Mapping Slum Neighborhoods

New technology supporting slum communities to create their own maps

Most slums are almost entirely unplanned, a fact which makes the provision of both basic services like municipal water and emergency services like ambulance access universally challenging. Reblocking, however, is the spatial reconfiguration of a community to smartly connect residences, open spaces, infrastructure, and workplaces. Researchers from the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) and ASU School of Sustainability (ASU) have partnered up with Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI) South Africa to change these conditions and improve the safety of these densely populated urban environments. 

Through the use of the Open Reblock platform, urban slum communities can create maps of their own neighborhoods, many of which are being mapped for the very first time. These maps provide an address for families that, in most cases, have never had one and pave the way for cities to reblock (or rearrange) the slums with minimal disruption—adding the streets that form a crucial foundation for extending basic and emergency services into these chronically underserved areas. 

This particular reblocking project is focused on urban slums in South Africa. With Amplify, SFI will codesign the training tools and programs to map the social and physical conditions of the urban slum community, and identify key windows for resilience opportunities. Leveraging SDI’s long history of community mobilization in Cape Town’s townships, they seek to make the process of reblocking more adaptive and participatory—engaging residents of the communities in the process of planning their own neighborhoods.

Explore More Projects


The Recycler


Build Change