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“The Places We Live" Research Paper Competition Winners

Logo Banner for Places We Live Competition

Inspired by the Exhibit by
Norwegian Photographer Jonas Bendiksen

Featured at
National Building Museum I Washington DC I October 2009

In Honor of World Habitat Day

Slum Jonas Bendiksen 300x200

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, DC, 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. *Available for full free download here. In addition to a Grand Prize winner, four were awarded Honorable Mentions.


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


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, DC 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, Brazil and presented her work at a session on March 22nd 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. For more information about the competition, please visit

*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.


Shifting Power: Scaling-Up Self Management
by Jessica Bremner and Caroline Park, University of California

Curbing Informal Urban Growth with Ecosystem Services in Mexico City
by Nicholas DuBroff, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Who Participates? Rethinking Civil Society in the Context of Competing Definitions of Urban Sustainability
by Rowan Ellis, University of Aberdeen

Continuums of Vulnerability in the Slums of Accra, Ghana
by Marta Jankowska, San Diego State University

Levels, Patterns and Determinants of Food Insecurity in Urban India
by Protap Mukherjee, Jawaharlal Nehru University

A Case Study of Slum Redevelopment in Jaipur, India: Is Neglecting Women an Option?
by Malvika Singh Parmar, Western Michigan University

The Story of New Hope: Integrating Favelas Through Public Housing
by Gustavo Rivera Jr., University of Chicago

Misaligned Expectations for Participatory Slum-Upgrading: Lessons for Sustainability of the Ahmedabad Slum Networking Project
by Laura W. Russ, University of California

On Designing Urban Medical Insurance for the Poor: A Study of Chinese Migrant Workers’ Access to Urban Health Care
by Huong Trieu, University of Michigan

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