In a perfect world, not one person would be subjected to poor urban living conditions. But alas, the problem persists amid rapid urbanization in cities around the globe — wherein approximately 25 percent of the world's urban population lives in slums, according to UN-Habitat. In India, the situation is more severe. Fortunately, there are groups like the non-profit Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centers (SPARC) that support those living in poverty in their home country. Today, the Curry Stone Foundation announced SPARC as the 2016 recipient of the Curry Stone Design Prize Vision Award, one of the most prestigious prizes in social impact design. Last year, the Prize went to Rural Urban Framework for stabilizing and reviving China's shrinking rural villages.
Founded by Sheela Patel in 1984, SPARC has dedicated the last 30 years advocating for legitimizing and organizing the urban poor throughout India. The group and their partners, the National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF) and Mahila Milan (Women Together), have lobbied for new laws that protect the housing rights of the urban poor, as well as fighting against the evictions of slum and pavement dwellers. Working collectively as The Indian Alliance, the three groups have provided access to necessities like housing, sanitation, and savings strategies for hundreds of thousands of poor families living in cities across India.
SPARC will be presented with the award during an award ceremony today at the National Gallery of Art in Mumbai.
Keep reading to learn more about SPARC from the Curry Stone Design Prize.
"SPARC was founded in 1984 by a group of social activists fighting against the indiscriminate evictions of slum and pavement dwellers from their communities. The group expanded rapidly using their emerging relationship with National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF) and the Mahila Milan (Women Together) women collective to create an innovative federation model, named the Indian Alliance. Together, the Alliance organized the first comprehensive census of pavement dwellers, developed a credit system for their use while fighting for a more dignified habitat."
"SPARC’s activities are based on the principle that the urban poor can and must become the makers of their own destiny and can play this role if given appropriate structural support. The strength of this organization comes through their alliance with NSDF and Mahila Milan. The organization works within provisional communities to address housing and sanitation challenges, move individuals towards financial independence, and help them gain visibility and access to public services."
“Governments have allowed the proliferation of informal settlements by simply not caring for them,” states SPARC founding director Sheela Patel. “This is not going to change unless people who are from those groups start making demands and changing their relationship to the city.”
Today, through its alliance with NSDF and Mahila Milan, SPARC is active in more than 70 cities across India as a change agent with solutions that can be scaled for other groups domestically and internationally. In addition to policy advocacy, SPARC has facilitated the construction of housing for more than 8,500 families and built community toilets for more than 500,000 toilet seats in slums that have no facilities. Their nonprofit construction company—SPARC Samudaya Nirman Sahayak (SSNS) now jointly owned by the partners of the Alliance—has built 3,879 in-‐situ houses, rehabbed 3,900 units, built 878 community toilets, granted 1,324 loans to homeowners.
“SPARC with the National Slum Dwellers Federation and Mahila Milan are driving change by using the knowledge and capacity of the urban poor,” Curry Prize Director Emiliano Gandolfi says. “With their work they designed the social framework that enables underrepresented populations to have a voice in the decision processes that determine their quality of life.”
You can find out more about SPARC and their work from the Curry Stone Design Prize here.
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