'The Places We Live' Research Paper Competition Winners

April 30, 2010

Worldwide, approximately one billion people currently live in slums – the vast majority of them in developing countries. Their numbers are expected to double by 2030, placing unprecedented pressures on cities around the globe.

To encourage fresh ideas on dealing with this challenge, USAID’s Urban Programs Team, together with the International Housing Coalition (IHC), The World Bank, the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Comparative Urban Studies Project (CUSP), and Cities Alliance, launched a research paper competition for graduate students. The competition was inspired by both “The Places We Live” exhibit, which was brought to Washington, D.C., in commemoration of World Habitat Day, October 2009, and the World Urban Forum V, held in March 2010 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The competition was open to students currently pursuing postgraduate degrees from domestic and international universities. Contestants were asked to submit policy-based, solutions-oriented papers focused on one of the following topics:

  • The Right to the City / Bridging the Urban Divide
  • Equal Access to Shelter
  • Cultural Diversity & Identity in Cities
  • Governance and Participation
  • Inclusive Sustainable Urbanization

More than 160 students from around the world submitted abstracts from a wide range of perspectives, including urban planning, architecture, economics, political science, geography, public policy and management, sociology, anthropology, and demography. Representatives from the sponsors selected fourteen finalists to submit full papers.

Grand Prize Winner

"Failing to Capitalize? Urban Service Delivery in Opposition-Controlled African Cities," by Danielle Resnick, Cornell University

Honorable Mention

"Desired Outcomes, Unexpected Processes: Two Stories of Sanitation Maintenance in Erode Tenements, India," by Sai Balakrishnan, Harvard University

"What Games Can Teach Us about Community Participation: Participatory Urban Development in Rosario’s Villas," by Josh Lerner, The New School for Social Research

"Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire? Urbanization and Sustainable Food Systems in Accra, Ghana," by Anna Carla Lopez-Carr, San Diego State University

"Land Sharing in Phnom Penh and Bangkok: Lessons from Four Decades of Innovative Slum Redevelopment Projects in Two Southeast Asian 'Boom Towns'," by Paul E. Rabe, University of Southern California

These five students presented their papers at a policy workshop in Washington, D.C., on April 30, 2010. Each student was paired with an expert discussant from one of the sponsoring organizations.

As the Grand Prize winner, Danielle Resnick was awarded an honorarium from the IHC to travel to Rio de Janeiro and presented her work at a session on March 22, co-sponsored by the International Housing Coalition and USAID at the World Urban Forum V.

Through this competition, the sponsors hope to engage the next generation of scholars and cultivate new, energetic advocates on the critical issues of shelter, slums, and urban development. 

Papers were judged by a panel of experts from the sponsoring organizations but were not peer reviewed. Selection criteria included: originality of topic and analysis, extent and quality of fieldwork, inclusion and quality of policy recommendations and/or technical solutions, and relevance to five identified topical areas highlighted at the World Urban Forum V (The Right to the City / Bridging the Urban Divide, Equal Access to Shelter, Cultural Diversity & Identity in Cities, Governance and Participation, and Inclusive Sustainable Urbanization).

The views expressed in the papers are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the sponsoring organizations (USAID, International Housing Coalition, The World Bank, Cities Alliance, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars). The authors alone are responsible for the presentation and accuracy of their research.