Cross-sector collaboration is a tool to address systemic issues in urban slums in developing countries worldwide. In Accra, Ghana hundreds of thousands of people have flooded the modern city seeking employment and liberation from increasingly difficult lives. This rapid growth has contributed to the multitude of development challenges the community faces, including high rates of environmental deterioration, poverty and unemployment, high levels of social conflict and gender-based violence, overcrowding, inadequate housing and infrastructure, and poor sanitation and waste management.
Cross-sector collaboration is being pioneered through a model in Old Fadama, the largest urban slum in Accra, Ghana with an estimated population of 150,000. In February of 2015, the city led the development of a cross-sector collaboration to address these complex challenges, researched by Professor Jessica Kritz of Georgetown University and funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. The collaboration is facilitated by the National Catholic Health Service (NCHS), with stakeholders including five Catholic Sisters’ organizations, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), the Old Fadama Youth Development Association (OFADA) and the Kayayei Youth Association of Ghana.
The project uses Participatory Action Research (PAR), which involves researchers and participants working together to define the problem and formulate research questions and solutions. The participants were entirely local organizations, including stakeholders from city government, local non-governmental organizations, and the slum community. The stakeholders resourced their own participation, made the strategy decisions and selected the challenge to install latrines. The PAR process introduced the concept of cross-sector collaboration, educated the stakeholders about the existing evidence, and supported the stakeholders in forming a cross-sector collaboration.
Using an innovative stakeholder platform that supports cross-sector collaboration around Old Fadama community needs, the government was able to work with transparency and provide a voice for citizens to take part in resolving challenges that affect them. This stakeholder platform provides for one government official to interface with the leaders of 16 tribes of Old Fadama. These leaders’ perspectives are corroborated with 300 research participants—each of whom have their own networks and communities—to develop consensus-based solutions required to improve the lives of the 100,000-150,000 people who dwell in the slum.
Each phase of the research resulted in decision-making by consensus, meaning that all stakeholders were in agreement, which led to the next phase of the project. The stakeholders’ first strategy, improving community health by installing latrines, resulted in city sanitation policy change. The strategy was adopted by local businesses, creating local sustainability and freeing the stakeholders to develop a new strategy.