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Dear friend of AHI:

Via our quarterly Activities updates, throughout the year we share sketches of AHI’s work and they make people enthusiastic and interested, so from time to time I am confronted with a question that has long made me tongue-tied:

What does AHI actually do?

We make impact through a wide range of activities, but fundamentally we convert stakeholder desire into implementable programs or properties that are custom-designed for each country or city we work in, educating our colleagues, our clients, and ourselves about the complex nuances of housing ecosystems along the way.

All right, how do you do that?

Though every country, city, and time is unique, the principles of financial and economic gravity operate universally, you just have to recognize them and adapt to them. Over the years, we’ve pioneered the structural exposition of housing as an ecosystem, the output of two value chains – supply side and demand side – that come together to produce homes and loans that match each other.

We do this by collecting every available fact from any reliable source. Then we place these on their respective value-chain links. The result is an enormous 2x8 grid (two chains, eight links per chain) that often grows until it spans many pages, but where the collected facts are mapped in relation to each other. We distill this 2x8 grid to essential functionality, so that we can reflect back to the participants where the problems lie. From these it’s possible to design a solution with confidence, and present it with evidence.

Why do you use that approach?

It’s not enough to have a clever solution, you must persuade the stakeholders to act upon it, and it has to be something they can achieve in the practical world. So it’s critical that they believe the plan works and become enthusiastic about executing it.

People want to do the right thing but they fear failing, especially in these arenas, because this is hard to understand and hard to believe in. If we convince them failure’s unlikely, they start to imagine success, and then they have the strength of ten.

When your work succeeds, what are the visible results?

New entities get created that are unique in their ecosystem, like these:

  • Five years ago, AHI committed to invest in SEWA Grih Rin, India’s first non-bank housing finance company dedicated to lending by informal women to informal women. Today SGR has thirteen branches open across three Indian states, growing roughly 30% a year, with a non-performing loan (NPL) rate indistinguishable from zero.
  • Two years ago, AHI proposed that the City of Ulaanbaatar create a city-level housing agency (NOSK). A few weeks back Anya Brickman Raredon returned from Ulaanbaatar, working with an Asian Development Bank team to present our work-in-progress on upgrading informal areas to NOSK’s inaugural executive director.
  • For more highlights from this past year, including impactful consulting projects and thought-leadership initiatives, read on below.

    Why don’t you do more of it?

    Limited resources. Every dollar we earn or receive in contributions goes directly into the work. I hire as many folks as I can afford. Whatever help you can give makes a difference in how much we do, how creative we can be, and how impactful we are.

    Thanks again for your support.


    David A. Smith


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