Political Change and Local Governance in Emerging Cities


Ongoing (2023-2026) 

The project Political Change and Local Governance in Emerging Cities examines inclusive governance, political participation, and equitable development in small urban centers across the world, focusing specifically on cities in Brazil, Ghana, and Tunisia.



About the project

By 2050, more than two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities, and the future of 7 billion people will depend on urban governance and development. Most of our knowledge about how cities work comes from the world’s largest and most established cities. Yet most people live in emerging cities: urban areas of less than one million people that are rapidly adding population, re-defining territorial boundaries, and shifting away from an agricultural economy. They are critical spaces to reduce poverty, as well as leverage public resources to support equitable growth and development at the local level. Within these cities, there are sites of intense conflict, but also examples of successful governance and equitable development. What explains these differences? 


Emerging Cities develops a new and collaborative research environment to explain four outcomes:

  • Inclusive decision-making
  • Avenues of urban claim-making
  • Peaceful co-existence between host populations and migrants
  • Equitable development

This project brings together researchers with diverse skillsets based at institutions in three continents to conduct multi-method field research in Brazil, Tunisia, and Ghana. Researchers will coordinate across teams, compare measures, integrate case selection, and synthesize results and publications. 


The project has three specific aims: 1) Develop a comparative framework for the study of emerging cities across the world; 2) Explain the variation in governance across and within emerging cities, and; 3) Distinguish what is "urban" about emerging cities.

The partners in the project have a long history of engagement with the policy community and will disseminate findings through workshops and reports directly to policymakers and practitioners to inform reforms and interventions focused on improving social welfare in emerging cities across the globe.   


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This project is supported by the Political Change and Local Governance in Emerging Cities (Swedish Research Council – 2022-02023). PI: Erica Ann Metenhey. 


Erica Ann Metheney (PI), Statistician for the Governance and Local Development Institute at the University of Gothenburg, Head of GLD Data.

George Bob-Milliar, Associate Professor in the Department of History and Political Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.

Intissar Kherigi, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Law at Southern Mediterranean University. 

Ellen LustFounding Director of the Governance and Local Development Institute at Yale University (est. 2013), and then at the University of Gothenburg (est. 2015), and a Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Gothenburg.

Lucas M. Novaes, Associate Professor at Insper Institute of Education and Research, São Paulo.

Jeffrey Paller (co-PI), Researcher at the Governance and Local Development Institute at the University of Gothenburg and Associate Professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco.

Alison Post, Travers Family Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Chair of Political Science and Associate Professor of Global Metropolitan Studies at UC-Berkeley



Emerging Cities takes a collaborative approach involving coordination across research teams, comparable measures, integrated case selection, and coordinated synthesis and publication. It combines field research methods in Brazil, Tunisia, and Ghana, including comparative historical analysis of nine cities; focus group discussions with residents and leaders; face-to-face surveys (2250 residents in each country; 6750 total); experiments with local leaders; and key-informant interviews. We have chosen these sites because they provide theoretical leverage, variation across regions, and our combined expertise in these countries.


Related Publications

Bjurenvall, Sara. (2023). "Political Change and Local Governance in Emerging Cities," University of Gothenburghttps://www.gu.se/en/research/political-change-and-local-governance-in-emerging-cities

Hoelscher, Kristian; Dorward, Nicholas; Fox, Sean; Lawanson, Taibat; Paller, Jeffrey and Philips, Melanie. (2023) "Urbanization and Political Change in Africa.” African Affairs. OnlineFirst: https://doi.org/10.1093/afraf/adad021

Project Funders