The COVID-19 pandemic has and continues to leave an indelible impact on the lives of India’s socio-economically vulnerable populations—including urban slum communities. With cities largely being the loci of infection, these communities were disproportionately impacted by outbreaks of the infection. Frontline public authorities played an important role in managing the pandemic; in the process they onboarded tremendous risks to their own lives and stretched the limits of their operational capacity. However, civil society organisations (CSOs)—with their deep community linkages—also stepped in to mitigate the pandemic’s impact on the lives of urban slum dwellers. With a focus on Mumbai, this report analyses the insights of CSO representatives, development experts and bureaucrats, in understanding the role of CSOs in urban governance during the first wave of the pandemic. The study contextualises this against existing vulnerabilities of urban slum communities and the inequities in their access to optimal quality public services. By highlighting CSOs’ role in responding to the crisis, the report lays the premise for collaborative governance between the government and CSOs to better serve urban slum communities. It makes recommendations for sustainable collaborations by triangulating efforts on relationship building, leveraging technology and securing funding from philanthropies.
We put together a working paper that systematises our learnings from primary and secondary research on this issue. To summarise key insights from our paper, we authored a policy brief and blogpost. We also convened a roundtable discussion with representatives from CSOs, public policy and philanthropies to discuss findings from our study.