SDI is a network of community-based organisations of the urban poor in 32 countries and hundreds of cities and towns across Africa, Asia and Latin America. In each country where SDI has a presence, affiliate organisations come together at the community, city and national levels to form federations of the urban poor. These federations share specific methodologies, which are enumerated below.
SDI consists of a Secretariat, a Coordinating Team, a Board and a Council of Federations. The Secretariat has an administrative and management function. It is accountable to a Board and a Council of Federations made up of nominated grassroots leaders from affiliated Federations. The Board also nominates a Coordinating Team that serves as an executive, responsible for overseeing the implementation of SDI programmes.
SDI is committed to supporting a process that is driven from below. The Secretariat facilitates, and sometimes resources, horizontal exchange and information-sharing programmes among member Federations. It also seeds precedent-setting projects. These exchange programmes and projects have a ‘political’ dimension, to the extent that they are geared towards catalysing change processes at all levels, from informal community-based institutions to formal institutions of the state and the market.
Since 1996, this network has helped to create a global voice of the urban poor, engaging international agencies and operating on the international stage in order to support and advance local struggles. Nevertheless, the principal theatre of practice for SDI’s constituent organisations is the local level: the informal settlements where the urban poor of the developing world struggle to build more inclusive cities, economies, and politics.