Gabriella Y. Carolini

Gabriella is an associate professor of urban planning and international development in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) at MIT, where she leads the City Infrastructure Equity Lab (CIEL). She advises the UrbanAfrica and LatinX student initiatives in DUSP, and also works within MIT as a collaborating member of the Displacement Research and Action Network and on the Faculty Council of the Community Innovators Lab (CoLab). Professionally, Gabriella has served as the lead chair of the Global Planning Educators’ Interest Group and as a member of the Task Force on Global Planning Education, both for the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning.

Gabriella’s research and teaching are centered on providing a grounded critical analysis of how the governance of infrastructure development—including its financial architecture, implementation, and especially evaluation—shapes the distributional, procedural, and epistemic fairness of infrastructure project benefits and the health of urban communities across the Americas and Africa. Her work has been published in journals including the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Urban Studies, Environment and Planning A, and the American Journal of Public Health, among others.

Prior to arriving at DUSP, Gabriella taught at Rutgers’ Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, and worked in various capacities with the UN Millennium Project, UNFPA, UN-HABITAT, Rockefeller Foundation, Center for Sustainable Urban Development at Columbia’s Earth Institute, Oxford Analytica and a private management consultancy focusing on fixed income finance in New York. Gabriella has studied and been an affiliated researcher in universities in Brazil, France, Mozambique, and the UK. She holds a BA in Political Science from Columbia, a Master of Philosophy in Development Studies with a concentration on Economics from the University of Oxford, and a PhD in Urban Planning from Columbia, where she was a NSF-IGERT fellow in international development and globalization. 

Watch an interview in 2017 about Gabriella's work on fiscal and social responsibility here.  

Listen to her recent discussion of the US Infrastructure Deal here


Carolini, Gabriella Y.. Equity, Evaluation, and International Cooperation: In Pursuit of Proximate Peers in an African City In Critical Frontiers of Theory, Research, and Policy in International Development Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2022.
Carolini, Gabriella Y., and Sara Lynn Hess. "Legacies of Mistrust: Why colonial imprints on the implementation of fiscal reforms in Mozambique and Mexico matter." plaNext - next generation planning 11 (2021).
Carolini, Gabriella Y., and Isadora Cruxên. "Infrastructure: The harmonization of an asset class and implications for local governance." In Routledge Handbook on Financial Geography, edited by J. Knox-Hayes and D. Wójcik. London: Routledge, 2020.
Carolini, Gabriella Y.. "Aid’s urban footprint and its implications for local inequality and governance." Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space (2020).
Carolini, Gabriella Y., and Prassanna Raman. "Why Detailing Spatial Equity Matters in Water and Sanitation Evaluations." Journal of the American Planning Association (2020).
Carolini, Gabriella Y.. "Responding to Water Vulnerabilities at Home and Abroad." Georgetown Journal of International Affairs April, no. (2020).
Carolini, Gabriella, Fitsum Gelaye, and Kadeem Khan. "Modelling Improvements to Property Tax Collection: The Case of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia." African Property Tax Initiative Working Paper Series - Institute of Development Studies (2020).
Carolini, G.Y., S. L. Hess, J. Quezada-Medina, and E.O. Thomasz. "Panorama de la descentralización fiscal y la ruralidad en América Latina y el Caribe: limitaciones y oportunidades para resolver el desarrollo desigual." Documentos de Proyectos - UN Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL) 109, no. 29 (2019).
Carolini, Gabriella. "Distributing benefits from Africa’s urban growth." In The Quality of Growth in Africa, edited by R. Kanbur, A. Noman and J. Stiglitz. New York: Columbia University Press, 2019.
Carolini, Gabriella Y., Daniel Gallagher, and Isadora Cruxên. "The promise of proximity: The politics of knowledge and learning in South-South cooperation between water operators." Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space 36, no. 7 (2018): 1157-1175.
Carolini, Gabriella Y.. "Go South, Young Planner, Go South!" Journal of Planning Education and Research 9, no. 2 (2018).
Carolini, Gabriella Y.. "It’s a buyer’s market for development projects." The Arab News (2017).
Carolini, Gabriella. "Love thy neighbours?" Helsinki Times (2017).
Carolini, Gabriella. "Cities, choose your partners." Japan Times (2017).
Carolini, Gabriella Y.. "Sisyphean Dilemmas of Development: Contrasting Urban Infrastructure and Fiscal Policy Trends in Maputo, Mozambique." International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 41, no. 1 (2017): 126-144.
Carolini, Gabriella Y.. "Valuing Possibility: South-South Cooperation and Participatory Budgeting in Maputo, Mozambique." In Urban Planning in Sub-Saharan Africa: colonial and postcolonial planning cultures, edited by Carlos Nunes Silva. London: Routledge, 2015.
Carolini, Gabriella Y.. "Perverting Progress? The Challenges of Implementing both Fiscal and Social Responsibility in São Paulo (1995–2010)." Urban Studies 40, no. 2 (2013): 356-371.
Carolini, Gabriella Y.. "Framing Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Needs Among Female-Headed Households in Periurban Maputo, Mozambique." American Journal of Public Health 102, no. 2 (2012): 256-261.
Carolini, Gabriella Y.. "The Tools of Whose Trade? How international accounting guidelines are failing governments in the global South." Third World Quarterly 31, no. 3 (2010): 469-483.
Carolini, Gabriella Y.. "Organizations of the urban poor and equitable urban development : process and product." In The New Global Frontier : Urbanization, Poverty and Environment in the 21st Century, edited by George Martine. London: Routledge, 2008.
Garau, Pietro, Elliott Sclar, and Gabriella Y. Carolini. A Home in the City. London: Earthscan, 2005.
Sclar, Elliott D., Pietro Garau, and Gabriella Carolini. "The 21st century health challenge of slums and cities." The Lancet 365, no. 9462 (2005): 901-903.
Garau, Pietro, Elliott D. Sclar, and Gabriella Carolini. "You Can’t Have One Without the Other: Environmental Health Is Urban Health." American Journal of Public Health 94, no. 11 (2004).

