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Michael Safier (2003), The Inter-dimensional Analysis of Urban Development: A Guide to the Organisation of Cases and Their Linkages, DPU, London

Annex: Background to 'Interdimensional Analysis'

Michael Safier (2003), Exploring 'Room for Manoeuvre' for 'Drivers of Change': Promoting Sustainable Progress in Urban Areas, DPU, London




A Guide to the Organisation of Cases and their Linkages

by Michael Safier
Development Planning Unit


Cities are the most complex, dynamic and powerful systems for generating and transmitting wealth and well being for very large numbers of people that have so far been evolved by humanity. They are also, locations of great inequality and persistent poverty, and are highly sensitive to disturbing influences arising far outside their open and permeable boundaries. Both these characteristics are being intensified by contemporary globalisation, which is restructuring patterns of urban living, working and associating in an increasingly globalised world.

Cities are becoming ever more significant in the drive to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the international development community, which will depend on the adoption and adaptation in the urban context of a reinforcing system of innovative practices, including the building of institutional capacities to implement and maintain them. There are a multiplicity of initiatives that are currently advancing performance in areas ranging from poverty reduction, social capital formation, employment generation, gender equality, and environmental sustainability, through to good governance processes and partnerships, effective planning and management, and the socially just and equitable distribution of resources to those who need them most. Information on many of these initiatives is widely available in publications and throughout the internet responding to the need to advance knowledge sharing and contribute to processes of development. The present compilation provides the urban practioner with an easy access to a wide range of material recently produced by international organisations, bilateral institutions, development think-tanks and renowned scholars and opinion makers focusing on urban development.

Cities are intrinsically multi — rather than single — dimensional in character. They contain the intersection of interacting spheres of human existence and effort. These different aspects of urban development are all important in influencing the immediate issues and future prospects faced by cities worldwide. They are all inter-related in a complex and dynamic system of interdependent parts, where for example access to informal urban activities influence the housing and health conditions of low-income households, and eliminating endemic disease is a function of health education and urban infrastructure provision, and both are impacted by changes in allocations within municipal budgets and the organisational capacities of urban service providers. These multiple interdependencies require a way of understanding, and of intervening in, the development of cities, that can fully realise their potential to advance the welfare and wellbeing of all their citizens: and successfully accommodate all those who will become citizens over the next generation.

The users to which this compilation is most immediately directed are all those acting, or attempting to act, as “drivers of change” in the city, whether in public, private or civil society institutions, organisations or enterprises, who are seeking a greater “room for manoeuvre” in which to explore available avenues of advance in the direction of bringing about sustainable improvements in urban life. This is the reason why the present compilation is organised around different ‘dimensions’ of urban development and catalogues the accumulation of principles, and examples of innovative practice, which ‘cluster’ around these dimensions. This form of organisation allows the user to explore the multiple linkages between different dimensions and clusters and to accumulate the direct and indirect assembly of relevant ideas and experiences available, from whichever starting point is chosen by them.


The classification and grouping of principles and case studies contained in this compilation follows a logic of identifying major ‘dimensions’ of urban development which are intrinsic to the functioning of cities. These ‘dimensions’ are the most relevant for the purposes of displaying the full richness and diversity of innovations, and also for illustrating the potential of their multiple inter-linkages to further advance the initial improvements being made in any particular area of initiative.

There appear to be five such primary dimensions of urban life, namely:

a) the functioning of an urban ‘economy’, which encompass primary changes in patterns of production, work and employment, investment and productivity, trade, income and wealth, consumption patterns and financial transactions;

b) the functioning of an urban ‘social system’, which encompass primary changes in patterns of mobility and migration, occupational status and reward, life chances, the character of family life, the circumstances of gender and age, the stratification of classes and groups, and the spatial segregation of residences and communities;

c) the functioning of an urban ‘political system’ , which encompass primary changes in patterns of power and influence, the character of political regimes, the behaviour of local governmental and administrative institutions, public expenditures and revenues, planning and management, and the degrees of participation and empowerment of clients and citizens;

d) the functioning of urban ‘cultural life’, which encompass primary changes in patterns of everyday living and conventional behaviours, intellectual and popular discourses, creativity and diversity in artistic expression and media communication, and the character of collective cultural identities sharing the city;

e) the functioning of urban ‘spatial organisation’, which encompass primary changes in patterns of distribution of people and activities in the city, the costs and benefits of varying locations, the character of environmental impacts and ecological modifications, and the formation of ‘places’ both physical and symbolic.

These five ‘dimensions’ have therefore been chosen as the basis for the classification and presentation of initiatives in this compilation.


The innovative principles and cases included in this compilation have been classified and organised in terms of their position and interrelation in different primary ‘dimensions’ of urban development (as identified through “inter-dimensional analysis”) These primary dimensions are then disaggregated into component ‘clusters’ of innovations, which identify discrete groups of principles and cases interlinked within a particular dimension. This allows for the possibility of tracing their links with ‘clusters’ within other dimensions, thus alerting users to the direct and indirect potentials for complementary initiatives to be pursued.

