Photo of Gordon McGranahan, Cities research fellow

Gordon McGranahan - Research Fellow

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Poppy Bardwell

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Gordon McGranahan is a multidisciplinary researcher, with a doctorate in development/economics, and more than three decades of experience working on urban issues. He is a Research Fellow with the Cities Cluster and works on urban sustainability with the STEPS Centre at IDS. 

During the 1990s he led the urban environment programme at the Stockholm Environment Institute, conducting research on urban environmental risk transitions and environmental justice, including a multi-city study of household environmental burdens in Accra, Jakarta and Sao Paulo. Between 2000 and 2016, he worked at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), heading up the Human Settlements Programme and then Group for a decade, and more recently leading its work on urbanization. His most cited work during this period was on urban risk transitions, the climate-related risks of human settlement in coastal zones, and water privatization.

His current research interests include the politics, economics and practicalities of: how urbanisation can contribute to economic productivity, social inclusion and environmental sustainability; how growing cities can accommodate their additional population more equitably; how the challenges of coproducing sanitation in deprived urban settlements can be overcome; how the informal economy can be enhanced or transformed, and most recently; the dynamics of urban violence.

This action-oriented research project will use the urban land nexus and its politics to provide the entry point for analysing the cities of Khartoum, Dar es Salaam and Mwanza and as integrated city systems. The overarching objective is to identify, research, and stimulate policy debate on actionable changes that are politically feasible and scalable within existing urban systems, and will foster more inclusive and welfare-enhancing urban transitions.

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We plan to develop a research network and carry out background research on urban food environments in rapidly growing cities and towns in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia with the goal of applying for a major GCRF call (and additional calls) in 2017/8.

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The Rockefeller Foundation defines inclusive economies as ones that are equitable, participatory, growing, stable, and sustainable. This project is developing and applying indicators of inclusive economies at sub-national scales, such as cities and intra-national market systems.

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The Sustainable Development Goals have targeted universal access to water and sanitation, and associated monitoring is intended to help achieve this target. Reflecting on Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, this consultancy explores how global monitoring could better support local efforts to improve water and sanitation in low-income urban settlements.

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Addressing security and inclusion in cities as universal issues, at this side-event we will focus on how well-managed urbanisation can revitalise urban spaces that had either been lost to violence or suffered from a lack of access to basic services and neglect.

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Cities have for long been recognised as not only the firm centres of government in the global north and south, but also central to the processes of state consolidation, transformation and erosion (as seen in the work of Charles Tilly in the 1980s and 1990s).

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Front cover of report Market systems development in the
cities of rapidly urbanising countries

Market Systems Development in the Cities of Rapidly Urbanising Countries

The aim of this paper is to offer guidelines for those in the market systems community interested in working in urban settings, by exploring the key features that makes cities unique and the implications these features have for programmes using a market systems approach. More details

Resilience as a Policy Narrative: Potentials and Limits in the Context of Urban Planning

Climate and Development 10.2 (2017)

The aim of this paper is to analyse the emergence of the concept of 'urban resilience' in the literature and to assess its potentials and limitations as an element of policy planning. More details


Inclusive Urbanisation and Cities in the Twenty-First Century

IDS Evidence Report 220 (2017)

In academic and policy discourse, urbanisation and cities are currently receiving a great deal of attention, and rightly so. Both have been central to the enormous transformation the world has been going through during the past few centuries. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Universalising Water and Sanitation Coverage in Urban Areas: From Global Targets to Local Realities in Dar es Salaam, and Back

Reflecting on Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, this paper demonstrates how global monitoring often fails to reflect and support local efforts to improve water and sanitation in low-income settlements. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Learning from Sustained Success: How Community-Driven Initiatives to Improve Urban Sanitation Can Meet the Challenges

World Development (2016)

Past research has identified four key institutional challenges that community-driven initiatives to improve sanitation in deprived urban settlements face. More details

Approaching Markets in Rapidly Growing Cities

20 Jul 2017
By Maria del Mar Maestre Morales, Gordon McGranahan, Eric Kasper

The New Urban Agenda and its 47 inclusions

13 Oct 2016
By Gordon McGranahan