Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centers was registered in the year 1984, while they were focusing on the pavement settlements around Byculla, Nagapda etc and worked on the premises that the women are the poorest of the urban poor and thus focus was to be on them and realised that more than confrontation it was negotiation that worked. In this they carried out a census of pavement dwellers and came out with a report titled “We the Invisible” which they presented to the officials. SPARC saw the exercise of gathering information "as a means of mobilizing community" and this exercise of 'self-enumeration' has continued through SPARCs work.
From this they moved on to forming the Mahila Milan, women's collective that focused on small savings. In the year 1986 a collaboration was made with National Slum Dwellers Federation headed by Jockin, which continues till date and together in the year 1988 they offered to conduct a survey of the hutments along the railway lines. Surveying census and using that information was tactic adopted by Jockin in Janata Colony and later by SPARC and this also became expertise. They also used to do exhibitions of Model Houses that were used as a means of mobilizing people and consensus building.
Most of the their later work is described as “Co-option” since they were enlisted in conducting surveys and facilitating the shifting of slum dwellers. SPARCs approach has resulted in sharp contradictory responses with Arjun Appadurai calling them as 'deepening democracy' while Ananya Roy compares it with Hezbollah and says its approach appeals to the middle class sensibilities and effectively sells out the poor to the forces that would transform Mumbai into a neoliberal, bourgeois city. Sheela Patel-founder of SPARC was also a member of the Afzalpurkar Committee(1995) that framed the SRS and instrumental in assigning pavement dwellers the equivalent status of slum dwellers, meaning protection against eviction under SRA Act.