This profile was prepared when Arif Hasan was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2009.
The New Idea
Arif has created an active, vibrant infrastructure for informed interaction and discussions between various stakeholders in Karachi on urban issues and development plans. The Urban Resource Centre (URC) creates and nurtures a dynamic forum in which politicians, planners and the public can come together and enter into meaningful dialogues over urban planning issues. As public participation in development increases, the government and city planners are held accountable for their decisions, not only by the media and the URC, but by the citizens of the city. Arif’s unique approach has made the URC a place where the citizens, especially the poor, can get information about development projects and discuss its implementation method and impact. It is a place where poor communities, COs, formal and informal private sector interest groups, academic institutions and government agencies interact and arrive at a consensus through iterative negotiation. The URC facilitates the interaction and the negotiation and provides information and alternatives to the citizen groups enabling a more appropriate and people friendly development process where transparency and accountability are integral components. The URC initially began as a mechanism for compiling, classifying, packaging and disseminating information on urban planning issues to target various audiences. The information created so much interaction amongst the target audience that it evolved into discussion forums, generating concepts and solutions for guiding urban development planning and policymaking. Specific projects with citywide impacts were identified by the URC team, around which campaigns were developed to drive the public’s solutions. These campaigns included public events that first brought interest groups together with citizens and, based on the consensus reached in these events, the URC launched a media campaign. The impact of the media campaign attracted policy makers’ participation in the discussion forum and created a public debate that various citizen groups could use as the base to advocate for their interests.