Our Story


We began a working relationship with our first community in 2009 and formed the Informal Urban Communities Initiative in 2011. In the process of forming a 501c3, we are happy to announce that we are changing our name to Traction. Over the years our work has expanded and refined to reflect our diverse experiences, however our mission and values have stayed the same.


Urbanization and social inequity are closely related, defining issues of our era. In the next 30 years, virtually all of the world’s population growth will take place in developing cities. By the year 2050, 2 billion people could live in informal urban settlements, or ‘slums’. Slums are born out of the complex interactions of social, political, environmental, and economic systems. The challenges that ‘slum’ dwellers face are complex and multifaceted. They range from a lack of adequate sanitation to increased vulnerability to climate change.


Despite the hardships they face, slum communities are remarkably vibrant and resilient. By privileging local knowledge and working in close collaboration with community members, we not only have the opportunity to improve living conditions, we also stand to learn a great deal about emergent, bottom-up processes of city making.