Underserved communities are complex social ecosystems, characterized by their lack of basic services and the density of their social networks. Traditional ties (those of family, clan, village and neighborhood) tend to perpetuate and regenerate here implying opportunities, as they produce social cohesion and resolve problems, but also difficulties, since their traditional pattern tends towards functional opacity and closure towards those who do not belong to the group.

These communities are usually – but not exclusively – placed on Informal settlements, which are urban areas that function outside or at the limits of the regulations that govern society in cities and their surrounding territories. Brazilian favelas, South African townships, North African shantytowns, Indian slums or the problematic neighborhoods of cities in the world’s North: altogether a billion people are estimated to live in such places today (and it is predicted that this figure will double in the next 15 years).

Looking more closely at this reality, it became apparent that the people who live in such places are in fact their main resource: that the only feasible way to improve living conditions is to start by acknowledging and activating their social networks (which already enable them to resolve many of the problems they have to deal with in everyday life).

In support of this idea is the proliferation all over the world of initiatives working in this direction. The very existence of these promising cases indicates the profile and feasibility of a new generation of services: collaborative services based on the active participation of those who will benefit directly from them, and their collaboration both together and with the resident community and with external agents such as institutions, associations, enterprise and social media.