The City Infrastructure Equity Lab (CIEL) works toward building more equitable infrastructure systems—particularly in the water and sanitation domain, but increasingly also in energy and communications. Our research provides a grounded critical analysis of how the governance of infrastructure development, including its financial architecture (e.g. budgeting, financing), evaluation, and partnering practices in the delivery of systems, currently shapes infrastructure benefits and community health outcomes. Our work examines infrastructures across a broad portfolio of country and city-level contexts, and within framings of climate change, public health, affordability, and knowledge production, in order to provide practical policy recommendations that improve equity outcomes, particularly for and with marginalized communities.


Research Team

Abby Fullem
Master in City Planning Candidate

Abby Fullem is a second year Master in City Planning candidate at MIT, concentrating in environmental planning and policy. Prior to pursuing her master’s, she worked in Wyoming, California, and the Southwest supporting alternate dispute resolution processes and community involvement in local decision-making. She has worked in sectors including land-use, climate adaptation, renewable energy, transportation, public safety, and water. Abby is interested in working with communities and decision-makers to identify equitable and actionable solutions to environmental conflicts. She holds a BS in Geology from Haverford College.

Emily Fang's picture
Emily Fang
Master in City Planning Candidate

Emily Fang is a civil engineer (MIT '23) who is also pursuing an urban planning Masters degree, concentrating in environmental planning and policy. Her experience includes work at an architecture firm, international development bank, environmental advocacy organization, and an education nonprofit in the building, transportation, and education sectors. At MIT, she is involved with education outreach in the greater Boston area.

Eunice Choi's picture
Eunice Choi
Undergraduate Research Assistant

Eunice is currently an undergraduate student at MIT majoring in computer science and engineering. She has an interest in website development and software engineering. At MIT, she is part of the fencing team, the Society of Women Engineers, the Asian American Association, and the Korean Cultural Association.

Flavio Vila Skrzypek's picture
Flavio Vila Skrzypek
Master in City Planning Candidate

Flavio is a Fulbright student and a second year Master in City Planning candidate at MIT, interested in the socio-spatial logics of informal settlements in the Global South. Prior to his master’s degree, he worked with informal settlements in Lima, and with rural communities along the Peruvian Andes and Amazon. Amongst his topics of research, he focuses on informality, property rights and land use policy. Also, he worked at the Peruvian Ministry of Housing and is currently a researcher for the Peruvian Future Institute and the Latin American Urbanists Network. He holds a Bachelor in Architecture from University of Lima.

