The Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centers (SPARC) is one of the largest Indian NGOs fostering direct community participation and their cooperation with local authorities to meet the challenges of urban population growth. SPARC was formed in 1984 to work with the most vulnerable and visible urban poor population in Mumbai, the pavement dwellers.
SPARC supports the National Slum Dwellers Federation and Mahila Milan (all three together are known as the Alliance), two people’s movements in the country, to organize the urban poor to collectively articulate their concerns and create solutions to the challenges they face. These organizations work to improve the lives of slum dwellers in over 70 cities around India and are also active in global networks in over 20 countries
Project areas include housing, sanitation, and resettlement and rehabilitation. The Alliance is currently working with individual households, organizations for the poor, city authorities, and financial institutions across India in an effort to create sustainable, healthy, and affordable urban development. The Alliance works to build capacity and organization within communities and then engages the government and local and regional authorities to undertake housing and sanitation projects led by the community. The Alliance encourages Federation and Mahila Milan members to be participants in the construction of their own housing and toilet projects through the Community Contracting Program. Members who have increased their managerial capacities and financial literacy through managing daily savings programs and slum enumerations can obtain sub-contracts to supervise less technical elements of the construction work. In turn, these leaders learn additional skills and gain greater confidence in their managerial abilities.
SPARC has pursued sanitation projects throughout India to ensure adequate access to sanitation facilities. Community participation is involved at every level of design, construction, and maintenance of toilet blocks constructed by the Alliance. Peer exchanges have allowed Alliance leaders from many cities around the country the opportunity to see the toilets built in Mumbai and Pune and have spurred more communities to work with municipal officials to complete similar projects.
The Alliance also works on the rehabilitation and relocation of the urban poor from various locations. Again, the Alliance serves as a mediator to organize communities being relocated so that they are involved in the planning and execution of the move in partnership with the government. Efforts include the key mobilization tool of community-led surveys that collect all details about the slum settlement and individual households. The information is collected, verified, and analyzed by local residents to be used both for informational purposes and as an organizational strategy to bring people together to understand their common issues.