali
Team

Hi Vinh, thanks for this question. The word limit was such that we were not able to include all details of our programme! However, yes, young people will receive training in: (i) disaster risk management (usually provided by expert organisations in this subject e.g. Red Cross or by the YMCA where they've got expertise), (ii) leadership and life skills (provided by the YMCA and informed by the 'From Subject to Citizen' programme promoted by the African alliance of YMCA http://www.africaymca.org/empowering/our-work/subject-2-citizen/), and (iii) advocacy (also provided by the YMCA). When surveys are involved, young people and other slum dwellers involved are also provided by enumeration/profiling/mapping training following the SDI's methodology.
Hope is answers your question!