Lab Affiliates

Daniela Cocco Beltrame's picture
Daniela Cocco Beltrame
Associate Researcher - International Cooperation and Urban Settlements

Daniela holds a Master in City Planning from MIT (International Development Group). Originally from Argentina, she has over 10 years' professional experience in the national and international public and non-profit sector, specializing on socio-urban integration and self-built urban human settlements. Currently, she works as a consultant for local governments, INGOs and grassroots networks of the urban poor in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. She has also worked at UNDP Argentina, IECAH Spain and the Buenos Aires City Government, where she was Director General of Social Innovation and Participatory Planning. She holds an MA in International Cooperation and Public Policy (Ortega y Gasset Madrid, Spain) and a BA in Political Science (Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina). Her research interests include global governance, participatory planning, social justice and infrastructure equity.

Guilherme Minarelli's picture
Guilherme Minarelli
CIEL Research Affiliate

Guilherme is a visiting researcher at CIEL in DUSP/MIT, fellow of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research Foundation (IJURR) and PhD candidate in Political Science at the University of São Paulo (DCP/USP). He is interested in urban policies and inequalities with a focus on the relationship between public finance, urban planning and housing policies.  He worked in different research projects in Brazil at Center for Metropolitan Studies (CEM), at Center for Analysis and Planning (CEBRAP), and with University of Utrecht, amongst others. His experience also includes work as a private consultant, public manager, teacher and panelist. At CIEL, he has been working in a project about access to infrastructure in squatted buildings in central São Paulo in partnership with Federal University of ABC. 

Patricia Cezário Silva's picture
Patricia Cezário Silva
CIEL Research Partner

Dr. Patricia Cezário Silva is an Adjunct Professor at the Federal University of ABC Region, in the São Paulo Metro area in Brazil. Therein she is based at the Center for Engineering, Modeling and Applied Social Sciences. Since 2016, Patricia's work includes teaching, researching and extension activities with communities through the Environmental and Urban Engineering Course. Her current research with CIEL focuses on understanding communities living in buildings occupied by social movements, studying their fight for housing rights, their socio-economic profile, as well as their process of acquisition of infrastructured services. Patricia is architect and urban planner with experience in urban and housing development, slum upgrading and land tenure regularization, and working with communities, NGOs, as well as local and state governments. She holds a PhD (2015), a MA (2008) and a BA (2001) in Architecture and Urban Planning from the University of São Paulo, Brazil. She also holds a Specialist title (2004) in Land Management and Informal Settlement Regularization from the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Netherlands. She has been a research fellow at the Institute of Applied Research – IPEA in Brazil (2014-2015), developing quantitative and quantitative analysis on urban planning and housing policies in the city of São Paulo. She was a H.H. Humphrey Fellow at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2012-2013), engaged in research on affordable housing policies. As a Lemann fellow at MIT (2021-2022) she also worked with CoLAB and the Resilient Cities Housing Initiative. 

Samra Brook Lakew's picture
Samra Brook Lakew
Associate Researcher - Urban Africa

Samra earned her Master in City Planning (2020) in the International Development Group at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning. Prior to MIT, Samra completed her undergraduate degree in Materials Engineering at McGill University. Her work experience includes risk management consulting in the US and Ethiopia. Samra’s current interests include infrastructure development, urban systems, spatial modeling and analysis, data visualization, and audio storytelling.


