Updated Apr 04, 2018

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Making Cities Together (MCT)

Human centered design collaboration on public space in partnership with Nairobi citizens in urban low-income estates to improve their well-being to provide a safer neighborhood and integrate strong collective social ties.

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Zahra Kassam

Stage 4: Transition to Scale

The model street has now been fully executed with all partners, and a maintenance plan with the local community has been established. The concept is now ready to be scaled throughout other sections of the neighborhood.

Focus Areas:

Human Centered Design and Social Development

Human Centered Design and Social DevelopmentSEE LESS

Funds Raised to Date


Our take on addressing SDG 11 is through solving the issue of traditional, top-down solutions pushed onto local communities leaving them ill-equipped to sustain them, and the lack of a centralized process to city planning throughout the country. This style of implementation is short sighted and does not give communities ownership of execution nor the empowerment of being connected to the solution.



MCT addresses the issue through co-creation of design with various stakeholders through participatory design to incorporate their ideas in the design making process. Because of this, residents were able to take ownership in the creation of their model street, which has led to the empowerment of leading the execution of community engagement and construction work, and having a maintenance plan to continue to sustain the work that has been done for years to come.

Target Beneficiaries

Our work goes to serve residents in communities that need assistance in revitalizing the infrastructure of their public space to increase safety, integrate strong social ties, and develop the community’s overall well-being. Specifically, we have been serving the community of Dandora, Phase 2, a low-income estate within Nairobi. It is a population of low-income families, youth, and elderly with local businesses lining the streets.

Mission and Vision

We hope to change the way that residents think about their communities by including them and their insight into the process of urban planning and public space. Doing this facilitates a better system of collaboration and a more centralized process in urban development which both Nairobi and Kenya currently lack.

Innovation Description

The purpose of MCT was to facilitate a participatory design project in Nairobi that focused on public space. This placemaking strategy focused on human centered design, with the goal of creating a solution that would be a ‘Must Seed’ approach leading to further implementation across other parts of Dandora. In the ‘Must Seed’ method, Dandora is considered the mustard seed of the overall vision to create cleaner, better connected, economically sound network through public space development. This step-by- step model would then be replicated across the community with the idea that these changes would spur enough movement create an overall safer, cleaner section of the city. The approach ensures that the community is involved in finding the solution. From collaborating with UN-Habit and Minecraft so residents can design their model street, to giving a local organization, the Dandora Transformation League (DTL), the platform to engage their community to initiate the changes they created on Minecraft into reality. In summation, though community activation and partnerships MCT was able to achieve what it set out to do. A public driven participatory design process that created a safer, cleaner, sustainable solution.

Competitive Advantage

The MCT Project looks to do things in a different way, by that it looks to inclusion and the people as the center of design. MCT looks at the “model street” as an accelerator to positive transformation whilst keeping true to the notion that the people are the solution, with the plan that this process can create an enabling environment for change. This is a better solution as other projects with similar funding tend to work in silos, not considering their impacts as a whole other than their specializations of sanitation, water, or education. The MCT solution was comprehensive including safety, sanitation, education, infrastructure, public space, youth empowerment, and sustainability. Another advantage is that the community now has full ownership of this program. Through the maintenance of the street to no longer being fully dependent on outside funding, they become empowered to ensure their work sustains for years to come.

Planned Goals and Milestones

Next, we are looking to expand our successful methodology across other Phases of Dandora to continue to spread our ‘must seed’ approach. To execute this, we would develop a model street within each of the other four Phases of the suburb to spread the model, allowing the positive outcomes to grow deeper within the different communities.

Funding Goal600,000
New Implemented CountriesKenya
Recruit24 professionals, 24 community based organization members, 8 volunteering students
New FeatureEstablish lighting to increase security, include more greenery onto the streets to include more plants not only trees, upgrade kiosks, and upcycle sidewalks within the model streets.


Sep 2015
New Product or Service
UN Habitat Minecraft workshop for residents to create their ideal street
Aug 2015
New Product or Service
Urban Thinkers Campus to strategize MCT initiative
May 2015
New Product or Service
Placemaking lab to bring together many different stakeholders to discuss placemaking strategiesc
Apr 2018

Supporting Materials