URBAN RESEARCH is a specialist consultancy focused on slums, slum services and slum improvement. We work primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. We believe that rigorous and practice-relevant research and evaluation can generate powerful answers to key questions, and can help governments and development organisations achieve real improvement in slumdwellers' lives.
We exist to deliver the work that our clients need. But our work is grounded in four central principles...
1) Improving slums needs an integrated approach
Many development interventions take a sector-specific approach: for example, an agency may focus specifically on sanitation, or on healthcare. Focused interventions can make sense: but there are powerful arguments for working more closely together. We aim to bring together expertise from different areas, and to facilitate closer integration.
2) Improving slums needs both market solutions and subsidy
At Urban Research, we believe that market solutions can make powerful contributions to slum improvement. But the market alone is often insufficient. Improving costly “public good” services like water, sanitation and healthcare almost certainly requires subsidy: one way or another, non-poor citizens need to cross-subsidise slum services. Research can help identify ways of achieving that.
3) Both “bottom-up” and “top-down” thinking are important
The development sector often seems split into two factions. Some organisations work alongside the mandated institutions, helping them to get better at providing services in slums. Other organisations are deeply sceptical of institutional will, and focus instead on helping slumdwellers improve their own lives. Here at Urban Research, we see merit and value in both viewpoints, and strive to bridge that divide.
4) Rigorous research and incisive evaluation is key
Research and evaluation is what we’re about. We believe that well-designed data collection and analysis can drive change in multiple ways. It’s not about obscure academic thinking: it’s about applying hard critical analysis to understand key questions, identify viable solutions, and make those solutions more effective.