Horizontal Learning and Urban Poverty
There is a fascinating of example networked-learning practice from Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI)They have developed peer-to-peer learning and sharing systems to spread community developed solutions between geographically dispersed urban environments. (via NetCentric Advocacy)
Horizontal exchange, then, is the primary learning strategy of SDI. Participants within the savings networks learn best from each other - when one savings group has initiated a successful income-generating project or has replanned a settlement or has built a toilet block, SDI enables groups to come together and learn from intra-network achievements. The community exchange process builds upon the logic of ‘doing is knowing’ and helps to develop a collective vision. As savers travel from Khayelitsha to Greenpoint or Nairobi to Colombo, the network is unified and strengthened - not only at a street level but between towns, regions and provinces, and nation-states. In this way, locally appropriate ideas get transfered into the global millieu through dialogue amongst slumdweller partners.
Community-to-community exchanges allow participants to see themselves and their peers as experts, thereby breaking isolation to create a unified voice of the urban poor, reclaiming sites of knowledge that have frequently been co-opted by professionals, and strengthening solidarity to increase critical mass. The pool of knowledge generated through exchange programmes becomes a collective asset of the SDI network - so that when slumdwellers meet with external actors to debate development policies, they can draw from international examples, forcing government and other stakeholders to listen.
As a connector of different organizational communications–media, arts, technology, broadcasting and movement building–it’s great to see the same practices we trade in used to empower people directly. Doing is Knowing.