Governance on the Ground shows people at a local level working through municipal institutions to take more responsibility for their own lives and environment. This study reports what social scientists in eight local networks found when they chose their own subjects for a worldwide comparative study of institutional reform at the local level. Governance on the Ground is the culminating product of the Global Urban Research Initiative, a major 1990s research effort that created a worldwide network of some 400 social scientists.

The topics these scholars cover include fiscal innovation, infrastructure projects, social development, housing, harbor development, and political party participation. Material comes from Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Sudan, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines.

All chapters present governance at a local level in a period characterized by decentralization and democratization, when many governments were improving local accountability and transparency and people were actively participating in public forums, especially through institutions of civil society. Many chapters show the close connection between social science and actual policy formation and implementation in the developing world.

Patricia McCarney is an associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto. Richard Stren is a professor of political science at the University of Toronto, where he has also been director of the Centre for Urban and Community Studies.



1. Introduction: Toward the Comparative Study of Urban Governance
Richard Stren

2. Confronting Critical Disjunctures in the Governance of Cities
Patricia L. McCarney

3. Ethnographies of Governance: Urban Spaces and Actors in the Middle East
Seteney Shami

4. Bellavista: Local Political Activism in Defense of a Barrio
Lucy Winchester, Teresa Cáreres, and Alfredo Rodriguez

5. Democratic Governance and Participation: Tales of Two Cities
Renato Raul Boschi

6. Fiscal Innovations and Urban Governance
Om Prakash Mathur

7. Rethinking the Enabling Strategy of Social Housing: State-Civil Society Dynamics in Southeast Asia
Emma Porio

8. Reforming Governance in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Nazrul Islam with Mohammad Mohabbat Khan, Nurul Islam Nazem, and Mohammad Habibur Rahman

9. "My Soul I Can See": The Limits of Governing African Cities in a Context of Globalization and Complexity
Mark Swilling, AbdouMaliq Simone, and Firoz Khan

10. Governance and Municipal Management in Mexico and Colombia: Between Clientelist Practices and New Forms of Democratic Government
Emilio Duhau and Martha Schteingart


“A very important publication on urban governance in a variety of national and regional settings within the developing world.”—Salma A. Shafti, CUS Bulletin on Urbanization and Development

“The evidence gives rise to cautious optimism as local residents learn to take control of existing institutions and frame their own to serve their interests.”—Choice