Adequate housing is a chronic headache for most of Kenyans and more so the urban poor. Both the private sector and the government acting singularly have been unable to address this problem satisfactorily and provide sufficient and adequate housing stock for all socio-economic groups. This was the basis for the formation of Slum Dwellers Federation Muungano Wa Wanavijiji a vehicle with which the urban poor communally sought solutions to their shared housing problems. One of the redressal solutions pursued by Muungano Federation for its members is the bottom-up approach of ‘community-led settlement improvement’ in Huruma. Realization of such a settlement upgrading is by no means an easy feat considering the community limitations in resources, ability to negotiate for required support from external partners and organizations, the gaping diversities in needs and interests among the community members as well as the hardship in aligning their community interests with the environment other intervening factors arising from the political and policy dynamics in Kenya. This research was therefore instigated by the interest in the strategies the representative community agents applied in bridging these diversities of groups and the extents to which the abilities and competencies of these community agents in applying those strategies impacted the settlement upgrading outcomes realized from a boundary spanning perspective. Theoretical review divulged the essential tasks that these agents must undertake in traversing these barriers to realize a fulfilment of the involved partner’s needs. These are Establishing connections and linkages among parties, engaging in informational exchange between separate groups, and facilitating cooperation of all parties to ensure the realization of a co-joint objective. This research undertook and explanatory case study with three embedded units in Huruma. It followed a mixed method approach where in-depth semi-structured interviews with respondents directly involved in leadership positions in the Huruma upgrading project. Questionnaires were issued to the beneficiary community as well as content analysis of the reports made of the upgrading process to measure the success of the project outcomes as well as provide insight into the activities of the community agents and the limits to which they fulfilled their roles. The research established that informational exchange was the task that had the most impact on the upgrading outcomes realized. The community response and decisions were strongly based on information available and thus participation was limited to the extents to which relevant information on the upgrading was received. Secondly, due to the long-term nature of an incremental settlement upgrading project, it was found that multiple connective agents are necessary to muster and maintain positive involvement of vital partners from the household levels in the community to the organizational levels of external supporting bodies. Community agents bearing different characteristics are required to leverage their strengths where they complement each other’s skills and competencies by focussing on the areas of their core competencies and leaving others to do the same. It also found that the legitimation processes had impact on the extents to which the community agents fulfilled their roles, consequently community agents are required to achieve both vertical and horizontal legitimation and where impossible then a mix of community agents deriving different legitimation sources is necessitated to create sufficient connections between their constituency and the external supporting organizations. For future studies, I recommend a similar research but focussing rather on the boundary spanning agents located externally to the community but involved in this project to find out the extents to which they impacted the project.

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Meerkerk, I. van (Ingmar)
Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies

Waithira Kamweru, A. (Anne). (2017, September). Examining the influence of multiple boundary spanning agents on slum upgrading outcomes. Retrieved from