Knowing, however, that the wheels of government often turn slowly, CHF also shared the information with the residents themselves. "We gave the volunteers from each household who collected the data summary statistics that they could bring back to their communities," English says. The idea was to enable households to better understand their communal problems and self-organize in an effort to improve their conditions.
In one case in Pune, a group of households sharing information learned that the husbands in their community were drinking heavily and then abusing their wives. They also determined that the majority of the liquor was coming from a single store, which they were later able to shut down to help alleviate the problem, according to English. About 85 projects—constructing drainage pipelines, setting up classes for school dropouts and establishing a library for women, to name a few—have been implemented in Pune as a result of information-sharing efforts.
A distinct characteristic of SCALE-UP is its broad definition of poverty. In Ghana urban poverty has traditionally been a measure almost exclusively of income. CHF's poverty map for Sekondi–Takoradi, the country's third-largest urban area, takes into account access to housing; room and housing density levels; solid-waste services; sanitation and water; and income, says Ishmael Adams, acting country director for CHF in Ghana. The Sekondi–Takoradi study (pdf), published in February 2010 with help from the Sekondi–Takoradi Metropolitan Assembly, found that in one of the slum areas studied, among 400 houses there is only one house with a toilet. The rest of the 9,000 residents share a public latrine built in 1958.
The poverty atlas generated significant interest from the mayor of Sekondi–Takoradi, according to Adams, who adds that data in the poverty atlas was used to prepare the city's current Medium Term Development Plan. "Because of CHF's poverty atlas, and the bright light it has shed on several deprived slums, over 30 new projects are now in the works to support the development of the most in-need areas," he says. This includes the construction of water and sanitation facilities at Ngyersia, Kojokrom, Kwesimintsim and New Takoradi—all slums in the Sekondi–Takoradi metropolis.
"This project is not just about Ghana nor is it just about India," Adams says. "This is an approach that is going to have to be taken around the world, and many other similar organizations are trying to do the same."
Plotting better cities
Of course, CHF International is not the only organization to create urban poverty atlases. The United Way of New York City and the Community Service Society of New York created a map of that city in 2008 (pdf). The U.S. Census Bureau has a map of the country based on 2005 census data, whereas the World Bank has a comprehensive series of maps for countries worldwide (pdf).
"The power of this project is that the data is not just extracted and put in presentations for policymakers—it's also given back to the communities themselves and used to empower them," English says. "We tell them where to push in their local governments and if there is no place to push, we tell them how to mobilize their own resources to do this." Slums are not the result just of urbanization but also of failed policies and practices of marginalization and exclusion of the poor, he adds, "so it is quite possible to not have slums although it's hard for cities to imagine it."