The State of Access in Cities: Theory and Practice

Governance for Urban Services [Book Chapter]

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  • Authors Jorrit de Jong, Fernando Fernandez-Monge

  Research summary

What does it take to improve access to rights and services in urban settings?

This chapter in Governance for Urban Services presents a framework that focuses on two dimensions: the commitment and capacity by governments to deliver rights and services, and people’s capacities to benefit from those rights and services.

City leaders can play a crucial role in breaking down barriers to access. This chapter examines innovative examples from cities across the world and provides key lessons for those seeking to increase access to urban rights and benefits:

  • City leaders need to articulate a clear public value proposition that includes the notion of equitable access. Creating a right, designing a process, or offering a service is not enough if residents struggle to get access. Improving access requires a commitment to policy and implementation.
  • City leaders need to take a broad, holistic view to improving access, grounded in the lived experience of residents. Focusing on how city departments work and tapping into the experience of frontline workers is critical, but without considering cultural, economic, and political factors that inhibit access, it is difficult to create true equal opportunity.

About this chapter

This chapter is an adapted and expanded version of previous work by Jorrit de Jong, in particular his books Dealing with Dysfunction: Innovative Problem Solving in the Public Sector (2016)The State of Access (with G. Rizvi, 2008), and Agents of Change: Strategy and Tactics for Social Innovation (with S. Cels and F. Nauta, 2012)

About the book

Governance for Urban Services examines three vital issues in urbanization and democratization: the institutional structures and processes of urban local governance to improve access to urban services; their outcomes in relation to low-income groups’ access to services, citizen participation in local governance, accountability of local leaders and officials, and transparency in local governance; and the factors that influence access to urban services, especially for the poor and marginalized groups. Further, it describes decentralization policies, views of the residents of slums on the effectiveness of government programs, and innovations in inclusive local governance and access to urban services.

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