As the year begins a Joint Urban Studio is taking place in Nairobi bringing together students and faculty from University of Nairobi, University of California Berkeley and civil society partners Akiba Mashinani Trust (AMT) and Slum Dwellers International (SDI), and local communities living in several informal settlements in Nairobi, Mukuru, Mathare and Huruma. The studio whose theme is ‘Improving Access to Basic Services in Informal Settlements’ follows similar joint studio conducted annually by two schools of planning from the universities over the last five years, over the second and spring semesters.
Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Nairobi and Department of City and Regional Planning, University of California, Berkeley have over the years engaged in collaborative research and urban planning studio which has seen the development of models for slum upgradingand installation of water and sanitation facilities in Nairobi’s informal settlements. Working with local communities and grassroots civil societies they have demonstrated the power of negotiated initiatives for community development (Kosovoand Mabatini) in the informal settlements. In 2011/2 the partnership prepared a settlement-wide plan titled Mathare Zonal Planfor installation of trunk infrastructure in Nairobi’s expansive Mathare Valley Informal settlements and a prototype for other towns in Kenya. Last year’s joint studio was on a different scale, referred to as a policy studio it aimed to contribute to a broader process for preparation of Kenya’s National Slum Upgrading and Prevention Policy (NSUPP).
The theme of the joint studio is always informed by ongoing collaboration works of the University, the civil society and local communities. This year’s studio seeks to contribute to a larger joint action research project, titled, Improving Access to Justice and Basic services in the Informal Settlements of Nairobi. For this year studio the participants will hold a series of stakeholder consultations and conduct field surveys in the coming two weeks to better understand the challenges facing access to basic needs in the three informal settlements. This will be followed by planning exercises to address three core issues: the link between basic services and community health; options for financing slum upgrading; and developing a regional framework for integrated slum upgrading.