Comparing Urban Public Service Delivery

What aspects of urban governance are most important for producing local service delivery outcomes in Africa and Asia? With support from the International Growth Center, the Urban Institute conducted a comparative study of local governments and public service delivery systems to better understand how institutional arrangements constrain or enable local service outcomes.

Our research explored the authority, discretion, capacity, incentives, and accountability mechanisms of local governments and the political leadership of 42 cities across 14 countries. It focused on five conceptual aspects of vertical governance systems in solid waste management, water supply and sanitation services:

  • the effectiveness with which functional assignments are made;
  • the dynamism of the local political leadership;
  • the degree of local control over administrative mechanisms (such as local human resource management and procurement);
  • the degree of local fiscal autonomy; and
  • the strength of local participation and accountability mechanisms.

The project generated a new comparative framework to assess urban service delivery performance across cities in different contexts, and explored which aspects of urban governance and institutional arrangements actually drive public service outcomes.


Funder Information

International Growth Center and The Urban Institute

Period of Performance

June 2014 - March 2016


Related Links

IGC Project Profile


In rapidly urbanizing developing countries, the prevalence large-scale informality within urban economies increases social vulnerabilities, stifles worker productivity and dampens regional economic growth. With the prospect of better jobs attracting millions into cities each year, rising urban poverty levels are encouraging international nonprofits to allocate greater resources toward urban programs. Our fieldwork in Pakistan reveals that above all else, urban informal workers require improvements in public service delivery, skillset development and collective bargaining capacity. We propose implementing future urban programs through an iterative learning, adaptation and implementation approach allowing nonprofits to leverage greater impact from finite resources.

Women in Pakistan's Urban Informal Economy