Traction champions participatory design, action and research to improve human, ecological and economic health in underserved communities.


1) Foster close collaboration with poor urban communities through participatory processes that privilege local knowledge, resources and capacities and empower community members as the drivers of change. 


2) Promote long-term relationships and a multi-scaled approach to community design that integrates small scale interventions and adaptable planning. 


3) Encourage ecologically intelligent, distributed infrastructure strategies that improve quality of life without externalizing environmental burdens. 


4) Favor integrated, multifunctional solutions that engage culturally contingent aesthetics and enhance the public realm. 


5) Monitor and evaluate project evolution over many years to gain a better understanding of project impacts.


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.