Critically analysing the potential of Slum Dwellers International (SDI)-inspired savings-based mobilisation and community-led enumeration in Addis Ababa from a data justice perspective

Ezana Haddis Weldeghebrael, Feven Haddis Wouldegebriel and Masresha Taye


In recent decades, urban social movements, such as Slum Dwellers International (SDI), have challenged asymmetric power relations in the production of knowledge and the urban exclusion of informal settlements. SDI-affiliated federations have promoted women-led savings groups and used community-led enumeration (settlement profiling, household survey and vacant land survey) and other participatory social mobilisation tools to challenge exclusion. However, SDI’s data initiative has not yet been subjected to critical analysis through the emerging data justice framework in development studies. Additionally, women led-social mobilisation of informal settlement residents has been lacking in urban Ethiopia. Based on action-oriented research, this paper critically assesses the potential of SDI-inspired savings group-based mobilisation, settlement profile and mapping complemented by participatory photography in enhancing the role of slum dwellers in urban development planning and Covid-19 responses in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Accordingly, the action-oriented research organised 25 women slum residents in District One of Gulele Sub-city into savings groups. With the support of local research partners and strictly adhering to Covid-19 social distancing rules, a settlement profile and a participatory map were developed and validated by local stakeholders, including the representatives of the research participants. After analysing the research process using the data justice for development framework, the paper concludes that the intervention effectively identified settlement development needs and built collective capacity and partnerships with authorities and other development agents. However, the research intervention was limited in fully involving the larger community and utilising the findings to influence decision-making. The paper contends that strong social mobilisation should complement data initiatives in informal settlements to enhance residents' role in generating information about themselves and using it to influence structural change. This research has shown the possibility and potential benefit of SDI-inspired mobilisation in Addis Ababa. However, further integration with transnational urban movements and technical support are needed to capitalise on the study's achievements.


Settlement profile, participatory mapping, photovoice, data justice, data initiatives, participatory research, informal settlements, savings groups

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