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Community-driven development in the slums: Thailand's experience

Research reports

Written by Tanvi Bhatkal, Paula Lucci

​This case study examines progress observed in Thailand from 1990 to 2010 in the living conditions of slum dwellers. Thanks to community-centred slum upgrading programmes, notably Baan Mankong, this period has seen improvements in tenure security, housing conditions and access to more affordable water, sanitation and electricity services. Improvements have also been registered in social cohesion and the empowerment of communities.

The case study identifies elements of Baan Mankong’s housing programme that worked particularly well: namely, prioritising community participation and providing a range of upgrading and land tenure options. In addition, a flexible institution (the Community Organizations Development Institute) managing the programme, funding capacity and political commitment (including willingness to use public land to address the housing needs of the urban poor) helped to make implementation of the programme possible.

While Baan Mankong has a number of characteristics that are unique to the Thai context, useful lessons can be drawn from many of the principles underpinning it. First, having the community at the centre of the upgrading process can help deliver maximum benefits to slum dwellers in addressing their specific needs and empowering poor communities. Second, encouraging cooperation between different actors, and having flexibility in the design, institutional and funding arrangements, means that solutions can be tailored to address specific settlements’ priorities. But it is worth highlighting that slum upgrading is just one aspect of housing policy for the urban poor; in order to deal with the pressures of urbanisation successfully, improving living conditions in existing settlements needs to go hand in hand with planning for future urban expansion, including the provision of affordable housing.

Tanvi Bhatkal and Paula Lucci