The CSDP team is recently returned from Mumbai, India, where it was our great honor to award the Vision Award to Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centers (SPARC).  Please check out our previous post on SPARC’s great work.

While there, we had the pleasure of convening a forum on slum urbanism, drawing together many of the world’s experts on architecture and community planning.  The event was generously hosted by the J.J. School of Architecture and Rahul Mehrotra and instigated discussions both on past work and future ambitions for Mumbai and beyond.  Featured were many of the past winners of the Curry Stone Design Prize, including Rural Urban FrameworkHunnarshala, Fida Tuoma, formerly of Riwaq, and Wes Janz.

The discussion confronted an urgent design issue of our time: how to manage increasing urbanization in a way that respects the dignity of all people – even those with no formal political or economic voice.  What emerged was a consensus around exchange.  New models of urban development will have to acknowledge the role that slum-dwellers and the disenfranchised can and should play in designing their own communities at scale.  This has long been a staple of community-based practice, but mass urbanization challenges even our basic assumptions of what ‘community’ means.  Can a highly diverse neighborhood of one million or five million people be considered a “community”?

How can designers be involved without trampling on the individual hopes, dreams & rights of millions of new city dwellers?

You can’t just plunge into a sea of slums and produce a beautiful design.  You have to be familiar, you have to enjoy, you have to understand, you have to be able to communicate, if you want to co-produce something.” -Sheela Patel, founder of SPARC

Please look for our updates as we continue the discussion with leading social design practitioners.  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.