Isadora Cruxên's picture
Isadora Cruxên
PhD, 2022
Prassanna Raman's picture
Prassanna Raman
PhD, 2020
Brittany N. Montgomery's picture
Brittany N. Montgomery
PhD, 2019
Daniel Gallagher's picture
Daniel Gallagher
PhD, 2019
Amber Kim's picture
Amber Kim
Master in City Planning, 2021
Michelle Mueller Gámez's picture
Michelle Mueller Gámez
Master in City Planning, 2021
Sarah Rege's picture
Sarah Rege
Master in City Planning, 2021
Winn Costantini's picture
Winn Costantini
Master in City Planning, 2021
Anne Calef's picture
Anne Calef
Master in City Planning, 2020
Braxton Bridgers's picture
Braxton Bridgers
Master in City Planning, 2020
Diego Castillo Peredo's picture
Diego Castillo Peredo
Master in City Planning, 2020
Jessica Quezada Medina's picture
Jessica Quezada Medina
Master in City Planning, 2019
Kadeem Khan's picture
Kadeem Khan
Master in City Planning, 2019
Fitse Gelaye's picture
Fitse Gelaye
Master in City Planning, 2018
Haleemah Qureshi's picture
Haleemah Qureshi
Master in City Planning, 2018
Jessie Lee Heneghan's picture
Jessie Lee Heneghan
Master in City Planning, 2017
Anisha Anantapadmanabhan's picture
Anisha Anantapadmanabhan
Master in City Planning, 2016
Jennifer Ly's picture
Jennifer Ly
Master in City Planning, 2015
George Beane's picture
George Beane
Master in City Planning, 2014; Master of Science in Architecture Studies, 2015
Emily J. Eros's picture
Emily J. Eros
Master in City Planning, 2014
Laura Martin's picture
Laura Martin
Master in City Planning, 2014
Lilia Pharazyn da Silva's picture
Lilia Pharazyn da Silva
Master in City Planning, 2014
Benjamin H. Bradlow's picture
Benjamin H. Bradlow
Master in City Planning, 2013
Neha Jayesh Doshi's picture
Neha Jayesh Doshi
Master in City Planning Candidate


An adage I have heard about MIT is that students do not come here to be taught; they come here to learn. As an academic, there couldn’t be a more stimulating environment and abundant supply of innovative, caring, and dedicated individuals with whom to learn. The photo above captures a few of us in 2018 (Asmaa, Prassanna, myself, Mark, Isadora, and last but not least an insert of my youngest student of all). Those who study with me—across methods and subjects of infrastructure, public finance, and Southern theory—know that professors who come to MIT also do not come to simply teach, but to continuously learn.

Navigating Politics in Water and Sanitation Planning



DUSP Class Page









I have had the immense pleasure of working with a very talented group of students in both Masters and Doctoral programs of planning (their names and topics follow below). Their research on some of the most challenging issues in development inspires me, and I am very honored by their recognition of our work together through the DUSP Student Council's Excellence in Advising award in 2014, 2015, 2018, and 2020, as well as the Excellence in Teaching award in 2017 and MIT's Committed to Caring award in 2019.


Isadora Cruxên, PhD 2022
Disordering Capital: The Politics of Business in the Business of Water Provision

Prassanna Raman, PhD 2020
The Politics of Visibility in Urban Sanitation: Bureaucratic Coordination and the Swachh Bharat Mission in Tamil Nadu, India

Daniel Gallagher, PhD 2019
Enduring or Escaping Legacies? Politics, inherited institutions, and rebellion in the struggle over water futures in Chile

Brittany N. Montgomery, PhD 2019
Delivering Urban Projects: Contracting, Voice, and Anti-corruption in Infrastructure


