Informal City Dialogues is a global, multi-stakeholder project fostering a conversation about the role of informality in creating inclusive and resilient future cities. The informal city encompasses diverse activities and actors whose livelihoods and dwellings are usually neither regulated nor protected by the state (e.g., waste pickers, street vendors, slums, etc.), and yet often accounts for a large percentage of GDP, housing, and transport. Despite its size and importance in the developing world, the informal city is often excluded from planning and policy and geographically separated. Given that a sizable portion of the world's population will live and work in the informal city in the future, it is of paramount importance that plans to make cities sustainable and resilient include the informal sector.
Informal City Dialogues was launched in 2012 by the Rockefeller Foundation as part of the Foundation’s upcoming Centennial activities. Forum for the Future is running the project and brings considerable knowledge and expertise in futures and innovation.
The six cities selected for the project are Accra (Ghana), Bangkok (Thailand), Chennai (India), Lima (Peru), Manila (Philippines), and Nairobi (Kenya). Our local partners are the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) in Accra, Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Transparent Chennai in Chennai, FORO Nacional Internacional in Lima, Ateneo de Manila University School of Government (ASoG) in Metro Manila, and the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) in Nairobi.
In November 2012, we convened a Reference Group of experts to shape the project and position it for success. Forum worked closely with our local partners in each city to address the important points raised by the Reference Group. We believe this was a critical moment in the project.
In early 2013, Forum and our local partners in each city brought together a diverse group of stakeholders from the public and private sector, civil society, industry, non-profits, street vendors, slumdwellers, urban poor, academia, women and youth groups, and others. Through interactive workshops in February/March, the stakeholders developed futures scenarios of what life in their city could be like in 2040. The stakeholders in each city recovened in April/May and used the scenarios to create innovations that would contribute to a more inclusive and resilient future. One innovation was selected in each city to be further refined and brought to life through funding from the Rockefeller Foundation’s City Innovation Grants. The final grants will be announced in September 2013. The project concluded in September with a conference at the Foundation's Bellagio Center which identified the next steps for the Informal City Dialogues in the project cities and beyond. Read about the project workshops here.
The dialogue around informality, inclusivity, and resiliency in future cities hasn't been limited just to project participants, however. Next City embedded local writers in each city who blogged about the informal settlements, systems, and economies in those cities on a weekly basis. The coverage included a series of long-form Forefront articles, short films, and social media to broaden the discussion. Find out more about the project and join the conversation:
Visit the official project website: http://www.nextcity.org/informalcity
Read our briefing paper (free download on the left-hand side of this page)
Read the future scenarios from each city and our analysis report, Reimagining the Future of Informality: Scenarios from the Global South (free download on the left-hand side of this page)
Flip through the Informal City Reader by Next City, which chronicles stories from the informal realm of these cities through photography, film, and blog posts