World Vision International

Our Urban Research & Learning Initiative

More than one billion children reside in cities today, however millions of these children live in slum conditions (UNICEF, 2012). Trapped in fragile pockets of cities across the world, children suffer terrible violations of their basic human rights to shelter, health, education, safety and well-being.

World Vision is one of the largest INGOs focused on child well-being with a reach of more than 4.3 million children across 90 countries. We are already present in the world’s most rapidly urbanising countries and regions. However, the urbanisation of poverty has presented NGOs like us with largely unexplored territory.

In 2008, recognising an organisational need to respond and adapt to the  growing trend of urbanisation, and its negative impact on the most vulnerable groups, especially children, World Vision launched an action-research and learning approach to investigate the relevance of its current development models and frameworks in urban settings.  

World Vision’s first (five-year) phase of urban research confirms that children are the first casualties of urban poverty – often living on the streets, without adequate shelter and support, exposed to violence, exploited for drugs, and prostitution. The organisation acknowledges that such human rights violations associated with slum environments result in adverse health, educational, social, economic and environmental outcomes. We are learning that proximity to services in urban settings does not mean access, and the urban poor, especially children, continue to be excluded from the benefits of urbanisation due to political, social and economic factors.

The lessons from this initiative are informing effective and innovative ways to tell the complex story regarding World Vision’s impact in dense and diverse informal settlements and slums. City strategies are recommended to ensure World Vision’s investment in programming and policy leads to sustainable change for marginalised urban communities. Read Making Sense of the City - Developing Evidence through Action Research and Learning.

World Vision is proposing “Cities for Children” that are safe, resilient, prosperous and healthy where children and youth thrive, especially the most vulnerable. Our argument is that the younger generation, when given the appropriate space and tools, are able to actively advocate for their human right to the city. Read Just Cities for Children - Voices from Urban Slums. Their inclusion in planning processes is important to design liveable and just "Cities for Children".

Read the full overview by Joyati Das, Senior Director, Urban Programmes, World Vision International.