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In November 2001, an Indian non-governmental organization dedicated to improving the lives and housing of the slum-dwellers of Bombay (Mumbai) learned that there were potential financial problems with a major new housing project in which it had invested and had convinced others to invest. The Society for the Protection of Area Resource Centres (SPARC) had, over the previous four years, repeatedly used its good name and contacts to bring together a group of private and nonprofit investors to construct a three-building, 268-unit development in the middle of Dharavi, generally considered Asia's largest slum. It had convinced one of the world's largest financial institutions, Citibank, to loan funds to India's National Slum Dwellers Federation, the organization that would build the Dharavi project; it had convinced an international nonprofit organization, the London-based Homeless International, to finance the loan, and had advanced its own funds to get the project started. But when Citibank warns that it has doubts about the likelihood of private, higher-income buyers being willing to move into a slum area--even into a new apartment building--SPARC finds it must decide whether and how to respond. Its options range from the pragmatic--simply scaling back the three-tower project--to organizing pressure and protest against Citibank, which appeared to have agreed to invest in part to burnish its image as it sought to expand its branch operations in Bombay.

Learning Objective:
The case highlights some of the unexpected ways in which commercial globalization affects the potential for philanthropy and the tactics and strategy of community activists intent on extra-market measures to improve the lives of the poor. It raises both strategic issues for the nonprofit activists at the center of the narrative and questions about housing policy, as well among them, the question of the extent of the role which philanthropically-financed model housing can play in ameliorating slum conditions.

Other Details

Case Author:
David Eddy Spicer and Howard Husock
Faculty Lead:
Christine Letts, David Brown, and Srilatha Batliwala
Pages (incl. exhibits):
Funding Source:
Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation