Adaptive governance by community based organisations: Community resilience initiatives during Covid-19 in Mathare, Nairobi

Jan Fransen*, Beatrice Hati, Harrison Kioko Simon, Naomi van Stapele

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
23 Downloads (Pure)


Adaptive governance describes the purposeful collective actions to resist, adapt, or transform when faced with shocks. As governments are reluctant to intervene in informal settlements, community based organisations (CBOs) self-organize and take the lead. This study explores under what conditions CBOs in Mathare informal settlement, Nairobi initiate and sustain resilience activities during Covid-19. Study findings show that CBOs engage in multiple resilience activities, varying from maladaptive and unsustainable to adaptive, and transformative. Two conditions enable CBOs to initiate resilience activities: bonding within the community and coordination with other actors. To sustain these activities over 2.5 years of Covid-19, CBOs also require leadership, resources, organisational capacity, and network capacity. The same conditions appear to enable CBOs to engage in transformative activities. However, CBOs cannot transform urban systems on their own. An additional condition, not met in Mathare, is that governments, NGOs, and donor agencies facilitate, support, and build community capacities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1471-1482
Number of pages12
JournalSustainable Development
Issue number2
Early online date24 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful for the financial support of the Vital Cities and Citizens initiative and the Institute of Social Studies, both of Erasmus University Rotterdam. The study was done jointly with Ghetto Foundation, Mathare, Kenya, and the International Centre of Frugal Innovation (ICFI). It would have been impossible without their support. Finally, we acknowledge the pleasant discussions with the community leaders and residents we spoke to.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Sustainable Development published by ERP Environment and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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