References: how can decentralised finance drive sustainable development?

Article, 08 July 2015

The interactive presentation on architecture of aid describes two powerful examples of international funds that have supported community-based organisations at scale – the Urban Poor Fund International and the Asian Coalition for Community Action. 

In urban and rural communities across the world, low income families lack the shelter and services they need to live with dignity, security, health and prosperity (Photo: IIED)


Below are some of the publications that over the last 26 years helped develop support for this approach and reported on what has been achieved.

The idea of creating funds in each country or city to support the work of community-based organisations in informal settlements was first developed by Jorge E Hardoy, and described in the book 'Squatter Citizen', which was published in 1989. This helped stimulate an international seminar on Funding Community Initiatives (whose proceedings were published), a special issue of Environment and Urbanization in 1993, and various attempts to get such funds set up – for instance by the Department for International Development (DFID) and by the European Union.

Since 2000, a growing volume of literature has discussed funds for community organisations, including Arjun Appadurai's paper on 'Deep Democracy' and the book 'Empowering Squatter Citizen'. The importance of such funds for meeting the Millennium Development Goals was emphasised in a working paper in 2005.

There were also publications describing the International Urban Poor Fund that was set up in 2001 and its evolution into the Urban Poor Fund International managed by Slum/Shack Dwellers International.

Over the last decade, many working papers and papers in the journal Environment and Urbanization focused on the work of the slum/shack dwellers' federations and networks and how this was supported by the Urban Poor Fund International and the Asian Coalition for Community Action.

The October 2012 issue of Environment and Urbanization had seven papers focusing on different aspects of the work of the Asian Coalition for Community Action, while the book 'Reducing urban poverty in the global South' included detailed summaries both of this and of the Urban Poor Fund International. The achievements of these two funds have also been described in a Tedx talk in 2013 and in blogs and briefings during 2014 and 2015


  1. Jorge E. Hardoy founded IIED's Human Settlements Group in 1977 and also founded and directed IIED's sister institution in Buenos Aires, IIED-America Latina
  2. 'Squatter Citizen', by Jorge E. Hardoy, and David Satterthwaite (1989), Earthscan Publications, London
  3. 'Funding Community Initiatives', by Silvina Arrossi, Felix Bombarolo, Jorge E. Hardoy, Diana Mitlin, Luis Perez Coso and David Satterthwaite (1994), Earthscan Publications, London
  4. 'Empowering squatter citizen: local government, civil society and urban poverty reduction', Diana Mitlin and David Satterthwaite (editors) (2004), Earthscan Publications, London, 320 pages
  5. Examples: 'Finance as a catalyst for change: supporting the grassroots through urban poor fund', Diana Mitlin (2007), Working paper, IIED, London; 'A fund to secure land for shelter; supporting strategies of the organized poor', Diana Mitlin (2003), Environment and Urbanization, Vol. 15, No. 1 (pages 181-192); 'Strategies for grassroots control of international aid', Diana Mitlin and David Satterthwaite (2007), Environment and Urbanization, Vol. 19, No. 2 (pages 483-500); Urban Poor Funds: development by the people for the people, Diana Mitlin (2008), Working paper, IIED, London; and Urban Poor Fund International: a decade of innovationIIED (2010), IIED, London
  6. Examples: 'With and beyond the state; co-production as a route to political influence, power and transformation for grassroots organizations', Diana Mitlin (2008), Environment and Urbanization Vol. 20, No. 2 (pages 339-360); Community savings that mobilise federations, build women’s leadership and support slum upgrading, Celine D'Cruz and Patience Mudimu (2013), Environment and Urbanization, Vol. 25  No. 1 (pages 31-45); 'Capital, capacities and collaboration: the multiple roles of community savings in addressing urban poverty', Diana Mitlin, David Satterthwaite and Sheridan Bartlett (2011), Working paper, IIED, London, 56 pages
  7. 'Reducing Urban Poverty in the Global South', David Satterthwaite and Diana Mitlin (2014), Routledge, London
  8. Recent blogs and briefs include:


Anna Walnycki (, researcher, Human Settlements Group

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