Non-government organizations (NGOs) often view urban slums as vast swaths of human need and seek to conduct charitable work in emergency-mode or using traditional methods. While the need is undeniable and these efforts necessary, we approach slum communities with an insistence that there is already existing capacity upon which we can build our work, utilizing the talents of community-based leaders and resources. We also recognize the fractures between schools and communities and directly focus our leadership development efforts at all stakeholders. This is different from traditional approaches because it takes a new approach to community empowerment, focusing significant time and resource to train community leaders and education professionals on how to affect change. Over the long term, this is a much more sustainable approach because it allows the community to begin meaningful engagement with the political system.

Government officials typically frame the education and social challenges facing urban slum residents as a dispute over whether the settlement and its private institutions - often erected due to the woeful lack of basic service provisions by the government - are legitimate. We are elevating the discourse to encourage the view in government offices that a community's entrepreneurial efforts should be leveraged for learning and collaboration since the public sector has not met its responsibilities. We also acknowledge the need for accountability and demonstrate how community schools are willing to work with our organization to set up transparent systems and "opt-in" to government monitoring structures in order to move towards a unified system that enables children's full participation in formal schooling (e.g., formal exams, curriculum, etc.). We insist on rooting conversations in empirical data involving key stakeholders who should be part of the solution.

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