Million Neighborhoods

The Million Neighborhoods initiative is a collaborative network of diverse organizations working locally in Chicago and in neighborhoods throughout the world towards more sustainable and equitable human development. The network builds a common framework, tools, and data for mapping, planning, and coordinating solutions towards fulfilling the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 for Global Sustainable Development.

Rapid urbanization in Africa and Asia over the last few decades has led to massive shifts in population and the rise of informal settlements that operate without roads, power and sewer lines. In neighborhoods such as Kibera, Nairobi, and West Point, Monrovia, homes are so densely packed that it can be challenging for residents and resources to move through the community, and difficult for urban planners to identify the best areas to build roads, water pipes, power and sewage lines.

The issue is more pressing than ever, as the number of people living in these settlements is expected to triple to three billion in the next 30 years if no large-scale action is taken. Without access to basic infrastructure, residents of informal settlements are more vulnerable to health risks and the impacts of climate change, including flooding, extreme heat and natural disasters.

The Million Neighborhoods Map

The Million Neighborhoods Map is a groundbreaking visual tool that provides the first comprehensive look at informal settlements across the Global South, helping to identify communities most in need of roads, power, water, sanitation and other infrastructure. It is the first such map of its kind, and digitally renders building infrastructure and street networks — or the lack thereof. The goal is to provide municipal leaders and community residents with a tool to help inform and prioritize infrastructure projects in under-serviced neighborhoods, including informal urban settlements that are sometimes known as “slums.”

To create the Million Neighborhoods Map, researches applied algorithms to an open-source GIS database called OpenStreetMap, which is unique because it is available free to anyone and allows volunteers and local residents to contribute data about the location of throughways, buildings and structures — even in informal settlements, which often lack consistent, publicly available data.

For the science behind the map, check out:

Brelsford, C., Martin, T., Hand, J., Bettencourt, Luís M. A., Toward cities without slums: Topology and the spatial evolution of neighborhoods (August 29, 2018). Science Advances. Vol. 4, no. 8, eaar4644.

Brelsford, C., Martin, T. Bettencourt, Luís M. A., Optimal reblocking as a practical tool for neighborhood development (June 12, 2017) Sage Journals.

Related news:
Reuters: African Slum Map Exposes True Scale of Urban Poverty

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