2018 is our 30th Anniversary and we have evolved through a self-reflective learning process. During these three decades we have moved through four distinct phases as dictated by the changing needs for research and action as shown in the diagram below:

PRE-PROJECT PHASE: The Genesis of Ideas

We began the MCP well before the concept of mega-cities as was widely recognized. The UN, one of the first institutions to use the concept, was using a definition of 4 million in its data collection.

Many national and local policymakers as late as 1986 were in denial about the concentration of world population in urban areas, had extremely negative reactions to the word, mega-cities and believed that cities with populations over a million would implode before the year 2000.

To learn more about attempts to limit urban growth, click here  (article by Schearer and Perlman for Barcelona UN meeting)


Creating a support network among decision-makers within mega-cities and across boundaries of countries and continents would generate the ideas and incentives needed to take risks and confront the challenges of explosive growth.

How we grew our network. We started with the 6 mega-cities we knew best and where we had the greatest access to the widest diversity of people: Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, New York and Los Angeles. Then we added other cities by region, identifying Coordinators in each and finding the most interesting people from each sector to be part of our Steering Committee.

To learn more, click here for 10-yr assessment fold-out!


We created the global network to share practical experiences about workable approaches to ongoing complex urban problems. That meant training all of the City Coordinators how to find, document and disseminate local initiatives that met our criteria [link to criteria]. At our Annual Coordinators Meetings, hosted by a different mega-city each year, we facilitated transfer agreements among cities through a marketplace of urban innovation exchange.

To learn more click here


By 1996 when we celebrated our 10th Anniversary at Habitat II in Istanbul we had transferred nearly 40 innovations and our network was thriving. We decided to go deeper into the programs and practices that made a significant difference in informal settlements. Most research on informal settlements was based on one-time snapshots with no follow-up on the people or the communities. We decided to carry out a series of longitudinal inter-generational studies in various cities to answer the question of what works. We started in Rio de Janeiro, where Dr. Perlman had conducted research in the late 1960s.

To learn more click here


Our ongoing research in Rio de Janeiro showed us the emergence of young urban leaders living in the informal sector as trailblazers in asserting their history, identity, culture and rights. Most powerfully when connected to activists and researchers who had gone before them.

MC2 , our newest initiative is Phase IV in our 30-year evolution. Launched at Habitat III in Quito, it is transferring knowledge and power to the next generation of changemakers by building a network of young people to accelerate urban innovation and diffusion.

To learn more, click here