Darin Gunesekera

Ashoka Fellow
Mawatha, Sri Lanka
Fellow Since 2003


This profile was prepared when Darin Gunesekera was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2003.
The New Idea
Darin started a stock exchange market, a variation of modern stock exchanges, by which the poorest—the inner city slum and shanty dwellers—can value or trade their main item of wealth. Darin started by persuading the government and other development organizations to play a new role. He persuades and trains welfare officers to become marketing personnel who promote his idea to the poor. He then sells their real estate and purchases for them new, modern apartments of their preference. The government’s role then changes to that of monitoring a market economy - ensuring transparency and regulating new development plans for neighborhoods inclusive of the poor,  approving the establishment of land and real estate trusts, and registering ownership titles to homes.
The program creates for slum dwellers a transferable asset in the land they occupy and which they transfer to a trust. In exchange, they receive entitlement certificates to purchase an apartment in a new building. These certificates are a vote for the building of their choice. They are redeemed by exchange for title to a condominium apartment in the new building. They also own a share of the common areas that may include commercial shops, a preschool, and more. Accordingly, they become stakeholders in urban regeneration.
The stock exchange market has changed the practices of developers who have found they have to compete now for the preference of the poor. They have to compete openly, using models and advertising in a transparent bidding process of development proposals. Banks are also encouraged to change old practices. The plan also gives the poor the same economic choice situation as the middle class. Further, the resulting housing provides the same environment as that of the middle class. This process of inclusion thus helps integrate society.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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