Promoting economic development and effective governance across the globe

Our Issues

For over three decades, the Urban Institute has provided policy support and technical assistance in more than 70 countries. We conduct research and work with local partners to reduce poverty and promote sustainable development through economic growth and improved governance. Often that work targets the role of local government in meeting basic needs, such as clean water, education, roads, or housing. We are increasingly focused on helping these governments harness the power of urbanization by strengthening their asset management and improving their data collection and use.

Our Approach

We bring an integrated approach to local governance and economic development, drawing on our on-the-ground experience and expertise while collaborating with local partners, donor programs, scholars, and practitioners. Our applied research, technical assistance, policy design, and implementation support cover four main areas:

  • Inclusive governance: Working with local leaders to broaden access through citizen engagement and performance management.
  • Public financial management: Guiding management of both the collection and disbursement of public resources with attention to incentive systems, intergov­ernmental processes, and accountability mechanisms. 
  • Service delivery: Strengthening effective and equitable delivery of local public services.
  • Urbanization: Helping build smart and sustainable cities, focusing on gover­nance and implementation.

Our Impact

Our focus on intergovernmental structures and processes helps communities improve such services as water and sanitation, solid waste management, and delivery of health and education. For example, in Tajikistan, more trash is picked up as citizens connect fee payment with service improvements. In Pakistan, managers and parents in low-performing schools selected and monitored locally important measures of quality, reducing the number of nonperforming schools by 89 percent in a year. And in Kenya, we are working with local experts to support the design and implementation of new constitutional arrangements for more democratic regional governments.

By emphasizing citizen and independent expert engagement in policymaking, our work strengthens norms of inclusive and accountable policymaking and institutional improvement. In Kosovo, Urban’s data-focused approach enabled female municipal assembly members from previously warring ethnic groups to see and tackle shared service challenges.