Rapid urbanization and economic development in Ghana since the 1990s led to a rise in the number of informal settlements and slums. By 2010, more than half of the urban population lived in such communities, and many lacked access to public services. Most inhabitants also had little to no knowledge about their rights as citizens and had no say in the allocation of public resources. In an effort to remedy the situation, the city governments of two of the country’s biggest cities—Accra and Sekondi-Takoradi—introduced reforms in their planning and budgeting process through the IncluCity project. An international nonprofit organization named Global Communities led implementation of the project from October 2011 to September 2015.
The overarching objective was to improve participation of the urban poor in governance by enhancing their ability to advocate for quality services and to hold elected officials accountable. To achieve those objectives, the implementation team had to bring together two diverse groups: (a) community members who had little understanding of their rights and responsibilities, and (b) local government officials who had little knowledge of why and how to engage the urban poor. Project staff members first identified and tried to understand the gaps in services provided by local governments; then the staff promoted common understanding between both parties by training them in community engagement processes and by providing platforms for frequent interaction. With the help of the Accra and Sekondi-Takoradi assemblies, the team next empowered community members to come up with development initiatives and built trust between community members and the local governments through partial sponsorship of some community initiatives. Sustaining community engagement after the project ended in 2015 proved to be a challenge, but the initiative had a lasting effect in shifting the governance paradigm to a more bottom-up process.