Enumerations are essentially community-initiated and run censuses whereby a socio-economic and demographic profile is generated, and the tenure status, level of services and development aspirations are ascertained. Networks of the urban poor consciously adopt strategies of self-enumeration which becomes powerful negotiation tools in its dealings with governments. By leveraging its own resources through this exercise of information gathering, communities are best positioned to articulate a demand-sided development agenda. By making themselves “visible” to governments, informal settlement residents have the most up to date knowledge on how many households make up their settlement, how long they have lived there, and how they make a livelihood. One of the outcomes of the enumeration exercise is the production of “ID cards” – containing the number of people living in the shack, years of occupation – which is usually endorsed by local government and becomes the principle form of evidence to support shack dwellers’ claims to the land they occupy.

On the day of the enumeration, the general assembly elects an enumeration team who interacts with the regional ISN “working team” who trains the community enumerators. The community discusses and prioritises the breadth and depth of the types of knowledge they want to capture, e.g. be it vulnerable groups, safety and security, health and wellness, and so forth. This data is collected at the household level, and cascaded to give a comprehensive profile of the settlement. The data also becomes a key mobilisation nodal point when communities actively discuss and interpret the meaning of the data, which becomes the cornerstone for devising community master development plans.

Armed with questionnaires, chalk, booklets and tape measures, enumerators create a qualitative and quantitative map of their settlement. Their work is twofold: (a) to survey each household, and (b) to number and measure every structure. This information-gathering underpins the development of a physical and narrative picture of community-level challenges. A subsequent verification process within the community enables areas of disagreement to be identified and mediated by community members. Detailed documentation (graphs, charts and narratives) is prepared by CORC and disseminated to the community, city officials and other stakeholders. Development of the settlement can then proceed, with all stakeholders engaged around an information set controlled by the community which most accurately represents the community’s developmental needs and aspirations. Amandla nolwazi!