Megacities Megachallenge: Informal Dynamics of Global Change

Overall Coordinator Frauke Kraas
Funding Source and Level German Research Foundation (a new priority program of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft – DFG)
Project Website Link

The project now includes more than 60 researchers (not counting postdoctoral scholars and graduate students), held its first scientific meeting in November, 2006 and its kick-off-meetings in Dhaka and Guangzhou in March, 2007. The senate of the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft – DFG) has agreed to a new priority programme on “Megacities – Megachallenge: Informal Dynamics of Global Change” (“Megastaedte: Informelle Dynamik globalen Wandels” – Sequential number 1233). The funding for the first two of the overall six years has been granted.

The aim of the project is to develop theoretical approaches and models which are suitable for a general explanation of informal processes and structures in megacities and which can describe them in the form of models, based on the integration of knowledge from the natural sciences and the social sciences. These aims imply:

(1) a reorientation away from the description of isolated objects and conditions and towards the analysis of complex processes, (2) orientation towards the interaction between different sub-processes which have been examined separately by different disciplines in the past, and (3) orientation towards the process-oriented development of theories, models und scenarios relating to the current urbanisation phenomenon of megacities. This excludes isolated mono-disciplinary studies which merely generate case-specific or area-specific knowledge without applying this to the conditions of integrated approaches.

Processes and interactions in four problem areas with an extreme dynamism of development and major social relevance are central to this project:

(1) The loss of planning control and governability and the influence of new forms of direction, (2) The dominance and differentiation of urban economies, (3) The complexity and dynamics of material and resource flows, and (4) The multilayered dynamics of settlement development. The four core themes may be examined singly or in combination; it is however absolutely essential that the research teams are multidisciplinary. Given the highly complex nature of process dynamics in megacities, it makes sense to concentrate the research projects on two megacities. This enables intensive interaction and co-ordination between the projects and ensures high returns. The selection of the two megacities was made on the basis of the two contrasting categories “authoritarian, centralised” (with only partially tolerated informality) and “democratic, decentralised” (with a high degree of loss of governability and marked informality). The megaurban regions of Dhaka in Bangladesh and the Pearl River Delta in China (Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong) were chosen.