DCRP Lecture: Devanne Brookins

Lecture | April 4 | 5:30-7 p.m. | 106 Wurster Hall

 College of Environmental Design

Devanne Brookins: The Role of Informal Institutions in Change: Urban Land and Transportation in Ghana

The two part lecture focuses on the land reform, urban transport, and governance in Ghana. Beyond engaging the land and transport sectors, these projects interrogate different forms of urbanization in the so-called “late urbanizers.” Much of this is due to the complex institutional environments in which rapid urbanization occurs and the developmental imperatives of economic growth and poverty reduction. Each of these themes has implications for urban development and urban form, not least of which include questions of access and inequality.

Land Reform in Urban and Peri-Urban Ghana: Demographic shifts in Ghana, including rapid urbanization and urban expansion have led to rising pressures on land, including scarcity and land-related conflict. At the same time, land scarcity and new infrastructure investments yield rising land values, which could be leveraged to support much needed urban development and service provision. Land pressures and land potential both necessitate institutional change in Ghana’s land sector. To address these challenges and to achieve its developmental potential, Ghana, in conjunction with the World Bank, developed the National Land Policy in 1999, followed by a land administration project (LAP) in 2003, with a core element focused on institutional reform. Recognizing the complexity of land governance in Ghana, the LAP project takes an integrative approach to institutional reform, attempting to join the customary and statutory sectors to improve land management. In examining this approach and institutional innovations that support it, the presentation will address the following questions: How do informal institutions and organizations influence institutional change? How do interests, characteristics and capabilities of informal organizations matter for the implementation and outcomes of reform?

Urban Transport and Governance in Accra: Demographic pressures have also prompted changes in the urban transport sector in Ghana, along with rising motorization, congestion and consequent environmental concerns. To address the highly congested city center and improve accessibility and mobility in Accra, the government of Ghana, again in collaboration with the World Bank, initiated the National Transport Policy in 2008 followed by the Ghana Urban Transport Program (GUTP). In the ensuing years, the project moved to implement institutional reforms and develop a bus-rapid transit system. The result was a shift in institutional arrangements and the development of the Aayalolo bus service, which was launched in September of 2016. The grounding of this service in October 2018 provides an interesting empirical case of how informal organizations are enmeshed in governance and politics that ultimately influence the outcomes of these interventions.

Devanne Brookins is a Research Coordinator at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, supporting the Transforming Urban Transport - The Role of Political Leadership (TUT-POL) Sub-Saharan Africa project. Her research interests are centered on the intersection of urban development, governance and land in developing countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Her research is driven by overarching questions how urban governance and development – inclusive of service provision, infrastructure and land management - contribute to distributional outcomes that perpetuate inequality. Her dissertation research explored land reform in urban and peri-urban areas in Ghana, the process of institutional change and the role of informal actors. Prior to her doctoral studies, Devanne worked in international development research and program management with organizations such as The Urban Institute and Oxfam America. She has also consulted for the African Development Bank, UN Habitat in the Urban Land, Legislation and Governance Branch and the African Center for Economic Transformation. Devanne holds a PhD in International Development Planning from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) at MIT; dual Masters’ degrees from Columbia University in Urban Planning (GSAPP) and International Affairs (SIPA); and a BA in Political Science and French from Wellesley College.