Author Archives: jdannenb


CLIFF is a facility that has been designed to provide loan finance for slum development projects that are implemented by the urban poor, and which have the potential to influence policy and practice that in turn can lead to a scaling-up in the provision of suitable housing and related infrastructure for the urban poor.

The CLIFF concept emerged from a DFID-funded research project – Bridging the Finance Gap in Housing and Infrastructure – conducted by Homeless International in collaboration with local partner organizations in a number of countries.

The CLIFF project is expected to: 1) develop a finance facility (CLIFF) to assist organizations of the urban poor to carry out successful community-driven infrastructure, housing and urban services projects at city level, in conjunction with municipalities and the private sector; 2) Develop a sustainable finance facility (CLIFF1) in India to continue providing specialist financial services to the urban poor after the end of project funding 3) Develop a sustainable in-country finance vehicle (CLIFF2) in at least one other country (if further funds can be raised) to replicate the concept in a different institutional setting and to benefit additional communities/cities.

CLIFF is co-ordinated internationally by Homeless International, and currently implemented at the local level by two indigenous CBO-NGO alliances – the Indian Alliance and the Kenyan Alliance.

The direct funding inputs for CLIFF (to date) are DFID (£6.84m), Sida (20m Krona, £1.5m approx.),The Homeless International Guarantee Fund (£0.6m), Local revolving loan funds owned by SPARC and Nirman (approximating £1.2 million in India and £0.5 million in Kenya). These funds flow through the World Bank’s Cities Alliance program, which administers the facility on behalf of the donors.

Thanks to Ryan for pointing this out.



This is a proposal of numbers and percentages. The data is presumptive at the moment and should not be taken for anything more than a loose outline for framing a new approach to managing levels of sustainable profit while addressing the issue of incorporating urban slums and their communities as part of the architectural marketplace. Let’s get going with the numbers:

world’s population

world population living below the basic poverty threshold (lacking access to basic shelter, health, water, education, energy or transport). This is what is often referred to as “The Other 90%.

world population living in extreme poverty (less than $1 USD/day).

world population living in moderate poverty (less than $2 USD/day).

percent of the world’s population that gets 80% of the world’s income.

deaths/year (50,000/day) due to poverty-related causes (lack of basic shelter, health, water, education, energy or transport).

poverty related deaths since 1990, the majority of which are women and children; roughly equal to the population of the US.

In economic terms, these numbers represent two critical elements that infer a successful business model: capital and need. If we look at only the world’s population living in moderate poverty and below, this equals 3.8 billion people; and if we assume the average income is half of the category to which they belong (> $1 or $2), we have an estimated income of $4.6 billion. Naturally, this income is spread across a variety of needs, including shelter, health, nutrition, education, energy and transport. Let us assume that the average person in poverty spends 5% of his or her income on shelter and urban infrastructure. This then gives us a global market of $230 million, and this does not include philanthropic funding, sweat equity, or volunteer efforts for those above the poverty threshold. (Data for these categories, while difficult to determine precisely, is forthcoming). The capital therefore exists, as does the need for an architectural market in the various forms of shelter (which can be assumed to bleed into education, health, water, energy and transport, since all of these needs require shelter of some sort). So we have a new number to add to the list:

global market in USD which can be assumed to be designated for an initial architectural market in urban slums.

But while $230 million might seem like a sizable market, it is actually quite small give other global economies, let alone the infrastructural needs of urban slums. Let us therefore imagine a potential professional model that might bolster these figures. This model is composed of elements that can be drawn from existing models outside the practice of architecture. The first element in this professional model pertains to free, or pro bono work. Pro bono publico (often shortened to pro bono) is a phrase derived from Latin meaning “for the public good.” The term is used to describe professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment, as a public service. It is common in the legal profession and is increasingly seen in the practice of medicine and technology services. Unlike traditional volunteerism, pro bono service leverages the specific skills of professionals to provide services to those who are unable to afford them. In the legal profession, pro bono counsel may assist an individual or group on a legal case, and if the case is won, occasionally the judge may determine that the loser should compensate the pro bono counsel. Lawyers in the United States are recommended under American Bar Association ethical rules to contribute at least fifty hours of pro bono service per year.

The next element can be taken from international fundraising tactics, such as the 1% principle. This principle has been applied to various causes throughout the world, most notable the environmental. We consider this element for its potential incorporation into a model of practice where a portion of the profession’s services are devoted to pro bono causes, just as they already are in law and medicine. The architectural profession n the United States is regulated by an organized consortium of governing bodies, such as the AIA and NCARB. If these organizations were to build into their structure a system of certification for practicing firms in the United States, where each firm is required to contribute 1% of its annual capital in pro bono services, the global market figure listed above would jump significantly based on a bulk factor of in-kind, service-oriented contributions. The firms, themselves, might be required to contribute their efforts as such, or they might be given incentive in the form of federal tax-breaks and promotional advertising.

One of the main problems within this system, meanwhile, is the issue of sustainable profit. For this, we should look at the existing economic model of micro-loaning and the self-sustaining profit structure for keeping an organization financially afloat. Institutions such as the Grameen Bank, for example, use micro-lending as a system for generating profit based on interest on loans, sometimes upwards of 20%, and the bank reports 98% of loans repaid in full. The structure of this model indicates that a population in poverty can be a responsible body of lenders, and that a business servicing this population need no operate only as a non-profit of non-governmental organization in order to be financially viable.