The five primary ‘dimensions’, used to order the information presented, correspond to the five basic ways in which urbanisation and cities can contribute to the advancement of development targets and objectives, such as the ‘Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These are:

1. Urban Economy
Cities are the driving forces of economic development – their concentrations of industry, commerce and services contributes the larger part of production and wealth creation in any national economy; while their centrality in transportation links and distribution networks, and their possession of the sophisticated infrastructures and advanced forms of human capital are the foundations of continuing technological innovation and increasing productivity.

2. City & Society
Cities are the major centres of the struggle for social development – their concentration of large and diverse populations, and their attraction of migrants, provide the conditions for social innovation and changes in social relations that are key to increasing social welfare for greater numbers; while at the same time they are the focal points of social struggles for an increased quality of life and social provision, and the centres of influence on changing values in wider societies.

3. Urban Governance
Cities are the most advanced, and demanding, arenas of governance – their multi-level intensity of public, private and social organisation, of planning and management functions, and of specialist administrations, are a forcing ground of organisational innovations; and at the same time they provide the stimulation for new forms of participation, empowerment and accountability, arising out of the emergence of diverse social movements and non-governmental and community-based networks.

4. Urban Environment
Cities are the generators of very significant environmental impacts – their concentration of people and activities in small geographical areas contribute to high levels of energy use, waste products, pollution, and ecological modification; while their complex processes of expansion and renovation of the built environment increase the pressure to find sustainable arrangements for future growth.

5. Urban Infrastructure, Services and Management
Cities are the most intensive and productive forms of accommodating and servicing very large and growing numbers of people at minimum cost — the transformation of the physical built environment itself involves both wealth creation and social organisation in highly complex forms of spatial organisation; at the same time both urban residents and institutions are deeply involved in processes of housing, infrastructure and settlement production and distribution, that require the full range of planning and management procedures and public-private-social collaborations to sustain them.

Each of these ‘dimensions’ has been further classified in terms of ‘clusters’ of innovations arranged by the variety of policies, practices and capacities covered by this compilation. The clusters show the full range of categories into which the documentation assembled can be consulted:

3.1. URBAN ECONOMY: six clusters of innovative policies and practices that contribute, together with their multiple interrelationships, to the ‘economic dimension’ of urban development. They are:

responses to globalisation and structural adjustment programmes: including new policy analyses of urban economies and new initiatives and practical measures to modify the impact of adjustment on poor communities;

macro-economic development and finance: including new analyses of relationships between urban economic growth and urban poverty, new assessments of urban competitiveness, and new guidelines for urban development strategies, urban taxation and financial improvements;

employment and labour markets: including small and medium enterprise development, skills enhancement, and new directions in labour market segmentation;

informal economy : including measures to provide improved provisions for legal recognition, regularisation of land and housing developments and street trading;

fostering innovative financial mechanisms: including new practices in savings and loan schemes, micro-finance, community asset management, and community finance facilities.

urban-rural interactions : new initiatives to negotiate the urban-rural divide, manage the agrarian-urbanisation transition, protect the position of the rural and urban poor, and encourage appropriate forms of peri-urban governance;

3.2. CITY & SOCIETY: six clusters of innovative policies and practices contribute, together with their multiple interrelationships, to the ‘social dimension’ of urban development. They are :

sustaining urban livelihoods : including new approaches to poverty reduction though social mobilisation, new schemes for directly addressing poverty and vulnerability through social organisation, and more effective forms of access to support infrastructures and services;

promoting social inclusion: including strategies for ‘people-friendly’ city services, for child-centred provisions, fully participative urban regeneration schemes, immigrant absorption programmes, and citizen education projects;

supporting gender equality and empowerment: including specific provisions for property rights recognition, mothers and children support schemes, public transport security, and basic service localisation ; and general support for women in community activist and leadership roles, and innovative institutional practices mainstreaming gender equity in access to services and career opportunities;

improving health and education for all: including new forms of community and informal education programmes, public information centres, extensions to the coverage of primary education for marginal groups, health education schemes in schools and communities, environmental awareness projects, and community-based sanitation and waste recycling schemes;

enhancing culture & identity: including innovative programmes in cultural heritage, arts and celebrations, conservation of historic buildings as cultural patrimony, and mobilisation around cultural practices for generating economic opportunities and community cohesion;

reducing violence and advancing human rights: including innovative programmes for protection against domestic and public violence against women, protection of street children and child sweated labour, prevention of inter-communal conflict, and establishment of human rights provisions in city government charters and administrative practices.

