Community exchange programmes rest on a very simple concept: the poor learn best from the poor. Community exchanges, in contrast to development processes that rely on experts as “agents of change,” actively involve slum residents in transforming their own lives.
In exchanges, federation members and leaders visit each other’s settlements to learn about each other’s conditions, problems and share experiences. Exchanges take place between poor communities in the same city, across cities and even across countries.
Exchanges are an important first step in breaking the isolation and helplessness that poverty brings: once communities see themselves as part of a larger collective and interdependent process, they can together explore solutions to problems they face.
Community exchanges are exciting experiences for everyone involved. They are opportunities for new members to become acquainted with federation strategies and be inspired by veteran leaders. For older federation members, exchanges energize and revitalize the federation process through the influx of fresh ideas and perspectives.
The participation and involvement of government officials as part of these exchanges allow such officials to learn how community- government partnerships in other countries ﬁght urban poverty. It also enables them to appreciate the plight of slum dwellers thereby placing them in a better position to formulate suitable policies and programmes that directly address the needs of slum residents. Again, with increased knowledge and exposure from local, national and international exchanges federation members are increasingly able to attract the attention of key civil society actors and government ministers allowing the urban poor to force their plight to the forefront of awareness.