The project examines how grassroots organizations and networks providing urban critical services in informal settlements contribute to improve the quality of life of urban dwellers and to more inclusive forms of urban governance, constructing the city from below.
The project is informed by the study of Kisumu’s informal settlements’ Resident Associations, the Water Delegated Management Model, and the Kisumu Waste Actors Network. The study adopted an action-research approach with researchers working with citizens, politi- cians, officers and entrepreneurs in all stages of the research process and used a combina- tion of methods including document studies, ethnographic and participatory observations, visual ethnography, interviews, focus groups, social media analysis and stakeholder work- shops as well as participatory videotaping. The study discusses a) the institutionalization of grassroots organizations for the delivery of critical infrastructure and services and their need to gain, regain and maintain legitimacy; b) their flexible and nested structure facili- tating their resilience; c) their embeddedness in the communities’ knowledge and assets, and their role as social and institutional entrepreneurs to bridge informal settlements with city governance; d) the redefinition of the roles of the citizen, from passive into active agents, and its transformation into more autonomous and insurgent citizens; e) the blending of civic and material rationales and the construction of more fluid identities allowing citizens to draw pragmatically from a broader repertoire of roles and resources; f) and the creation of grassroots organizations as a collective process that emerge from different directions, with the ability to become gateways but also gatekeepers, or the top of the grass at their communities. It concludes with recommendations to informal settlements’ resident grass- roots organizations, public officers, NGOs, politicians, researchers and citizens in general, engaged in constructing a more inclusive city governance from below.