3.3. URBAN GOVERNANCE: six clusters of innovative policies and practices that contribute, together with their multiple interrelationships, to the ‘political dimension’ of urban development. They are:

democracy & empowerment: including enhancing representation and participation at the local level, supporting community and neighbourhood self-government, the extension of local electoral registration, and innovative practices in deliberative democratic assemblies;

participatory processes & tools for poor communities: including new varieties of participatory learning, action research, planning, and policy dialogue; community consultation, community partnerships, social movements and civil society association involvement;

community action, organisation & asset management: including innovative practices in self- provision and accessing land, transport, infrastructure and basic services, establishment of community resource centres, neighbourhood action committees, strengthening of asset management and mobilisation by poor households and communities;

participatory urban management & budgeting: including a variety of successful cases of citizens’ participation in political affairs, developing their political engagement in the redistribution of public resources and stimulating greater municipal accountability

capacity-building for an enabling environment : including innovative policies and projects in inclusive governance for neighbourhood renewal, central city regeneration, access to GIS and related technologies, and knowledge-sharing;

promoting accountability and transparency : including anti-bribery and corruption schemes, and innovative practices in ‘ethical’ governance, transparent procurement and contracting.

3.4. URBAN ENVIRONMENT: There are four clusters of innovative policies and practices that contribute, together with their multiple interrelationships, to the ‘environmental dimension’ of urban development. They are:

supporting sustainable cities and the notion of ecological footprint: including new policy and programme initiatives in global-local linkages, economic- environmental trade-offs, priorities and strategies for ecological conservation, the setting up of sustainability indicators, responsibilising the use of resources and minimising unsustainable consumption;

combating environmental degradation, health hazards and pollution: including innovative technical, social and community-based responses to water, sanitation, and waste disposal, and industrial and urban energy pollution, together with public health protection and hazard reduction measures;

promoting Local Agenda 21 : including innovative schemes for community natural resource conservation, community partnerships and co-operatives for greening local development programmes, recycling projects and urban agriculture practices, and the extension of local sustainability indicators and monitoring processes;

expanding environmental planning and management : including mainstreaming environmental assessment of local government policies and programmes, linking environmental with poverty reduction and basic service provision, and developing municipal planning sustainable cities.

3.5. URBAN INFRASTRUCTURES, SERVICES & MANAGEMENT: five clusters of innovative policies and practices that contribute, together with their multiple interrelationships, to the ‘infrastructure and settlements dimension’ of urban development. They are:

securing land tenure: including measures to improve access to land for the poor through appropriate land tenure provisions, titles and regularisation and consolidation procedures, shifting from illegal to informal recognition of settlements to provide security and asset value to poor communities, and providing for mediation and arbitration processes for dispute resolution;

enhancing shelter & settlement management: including measures to encourage slum improvement and neighbourhood rehabilitation for the urban poor, recognising informal shelter and settlement development, making suitable provision for the homeless, and providing the planning frameworks suited to expansion in ‘affordable’ housing;

improving urban mobility & transport: including innovative schemes for increasing access to public transport, improving quality, reliability and affordability of city bus and rail travel, recognising the role of informal transport modes for the urban poor, and linking transport system development with employment generation and environmental impact measures;

promoting public-private-community partnerships for urban service delivery: including appropriate operation and maintenance protocols, financial and service guidelines, subsidy and profitability sharing, and community capacity building in provision of basic water, sanitation, waste disposal, electricity and energy sectors;

enhancing strategic, participative and responsive urban planning: including innovative programmes and processes to support integrated infrastructure investment and linked spatial development schemes, mixed use, compact density development incorporating employment and housing meeting the needs of the urban poor, and forms of consultative and empowering ‘peoples planning’ practice.

promoting the use of appropriate technology: including the experimentation with new or improved construction techniques, the application of low cost building technology, the use of appropriate materials and the directions of applied research.

The listing of the five main ‘dimensions’ of innovation in principles and practices, and their respective clusters, provides users with a wide range of possibilities in ‘tracing’ or ‘tracking’ complementary initiatives and experiences. Starting from ‘where you are now’, this scheme allows you to follow through a variety of ‘inter-dimensional pathways’ leading towards mutually reinforcing initiatives – in different sectors, at different levels, with different actors, using different methods, skills and local or global knowledge bases. In this way, the documented innovative principles and practices offer opportunities for ‘drivers of change’ to explore the full potential of a constantly increasing volume and variety of allied thinking and transformative actions.



Table of Contents:

1. Cities and development

2. The 'Inter-dimensional Analysis' of urban development

3. Documenting innovation in urban development: Their Dimensions and Clusters:

3.1. Urban Economy
3.2. City & Society
3.3. Urban Governance
3.4. Urban Environment
3.5. Urban Infrastructures, Services & Management

4. Concluding note

.Note: The full text, its illustrations and annexes are available as pdf files
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2003 Development Planning Unit | Sikandar Hasan | Anna Soave | Khanh Tran-Thanh || Tina Simon