We strongly believe that without a clear work theory of transformational change, that kind of change will always elude us. While theory necessarily must lead to practice, some theories leads us to unreflected activism – like a shotgun approach! The need for a solid theory of the causes of urban poverty, corresponding interventions, and how slums may actually be transformed, is of more than academic relevance, it follows. It is a condition for sustainable transformational change.

In developing the skeleton for our change model we studied tangible, life-changing and transformational interventions in urban poor communities around the globe. We talked to seasoned practitioners from cities as variegated as São Paulo, Chennai, Manila, Tegucigalpa, Addis Ababa and Delhi, among others. In the course of this research, we identified features of the most promising initiatives. Our change model is largely an outgrowth of the findings of this work. It is based on four key things we believe about urban poverty. These four core beliefs and corresponding working definitions for urban poverty form the basis of our integrated and yet still evolving understanding of urban poverty which guides all of our actions.

Definition 1: Urban Poverty is multi-dimensional


Definition 2: Urban Poverty in essence is a breakdown of relationships


Definition 3: Urban Poverty exists because of unjust systems that don’t work for the poor.


Definition 4: Urban Poverty persists because successful interventions are often not designed for reproducibility and therefore remain small

For a detailed overview of our core definitions, please download What is Urban Poverty? These core definitions about urban poverty inspired the formulation of our vision and mission.

Clarity in our definition of urban poverty also helped us formulate how to address the challenge of urban slums. The basic structure of our change model has four strategic focus areas that correspond to our working definitions about urban poverty.

  • Focus Area 1: Communities that Transforms the City
  • Focus Area 2: Relationships that Transform the City
  • Focus Area 3: Systems that Transform the City
  • Focus Area 4: Processes of Reproduction that Transform the City


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