The State of Access in Cities: Theory and Practice

  • Jorrit de JongEmail author
  • Fernando Fernandez-Monge
Part of the Advances in 21st Century Human Settlements book series (ACHS)


This chapter presents a framework to analyze access to rights and services in urban settings. Following De Jong and Rizvi’s (2008) definition of access as the match between societal commitment and institutional capacity to deliver rights and services and people’s capacity to benefit from those rights and services, the chapter examines the different dimensions that underpin access in urban settings. It argues that efforts to deal with the bureaucratic dysfunction that impedes access should be grounded in an approach that looks at context, system, agency and individual levels of analysis. Such conceptual approach highlights the adaptive nature of dealing with bureaucratic dysfunction to enlarge access to urban benefits, putting an emphasis on the role of leadership in innovating to make it possible. The chapter tests these propositions by examining examples of recent innovations to manage bureaucratic dysfunction and associated lack of access from cities across the world. Some lessons are drawn from the analysis: (i) leaders who can articulate the public value proposition, can enable the necessary legitimacy and can build operational capacity are a fundamental pillar of any effort, (ii) focusing in an agency or a narrow set of agencies may leave key stakeholders out, rendering efforts to increase access unsustainable, and (iii) engaging frontline workers has to be a central part of any effort, but it cannot fail to act at the context and societal level, so that the deeper forces inhibiting access to urban benefits are deactivated in the long term.


Access Urban rights and services Bureaucratic dysfunction Public institutions Innovation City leadership 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Harvard Kennedy SchoolHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Harvard Kennedy SchoolBloomberg Harvard City Leadership InitiativeCambridgeUSA

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