Sustainable Business Models in Informal Settlements, Kisumu, Kenya

May 17, 2018


A new partnership between Plan Denmark and Quercus Group has led to the kick-off of a new project in Kisumu, Kenya, a multi-stakeholder platform for sustainable and inclusive upgrading of informal settlements, also known as ‘slums’. Phase 1 of the long-term partnership with Plan, an independent development organisation that advances children’s’ rights and equality for girls, will create the organisational setup of a platform for developing, testing and scaling sustainable business models in informal settlements.


The global Smart City agenda powers ahead at full steam in cities like Barcelona, New York and Singapore. Meanwhile, one billion people live in informal settlements, marked by poverty, unhealthy living conditions and inadequate infrastructure and basic services. The proportion of the urban population living in informal settlements is particularly high (around 50-60%) in medium-sized cities. Urban development (incl. improvements in basic services and infrastructure) is essential for the quality of life and social and economic future not just of the so-called ‘slum dwellers’, but for all city inhabitants.



Co-Creating Sustainable Business Models


National and city governments often lack the capacity to adequately plan, manage and finance the needed urban development interventions. Consequently, residents in informal settlements must adapt using expensive and ineffective technologies and practices.


"The ultimate goal of the Kisumu Project is to create a place where the private sector can engage with public organisations and community organisations, in order to come up with sustainable business models for much needed slum upgrading, says Mikkel Harder, Programme Development and Partnership Manager at Plan Denmark.


"The project will strengthen the slum dwellers' access to adequate and affordable basic services and change the current situation, where only few have access or if they do they pay extra for very low-quality services. And if we can get this to work in Kisumu there are thousands of other cities out there experiencing similar challenges!"



Phase 1 – Building a Multi-Stakeholder Platform


Throughout 2018, Quercus Group will draw on its roots in cluster development and multi-stakeholder management to co-create the organisational setup of the platform, by driving the challenging process of involving and managing a multitude of different stakeholders.


"Partnerships in which private actors with innovative solutions and capital, informal settlements and local authorities come together are rare. This intervention wants to establish a platform for building such relationships. The platform will accelerate the formation of concrete partnerships, driving the testing and scaling of specific products and services through innovative business models" says Nicolai Rottbøll, CEO of Quercus Group.



Project Details


Plan and Quercus Group are implementing ‘the Kisumu Project’ called “Facilitating cross sector partnerships to develop the market for inclusive slum upgrading and basic services”. The pilot project is funded by a small DANIDA (Danish Government Development Agency) innovation  grant.


The pilot will focus on the city of Kisumu, Kenya and more specifically the challenges related to solid waste and sanitation management in the slums and informal settlements.  


The objective of the pilot is two-fold: First, to establish a multi-stakeholder platform for developing, testing and scaling sustainable business models for inclusive solid waste management and sanitation solutions targeting the informal settlements of Kisumu. Second, to develop and test an approach to establish and manage localized platforms/partnerships for inclusive slum upgrading involving all key stakeholders.

The pilot project will run in two phases:

  • Phase 1: Start-up (April-December 2018)

  • Phase 2: Consolidation and scale-up (January- December 2019)




Mikkel Aagaard Harder

Programme Development and Partnership Manager, Plan Denmark

+45 2837 2224


Nicolai Sederberg Rottbøll

CEO/Partner Quercus Group

+45 2949 4561




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