Idélcia Mapure, Master in City Planning 2022
Rethinking the Work of Kaya Clínica in Maputo, Mozambique 
Sharon Velazquez-Soto, Master in City Planning & Business Administration 2022
Olympic Challenge: Designing Equity Into Mega-Events 
Bahji Chancey, Master in City Planning 2021
Community Composting: Public-Nonprofit Partnerships and Equity in New York City Organic Waste Programs
Winn Constantini, Master in City Planning 2021
Integrating Climate, Economic, and Racial Justice through a Boston FutureCorps
Sarah Rege, Master in City Planning 2021
Cultivating Creating Learning in Community - An Iterative Design Process
Tanvi Sharma, Master in City Planning 2021
Future Flood Mitigation in Charlotte-Mecklenburg 
Braxton Bridgers, Master in City Planning 2020
The Climate Code: A Framework to Enhance Emergency Response Through Civic Digital Participation 
Daniela Cocco Beltrame, Master in City Planning 2020
Subaltern City-Making: A Portrait from Harare, Zimbabwe
Diego H. Castillo Peredo, Master in City Planning 2020
Development inequity: Advancing distributive justice by localizing SDG indicators for municipalities in Chile
Samra Lakew, Master in City Planning 2020
Scenarios for the Future of Global Recycling
Mercedes Bidart, Master in City Planning 2019
Situated Technologies: A Radical Planning Tool for Popular Economies
Kadeem Khan, Master in City Planning 2019 (co-advisor Sarah Williams)
Decoding Urban Inequality: The Application of Machine Learning for Mapping Inequality in Cities of the Global South
Jessica Quezada Medina, Master in City Planning 2019 
Infrastructure, Sustainability and Unevenness: Exploring Marginalization in Mexico
Sydney Brooks Beasley, Master in City Planning and Master of Science in Technology and Policy 2018 (co-advisor Chintan Vaishnav)
Implementing Water and Sanitation Infrastructure in Rural India: The Role of NGOs
Talia M. Fox, Master in City Planning 2018
Co-opting Sustainabilities: The Transformative Politics of Labor and Extended Producer Responsibility under Brazil’s National Solid Waste Policy
Fitsum Gelaye, Master in City Planning 2018
Converging Intensions, Diverging Realities: Rights vs Growth-based Approaches to Safe Sanitation Provision in Addis Ababa
Haleemah N. Qureshi, Master in City Planning 2018
Binding Civil and Civic Infrastructure: The Need for Transparency and Accountability in Baltimore’s Water Crisis
Taskina Tareen, Master in City Planning 2018 (co-advisor Marie Law Adams)
Restructuring the Apartheid City: Fostering Inclusive Urban approaches in Cape Town’s TOD Framework
Nicholas Allen, Master in City Planning 2017
Terra ex Machina: Land-Building and the Breach of Property Regimes
Jose Antonio Mendoza Garcia, Master in City Planning 2017
Do place-based interventions displace crime in cities? An evaluation of multiple approaches in Chihuahua, Mexico
Billy Ndengeyingoma, Master in City Planning 2017
The Balance of Local Culture and Global Economic Development: the Case of the Nyarugenge Heritage Village in Kigali, Rwanda
Anisha Anantapadmanabhan, Master in City Planning 2016
Paying for Municipal Stormwater Services: A Case Study on Drivers of Stormwater User Fees in Three Massachusetts Communities

Isadora Araujo Cruxên, Master in City Planning 2016
Fluid Dynamics: Politics and Social Struggle in São Paulo's Water Crisis (2014-2015)

Jenna Harvey, Master in City Planning 2016
Deepening Democratic Capacity Through Collective Inquiry: Community-Led Research at Palma's Lab

Alison Coffey, Master in City Planning 2015
Negotiating Neighborhood Priorities: The Politics of Risk & Development in Medellín’s Comuna 8 

Callida Cenizal, Master in City Planning 2015
Governing the metropolis: The evolution of cooperative metropolitan governance in Mexico City’s public transportation 

George Beane, Master in City Planning 2014 & Master of Science in Architecture Studies 2015
Hydro-Social Infrastructures: New Models for Water-Sensitive Urban Development in Mexico City 

Hector Flores-Ramirez, Master in City Planning 2015
Notes Towards a Place-Based Approach for the Development of Southern Mexico 

Kate Mytty, Master in City Planning 2015
The Role of Actors and Incentives in Municipal Solid Waste Management: a Case Study on Muzaffarnagar, India 

Yael Borofsky, Master in City Planning 2015 & Science, Technology and Policy 2015
Towards a Transdisciplinary Approach to Rural Electrification Planning for Universal Access in India 

Sarah Dimson, Master in City Planning 2014
A Planning Paradigm for Electrification in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Case Study of Tanzania 

Laura Martin, Master in City Planning 2014
Culture, Cooperation and Planning for Development in Maputo, Mozambique 

Lillian Steponaitis, Master in City Planning 2014
Too Legit to Quit: Exploring Concepts of Legitimacy and Power in Scaling-Up Community Development Work (Brazil) 

Anna Gross, Master in City Planning 2013
Stree Mukti Sanghatana: Exploring the Work of an Indian NGO through Gender, Economy, and Civil Society