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Community-Mapping: The Key To Growing Urban Poor in East Asia?

A study prepared by the World Bank team in 2017 unveiled the present, bare-faced landscape of East Asia's urban poor. Seemingly paradoxical at first glance, much more can be said about these individuals who fell into the mess of uneven, consequential development overtime.

The largest slum population in the world

With an estimated 250 million people in East Asia Pacific living in slums, the region has the largest slum population globally. The World Bank study has also revealed an approximate 75 million people living below the poverty line of US$3.10/day. Coupled with the devastatingly high risks of disasters, lacking living conditions in slums bring about several health and environmental risks for the urban poor.

Is Community Mapping the key?

Many will probably want to ask us this: why SMILE Village? Out of so many countless poor, elderly, children and people in pain calling for help, why answer this one?

SMILE Village is a project intricately established by community mapping. The Design For Good team believes that the heart of SMILE Village is worth investing in because of its backbone of sustainability to uplift communities-in-need. Instead of a seasonal, one-time charity project, community mapping is a tool that fosters an ecosystem with lifelong impact for people. The SMILE Village model is one of the more sustainable solution for the urban poor.

It is more than just the dollar sign itself- it is about how and where you spend the money. It is about how it value-adds with a lasting social impact.

Within the community, facilities and infrastructure were built based on the lifestyles and needs of the residents. For instance, a childcare centre was built in the central area, for parents to leave for work with a peace of mind. In collaboration with PSE, a school bus fetches their older children to and from school everyday.

Education is arguably the strongest antidote to alleviate poverty, and this framework helps to open the door for the next generation to rise. Other facet of education is reflected in the parents themselves as they work at the workshops built just beside the village. They learn skills in sewing, rug-braiding and woodcraft, all armed with a dream to buy their own land and home with their own hands.

Community mapping also includes relationships between people as well. Initially unfamiliar with the concept of communal living, the management team stepped in to organise gatherings and sometimes even mediate arguments.

The study by World Bank further advocates spatial and economic inclusion for the urban poor in East Asia, and this is exactly what SMILE Village has been doing. It goes on to say that “Other countries, such as Cambodia, Mongolia, and the Philippines, have a substantial need for slum upgrading, which requires urgent attention”.

It is time for us to lift and bridge the gap for the urban poor by going back to the most fundamental unit of society- family. Every dollar from every purchase will counts to the big picture: the stay-home mother learning new sewing skills, the teenage daughter going to school in peace, the children going for classes at the childcare center to learn about shapes and colours.

Not only does every purchase help to bring the families closer to financial independence, it significantly contributes to the entire eco-system. Earnings from Design For Good run on to benefit the current and future families living in slums, big and small.


Baker, J., & Gadgil, G. (2017). East Asia and Pacific cities. Washington, DC: World Bank Group.

Population living in slums (% of urban population) | Data. (2017). Retrieved 10 October 2017 from


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