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Mapping the urban poor: 12 reasons why you should conduct enumerations of your settlements




Residents in Rotes Pleng listen as the community leader discusses the community's map. Photo: Meng Cheang

Residents in Rotes Pleng listen as the community leader discusses the community’s map. Photo: Meng Cheang

Enumeration: to be counted; it is the fundamental basis of inclusion in the city. To exclude a community from census and mapping activities is to effectively render it invisible to urban decision-making processes. But as the world urbanises, an ever-increasing proportion of humanity is coming to reside in urban poor settlements, outside the scope of most traditional methods of enumeration such as government censuses which underpin land management and urban planning. The implications of the trend for how cities will look and function in coming decades are legion. However one implication becoming increasingly apparent is the need for more flexible and inclusive systems of mapping and counting in developing cities.

In settings where the capacity or will to include the urban poor in official mapping and enumeration activities is lacking, participatory, community-led processes frequently come to occupy the void. Following the seminal work of SPARC India’s We the invisible, its 1985 census of pavement dwellers in Mumbai, the concept has gained international recognition and is now widely practiced throughout the developing world. However, community maps and data are not ends in themselves, but they can form vital steps in the larger process of creating more inclusive cities. Here are 12 reasons why:

Women in Prek Talong discuss the results of their community mapping. Photo: Meng Cheang

Women in Prek Talong discuss the results of their community mapping. Photo: Meng Cheang

-Marchus Tudehope

With a background in urban planning and community organizing, Marcus Tudehope has been involved in the advocacy of the homeless in Western Australia, informal settlers in the Philippines, rural community development projects in South India, and now urban rights and housing in Phnom Penh.

Read the full article in The Global Urbanist