Social mobilisation in urban contexts (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1110)



Identify effective social mobilisation approaches for service delivery in urban contexts. Where possible, look to identify and map approaches that are relevant to, or are used in, Pakistan.

Key findings

Suggestions for improving urban social mobilisation include:

  • Self-help groups: Creating community groups for expectant mothers, for example, or certain types of workers, can provide a basis for social support. These can used as a basis for social mobilisation to enable the public to demand and gain access to services.
  • Issue-based targeting of individuals and groups: This involves identifying issues first and then targeting individuals and organisations in communities, who have already shown a demonstrable commitment on these issues.
  • Education: Greater education is linked to greater social mobilisation. Classes can provide a way for people to meet and form groups on which to base social mobilisation. Education can be vocational or non-vocational.
  • Use and build on accepted institutions and ways of working: These can be cultural institutions such as the Pahstun jirga, the Islamic concept of shura, and sanghas often associated with Buddhism. They can also be based on historical institutions such as anti-dictatorship or anti-apartheid movements.
  • Use and build on existing associations: Social mobilisation movements can build on a number of existing ethnic associations, issue-based associations (e.g. water user associations, saving and loan associations), or work associations, such as unions.
  • Focus on different resources for urban environments: People in urban environments may be less able to spare time and labour but more able to contribute cash. They may also be better positioned to influence local business and governments.
  • Work with cultural practices: This can mean meetings and associations segregated by gender, and different genders being associated with different services.
  • Foster good, long term relationships: Building good relationships with the community, including with women and children. Suggestions for improving this include learning and using people’s names, including children’s; and patience and commitment.
  • Prevent conflicts of interest among mobilisers: Social mobilisers should only be accountable to the public. They should also have clear roles free of professional conflicts of interest.


Rao, S. Social mobilisation in urban contexts (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1110). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2014) 11 pp.

Social mobilisation in urban contexts (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1110)

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