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Ananya Roy – Towards Sustainable Urban Development

Ananya Roy
The change-maker in urban development, Ananya Roy. (

Calcutta-born Ananya Roy is one of the leading faces of international development and global urbanism today, being an inspiring role model to anyone hoping to bring about actual change in the way cities develop around the world. Roy is a Professor of Urban Planning & Social Welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and the Editor for the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.

Her journey in the field of urban planning started with a Bachelor’s Degree in Comparative Urban Studies from Mills College, followed by a Master’s in City Planning and a Ph.D. from the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of California at Berkeley. She took to teaching soon after, while simultaneously researching and writing about new regimes of international development, focussing on how poverty in third-world countries affects urban development.

While serving as the Education Director at the Blum Centre for Developing Economies, Roy founded the undergraduate minor in Global Poverty and Practice. This was probably her first big step in garnering attention towards how poverty relates to urban development. Following the mass acceptance of the course, Roy went on to develop a major in Urban Studies, and currently holds the Meyer and Renee Luskin Chair in Inequality and Democracy.

Throughout her career, Roy has deeply studied the various perspectives of urban poverty in lower-income countries, predominantly in the global South, and formulated policies activating change in the way urban geographies are formed and developed. Some of her well-analysed suggestions in urban planning have been successfully experimented in a few Asian nation-states. Known to have given newer dimensions to the concept of urban informality, she believes in the need for a trans-national approach towards urban planning, beyond the constraints of politics, ethnicity, and gender differences.

Apart from being a beacon of knowledge and successful change-maker, Roy leads a research network on Housing Justice in Unequal Cities, aimed at improving the policies, practices, and initiatives related to housing in the city of Los Angeles as well as other parts of the world.

In 2014, Roy started the #GlobalPOV video series, to get the masses into thinking about inequality, poverty, and their effects on global development. Her content on social media and digital platforms has received more than a million views, globally, starting a conversation about the same. Since 2017, she has also been actively involved in promoting the need for cities to provide asylum to refugees, advocating various measures to develop such cities to be inclusive, without depleting the economy.

Roy has so far worked on 6 books on the various aspects of urban planning that contribute towards greater social change, and vice-versa. Her book titled, ‘Poverty Capital: Microfinance and the Making of Development’ – which discusses how microfinancing can help empower women, reduce the socio-economic gap between sections, and contribute to sustainable urban development – won the prestigious Paul Davidoff Book Award of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning in 2011.

Having received many distinguished teaching awards, Roy considers teaching and mentorship as the primary focus of her life, hoping to inspire and educate policy makers, urban planners, and change-makers of tomorrow.

Written by K. C. Sabreena Basheer

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