Full community participation is widely regarded as the make-or-break factor in successful urban development in informal areas. In addition, community ownership and appropriation of essential functions in the planning and implementation phases has the potential to transcend upgrading paradigms of providing essential services and alleviating urban poverty; it also deepens democratic engagement and enhances local capacities. Hence, the overriding concern is building and investing in local community and municipal capacity for delivery. Experience has shown that community buy-in — the “demand side” of the policy framework equation — is the essential ingredient to a successful implementation. Any city official in most participating municipalities can recount stories of attempted provision of services or other attempts at upgrading that resulted in vandalism, destruction, and antagonism by the communities such projects were intended to help. The message that communities articulate through such actions is clear. Upgrading the lives of the people requires mobilisation and consultation around the needs for upgrading that people identify.
Currently the Alliance’s work is centred on issues relating to the built environment. FEDUP’s core activities are focused on securing housing subsidies and deploys effective mechanisms to outperform the quality and size of houses built through the enhanced People’s Housing Process (which is largely modeled on Federation practices since 1994). The ISN is mobilizing communities to engage government around security of tenure and better service delivery, which are core elements of the informal settlement upgrading paradigm. Taken together, the FEDUP and ISN strives to secure project-linked income generation and job opportunities for its members and participants. There are also a number of value-added livelihoods interventions across the country.