Enhancing community data accuracy through capacity and inclusive verification process

By Kheleon Nyambuga and Shadrack Mbaka

  Surveying an aerial map in Mathare, an informal settlement in Nairobi

Surveying an aerial map in Mathare, an informal settlement in Nairobi

Settlement Enumerations and Mapping and city-wide profiling is an ideal way to understand settlement and city wide dynamics, how people live, its boundaries, its services, its housing typologies and public spaces. These sets of data put slum dwellers in the concept seat to imagine how there settlements change at the local level as well as impact city wide growth.

It is important to note that data collected by communities is not an opportunity for urban poor communities to showcase their ability to gather information that mirrors their settlements, but a plug-in to decision-making at city level. To achieve policy-influence and trigger decision making, accuracy is of the essence. It is therefore, important for urban poor networks and federations to ensure accuracy and quality by specifically ensuring that the data collected is properly analysed and disseminated to communities to fast-track decision making processes.

These are community processes, that bears the processing and production of trusted and verifiable data about the physical, social, and economic characteristics of informal settlements within urban cities and community needs is the simplest and most effective means to achieve this goal.

Community information must, however, be shared; otherwise, discussions on the comparisons of experiences cannot occur within communal contexts, which is likely to slow down learning. Sharing of data and information with the custodians of data, who happen to be the communities themselves, data validation by the communities brings aboard value additions which creates dialogue and ownership by slum dwellers. This also to a larger extent builds confidence in local governments to secure partnership in urban city development agenda.

In a three day training workshop for the Muungano community members on data collection, processing, validation and reporting, it emerged that indeed facts and data in a back to back model, are more commonly the language of communities and city official planners, researchers and development organizations.

  Data Training session with the federation Data Team.

Data Training session with the federation Data Team.

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As the federation prepares to embark on a process of city wide data verification process in five cities; Nairobi, Nakuru, Machakos, Makueni and Kisumu. This data was collected by the close of 2014, with more than 313 settlements in 5 cities profiled and mapped. Imparting valuable knowledge and skill to communities to be able to relate and validate their own information, critique it and recommend amendments empowers them to have  a final product of verifiable data about their settlements and to also enter into valid discussions about their own development priorities in their local governments’ own terms, but with better information.

In this process, city planners gain access to information about urban poor communities that they would likely not have access to otherwise, allowing for more informed planning that includes community priorities and a more functional understanding of why certain services may be more important than others.

This in indeed a common practice of Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI) and is a growing practice in many cities throughout the globe. The prompt provision of data in time for appropriate decisions and action to be taken is essential for effective urban management. Regular and frequent, typically annual, assessments of data use, and a review of appropriate management options in response to changes are essential, and these can only be effective if organized communities incorporate reliable and up-to-date data and information.