The notion of a self-sustaining profit-driven model suggests another element in the professional model we are proposing. If firms in the United States are required to contribute a percentage of their annual capital to pro bono, slum-oriented causes, there will need to be a regulating body of organizations that manage the dispersal of effort. To this end, we intend to research specific models of collaboration where this level of financial organization and dispersal of effort might be reintroduced into the professional structure of the practice model.




Wikipedia’s ENTRY on global poverty by country.

A map documenting MEGA-SLUMS

And a map of urban population living in slums BY COUNTRY

Wikipeda also explains that “The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than US$ (PPP) 1 per day, and moderate poverty as less than $2 a day. It has been estimated that in 2001, 1.1 billion people had consumption levels below $1 a day and 2.7 billion lived on less than $2 a day. The proportion of the developing world’s population living in extreme economic poverty has fallen from 28 percent in 1990 to 21 percent in 2001. Much of the improvement has occurred in East and South Asia. In Sub-Saharan Africa GDP/capita shrank with 14 percent and extreme poverty increased from 41 percent in 1981 to 46 percent in 2001. Other regions have seen little or no change. In the early 1990s the transition economies of Europe and Central Asia experienced a sharp drop in income. Poverty rates rose to 6 percent at the end of the decade before beginning to recede. [9] There are various criticisms of these measurements.”


According to the UN-HABITAT website: “The United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-HABITAT, is the United Nations agency for human settlements. It is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all. “Towns and cities are growing today at unprecedented rates setting the social, political, cultural and environmental trends of the world, both good and bad. In 1950, one-third of the world’s people lived in cities. Just 50 years later, this rose to one-half and will continue to grow to two-thirds, or 6 billion people, by 2050. Cities are now home to half of humankind.

“Cities are the hubs of much national production and consumption – economic and social processes that generate wealth and opportunity. But they also create disease, crime, pollution, poverty and social unrest. In many cities, especially in developing countries, slum dwellers number more than 50 per cent of the population and have little or no access to shelter, water, and sanitation, education or health services. It is essential that policy­makers understand the power of the city as a catalyst for national development. Sustainable urbanisation is one of the most pressing challenges facing the global community in the 21st century.

“UN-HABITAT’s programmes are designed to help policy-makers and local communities get to grips with the human settlements and urban issues and find workable, lasting solutions. The organization’s mandate is outlined in the Vancouver Declaration on Human Settlements, Habitat Agenda, Istanbul Declaration on Human Settlements, the Declaration on Cities and Other Human Settlements in the New Millennium, and Resolution 56/206. UN-HABITAT’s work is directly related to the United Nations Millennium Declaration, particularly the goals of member States to improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by the year 2020, Target 11, Millennium Development Goal No. 7, and Target 10 which calls for the reduction by half of the number without sustainable access to safe drinking water.

“UN-HABITAT’s strategic vision is anchored in a four-pillar strategy aimed at attaining the goal of Cities without Slums. This strategy consists of advocacy of global norms, analysis of information, field-testing of solutions and financing. These fall under the four core functions assigned to the agency by world governments – monitoring and research, policy development, capacity building and financing for housing and urban development.”


Another possible case study: Bruce Mau and the Institute Without Boundaries’ book and exhibition, MASSIVE CHANGE. According to the exhibition’s website: “Design has emerged as one of the world’s most powerful forces. It has placed us at the beginning of a new, unprecedented period of human possibility, where all economies and ecologies are becoming global, relational, and interconnected. In order to understand and harness these emerging forces, there is an urgent need to articulate precisely what we are doing to ourselves and to our world. This is the ambition of Massive Change.

“Massive Change is a celebration of our global capacities but also a cautious look at our limitations. It encompasses the utopian and dystopian possibilities of this emerging world, in which even nature is no longer outside the reach of our manipulation. Massive Change explores paradigm-shifting events, ideas, and people, investigating the capacities and ethical dilemmas of design in manufacturing, transportation, urbanism, warfare, health, living, energy, markets, materials, the image and information. We need to evolve a global society that has the capacity to direct and control the emerging forces in order to achieve the most positive outcome. We must ask ourselves: Now that we can do anything what will we do?”

I take it this falls under collaborations?


SUPERFLEX is an interesting collaborative case study. They are a Danish artist cooperative and social activist group, bridging the body of their work between the gallery and “on-site” installations.  Some of their work is limited to traditional art media (sculpture, video, graphics, etc.), whereas other pieces are performative on-site installations, such as the SUPERGAS example you see above.  For SUPERGAS, Superflex installed a series of biogas generators in remote villages in Cambodia and Tanzania, where the occupants have no access to natural gas resources.  The art-piece is actually a biogas generator, using cow manure as the input, with gas and compost as the outputs.

For our purposes, Superflex might be an interesting model because they operate in both the 10% and 90% worlds we’ve been discussing.  They are also using their skills as designers for implementing objects of strategic performance; in other words, their designs are actually doing something, in addition to conveying a consistent aesthetic.