Changing Power Relations in Housing Processes in the Global South

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Time: 4:00pm
Location: Arts Center Lecture Hall

(eastern edge of the Arts complex near Mitchell Hall)

Current urbanization trends in Asia and Africa challenge classical planning approaches. Local governments are failing in providing adequate housing for the majority of urban poor, leading to an increase in informal systems and strategies. This is where the "new urban players" tend to move in. Often labeled as grassroots movement, an increasing number of Community Based Organizations initiate and get involved in housing processes on a local scale while building networks on a global scale. These alliances do not follow the classical concept of institutions; rather they are composite organizations. The duration of their alliance can be more or less permanent and often lack coherence. Characteristic of these networks is their tendency to network building, which transcends the national scale and involves multiscale strategies in addressing the housing process. This lecture seeks to discuss these multilevel housing processes in terms of participatory governance and the related integration of civil society.

The main argument is that the transformed housing process does not only influence policy and actors on various levels but brings about a new system of transformed power positions and assertiveness of the urban poor vis-à-vis outside actors. Cases are associations supported by the Community Organizations Development Institute (CODI) in Thailand and federations affiliated to the Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI). The focus is on various levels of their relationship-building between the Philippines, Thailand, and South Africa. This contribution does not intend to provide answers whether these networks are democratic, accountable or transparent in terms of a normative understanding of good governance or social capital. Instead, it seeks to discuss the tendencies identified and the role such new urban players play in the local policy making processes. The knowledge presented is based on a research project titled "Housing for the Urban Poor: From Local Action to Global Networks," funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Josefine Ørum Fokdal is and architect and senior researcher at the Habitat Unit at the Berlin Institute of Technology, with a special focus on urbanization processes, governance, and mega-cities in Asia.

This lecture free and open to the public. It is cosponsored by the Center for International Education, the Center for 21st Century Studies, the Design Research Institute, Peck School of the Arts, the School of Architecture and Urban Planning and Urban Studies Programs at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the German Research Foundation. For more information contact Arijit Sen at