Cities have a distinctive role in development processes: they are focal points for economic growth, jobs and innovation but also for poverty, inequality, vulnerability and conflict. Although we can learn from historical processes of urbanisation, there are many new development elements to understand on how cities play a role in these processes, and what it means to be living in a city in the 21st century.

Our research focuses on the circumstances of poor and vulnerable people and explores ways in which different forms of inequalities interact to produce both good and bad outcomes for people in cities. It maintains a focus on rights and social justice through explorations of the boundaries between the formal-informal, legal-illegal, and of urban social movements and forms of association. There is a strong commitment to working and understanding from the ‘bottom-up’ and for finding ways to engage with people and organisations that work directly with and for city people.

Ultimately, our work on cities aims to transform the knowledge needed for better lives and more equitable and sustainable development globally.

Related Research

Current IDS research explores a wide range of issues in cities and on the role of cities in contemporary development processes, which includes:

  • The emergence of new patterns and forms of poverty and vulnerability
  • Urban governance and livelihoods
  • New forms of association and political action
  • The role of ICTs
  • Concerns for sustainable development
  • The peri-urban space
  • The transmissions of diseases
  • Habitat III and The New Urban Agenda


The Cities Cluster are members of the following:

Key contacts

Image of Jaideep Gupte
Jaideep Gupte

Research Fellow and Cities Cluster Co-Leader


+44 (0)1273 915656

Image of Dolf J.H. te Lintelo
Dolf J.H. te Lintelo

Research Fellow and Cities Cluster Co-Leader


+44 (0)1273 915767



Image of Anuradha Joshi
Anuradha Joshi

Research Fellow

Image of Deborah Shenton
Deborah Shenton

Hub Manager

Image of Dolf J.H. te Lintelo
Dolf J.H. te Lintelo

Research Fellow and Cities Cluster Co-Leader

Image of Eric Kasper
Eric Kasper

Research Fellow

Image of Gordon McGranahan
Gordon McGranahan

Research Fellow

Image of Inka Barnett
Inka Barnett

Research Fellow

Image of Jaideep Gupte
Jaideep Gupte

Research Fellow and Cities Cluster Co-Leader



Wellbeing, Housing and Infrastructure in Turkey (WHIT)

This research and action project will contribute to finding ‘durable solutions’ for housing infrastructural deficits in Turkey, in the context of large scale displacement of Syrian refugees and rapid urbanisation.


Displacement, Placemaking and Wellbeing in the City

The Displacement, Placemaking and Wellbeing in the City (DWELL) project will contribute to our growing understanding of the structures, dynamics and processes through which people who are enduringly displaced succeed or fail to become part of European and Indian cities.


Capacity Building for Smart Data and Inclusive Cities (SDIC)

The “Capacity Building for Smart Data and Inclusive Cities” (SDIC) project aims strengthen technical and institutional capacities by working directly with municipal authorities participating in the Smart Cities Mission in four secondary cities in India: Bhopal and Jabalpur (in Madhya...

Recent work


IDS at the World Urban Forum

We’re excited to be participating in the upcoming Tenth Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF10). Convened by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), the World Urban Forum has become the premier international gathering for addressing the challenges of sustainable...

5 February 2020


When your bus takes away your citizenship

In Brazil, 85 per cent of the nation’s population live in urban areas and 86 per cent of public transport is made by bus. This makes urban buses an important topic for Brazil’s development – especially in the context of notions of civil, political and social rights to the...

4 November 2019