Human Settlements research group ways of working

IIED's expertise is in working through partnerships to generate high quality evidence, in order to shape debates, build coalitions, and influence policies and practices at multiple scales.

Informal settlements, Jakarta, Indonesia

Informal settlements are often vulnerable. The Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN) helps communities increase their resilience to climate change. IIED works with grassroots organisations, NGOs and international agencies to develop approaches to reducing risk for some of the most vulnerable urban residents around the world (Photo: World Bank)

IIED's Human Settlements research group has been working on urban environmental issues since the mid-1970s.

Working in a range of urban settings – from small towns to large metropolises, we recognise some of the common challenges and opportunities of urbanisation, and also the differences between different types of urban centre. We see the importance of connections, both in networks of urban areas, but also between rural and urban settings.

Our vision is to work with our partners to create towns and cities that are:

  • Sustainable: enhancing local, regional and global environmental systems, particularly in relation to carbon emissions
  • Prosperous: with lower levels of urban poverty, and opportunities for decent work (in both formal and informal enterprises) that is appropriately rewarded
  • Resilient: capable of coping with shocks and stresses, while continuously reducing underlying drivers of these
  • Healthy and safe: with public health needs met for all urban residents, who can live and work without being concerned for physical safety and wellbeing, and
  • Inclusive and equitable: governed so that the benefits of urban life are available to all residents; and all have the appropriate opportunities and capacities to be involved in making decisions.

Partners of IIED's Human Settlements research group provide a snapshot of how they are working together to make change happen through progressive, bottom-up urban interventions across a range of thematic areas of focus.

Key programmes of work

The Human Settlements research group have a number of programmes of work, as follows:

  • Urban health equity: multifaceted partnerships to promote the social, environmental and political determinants of urban health
  • Housing justice: producing knowledge and methodologies for housing policy and programmes that promote wellbeing and sustainability in cities of the global South
  • Urban crises and forced displacement: bringing together diverse perspectives on humanitarian emergencies and forced displacement, to inform new directions in urban crisis response
  • Urban poverty: Working to reduce urban poverty and to change misleading views about urbanisation
  • Urbanisation and rural-urban linkages: understanding urbanisation and the links between rural and urban areas
  • Building transformative urban resilience for all: understanding the nature of risk for people living in urban centres in order to support community, city, national and global efforts to build resilience

Our ways of working

Partnerships are integral to the way we work and significantly shape our thematic action-research in support of equitable, sustainable urban development. Across our work, we aim to create respectful, mutually beneficial learning opportunities.

We work with partners who share our focus on low-income urban residents, particularly federations of the urban poor and other community-led organisations or social movements. We also work with local and national governments and policymakers, and with academic institutions and research organisations across the globe.

Grounded in our partners’ priorities, we promote shared values that seek to challenge established urban narratives and inappropriate solutions, with a focus on generating more progressive, bottom-up urban interventions. We co-produce high-quality evidence that supports innovation and better decision-making, generates debates, and amplifies marginalised voices.

We seek to influence the agendas of international agencies and debates in global policy forums, by amplifying grassroots voices and drawing on our shared insights to develop a multi-dimensional understanding of urban poverty, discrimination and risk, highlighting strategies that can foster resilience, promote rights and denounce human rights violations.