SMALL CHANGE: COMMUNITY & ADAPTABILITY

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This blog attempts to raise some of the fundamental questions related to adaptability, formal & informal, communities, individual and collective,  while encountering everyday risk, coping capacity and way to reduce vulnerability. Very often the definition of communities in our cities are relegated through compartmentalized geographical/ policy version, namely, SRA housing, slum, suburban housing, urban community and affordable housing. Each categories have large connotation attached to it, ranging from dis-order, unsafe, to protected, legal, gentrified, marginalised. It also often defines the quality of available infrastructure and density. 

If one moves away from standard definition and examines the nature of communities from qualitative perspective, and expands the discourses of community adaptability through collective, social organization, social system, sense of belonging, social interaction, self-sufficiency and common, it may yield result that are directly connected to the issues related to various types of urban communities. As per the author Nabeel Hamid, who has worked in the specific areas of housing and argued on nature communities, small tactics and changes that one could bring about within the urban communities through various publication as follows:

Hamdi, Nabeel, Housing WIthout Houses: Participation, Flexibility, Enablement(London: Intermediate Technology, 1995). 

—, Small Change: About the Art of Practice and the limits of Planning in Cities(London: Earthscan, 2004). 

Hamdi, Nabeel, and Reinhard Goethert, Action Planning for Cities: A Guide to Community Practice (Chichester: John Wiley, 1997). 

Hamdi, Nabeel, and Jane Handal, eds., Urban Futures: Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction, Urban management series (London: ITDG Pub, 2005)

According to him, there are five types of communities, communities of interest, community of culture, communities of practice, communities of resistance, and place based communities. He argues that one has to move away from place based communities to communities of resistance, which is more relevant to the cities. He further argues that Communities of Resistance are at social unease and continue to change under oppressive and hierarchical dominance. 

Nabeel Hamdi is one of the proponent of participatory planning articulate in his book “Small Change”, has been highly influential in discussing the role that informality plays in urban life. It sets out a way of thinking on cities that gives precedence to small-scale, incremental change over large-scale projects.


The transformation of informal to formal are central to housing issues within the cities. The improvement is not necessarily a physical one but rather social, economic and political one. It requires collective act towards formalizing process, this collective process is related to decision making, management related issues and importantly land tenure. This process is an important move as against the current practices because the adaptability in coming times shall not be an option but compulsion which is highly integrated to the idea of self-sufficiency, collaborative in nature. The dynamic of such process needs academic exploration which in turn may reflect on urban practice related to resilience.





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