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 interrogate how the governance of the financial architecture behind infrastructure projects, such as those in the water and sanitation sectors, matters to the distributional fairness of benefits and the health of urban communities across North America, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her work has been published in journals including the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Urban Studies, Environment and Planning C, 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 about Gabriella's work at MIT here

Areas of Work

South-South Cooperation


Water and Sanitation


Fiscal Policy & Urban Development




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, In Press.
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 Forthcoming (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, 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, 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 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.. "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.. "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.. "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).

CIEL - City Infrastructure Equity Lab

The City Infrastructure Equity Lab (CIEL) works toward building more equitable infrastructure systems—particularly in the water and sanitation domain. 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 the distributional fairness of 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.

Anne Calef's picture
Anne Calef
Master in City Planning Candidate

Anne is a Master in City Planning candidate (2020) in the Housing, Community, and Economic Development (HCED) group. Prior to joining DUSP, she worked as a public elementary school teacher and teacher leader for six years in Hawai’i and California. Her current interests include social infrastructures, school segregation, and participatory planning. Anne graduated from Pomona College in 2012 with a BA in Asian American Studies and earned her Master of Science in Educational Studies while teaching in 2015.

Braxton Bridgers's picture
Braxton Bridgers
Master in City Planning Candidate

Braxton Bridgers is a Master in City Planning candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, focusing on issues at the intersection of climate resilience and energy policy. Originally from the Washington D.C. area, Braxton previously worked on issues regarding energy security and climate conflict in the nation’s capital. During his time in D.C., Bridgers worked as an energy and environmental policy researcher at a Japanese public research and development firm, the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). Most recently, he completed a public policy fellowship with New America, a think tank dedicated to the pursuit of innovative solutions to U.S. policy challenges. At New America, his research focused on examining the efficacy of currently deployed digital disaster preparedness tools in the field of emergency management, identifying policy interventions that would enhance data sharing practices between first responders and electric utilities during emergencies. He holds a bachelor’s degree in international affairs with a concentration in law and public policy from Northeastern University.

Daniela Alejandra Cocco Beltrame's picture
Daniela Alejandra Cocco Beltrame
Master in City Planning Candidate

Passionate about participation, global governance and social justice, Daniela joined MIT’s MCP 2020 cohort after almost 10 years of professional experience in the national and international public and non-profit sector. In her last position as Social Innovation and Participatory Planning Director at the Buenos Aires City Government, she was responsible for community engagement and participatory planning at the Barrio 31 slum urbanization plan. She also worked at UNDP Argentina and collaborated with several Civil Society Organizations in her country as well as in Spain and Ethiopia. She holds an MA in International Cooperation and Public Policy (Madrid) and a BA in Political Science (University of Buenos Aires). She has also specialized at the Sorbonne (Paris, France), FLACSO (Buenos Aires, Argentina) and ECLAC (Santiago, Chile). Her research interests include participatory planning, global governance, collaborative creation, social justice and inequality.

Diego Castillo Peredo's picture
Diego Castillo Peredo
Master in City Planning Candidate

Diego is a Master's degree student from Chile in the International Development Group at MIT's Department of Urban Studies and Planning. Prior to MIT, he worked in strategic planning in the private sector as a manager in LATAM Airlines. Diego holds a Bachelor's degree in business management and economics from Universidad Católica de Chile. He is now transitioning his interests in planning and strategy into urban affairs, focusing on sustainable development, land-use planning, climate change mitigation, and urban supply chains.

Isadora Cruxên's picture
Isadora Cruxên
Doctoral Student

Isadora Cruxên is a doctoral student in the International Development Group at MIT's Department of Urban Studies and Planning. Her research interests include urban water supply governance and finance, urban social movements, and participatory planning. Originally from Brazil, she holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Brasília and a Master in City Planning from MIT/DUSP. Prior to coming to MIT, Isadora worked as a research assistant at the Institute for Applied Economic Research in Brazil on projects about public participation in policy development. She is currently the Media and Communications Director of the MIT Water Club, having previously served as Lecture Series Chair and Co-Vice President of the club.

To learn more about Isadora's MCP Thesis on a water supply crisis in São Paulo, Brazil, click .

MIT Spectrum Interview with Isadora"Lessons from the MIT Water Club" 

Neha Jayesh Doshi's picture
Neha Jayesh Doshi
Master in City Planning Candidate

Neha Doshi is a Master’s degree candidate in the International Development Group at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning. Prior to MIT, she worked for a major pharmaceutical retailer in healthcare customer analytics. She has also worked in Gujarat, India as a field research associate for the Poverty Action Lab (JPAL). Her interests are related to rural-urban migration and informality. Neha holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Wellesley College. ​

Samra Brook Lakew's picture
Samra Brook Lakew
Master in City Planning Candidate

Samra is a Master in City Planning candidate (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.


Anisha Anantapadmanabhan's picture
Anisha Anantapadmanabhan
Master in City Planning, 2016
Benjamin H. Bradlow's picture
Benjamin H. Bradlow
Master in City Planning, 2013
Brittany N. Montgomery's picture
Brittany N. Montgomery
PhD, 2019
Daniel Gallagher's picture
Daniel Gallagher
PhD, 2019
Emily J. Eros's picture
Emily J. Eros
Master in City Planning, 2014
Fitse Gelaye's picture
Fitse Gelaye
Master in City Planning, 2018
George Beane's picture
George Beane
Master in City Planning, 2014; Master of Science in Architecture Studies, 2015
Haleemah Qureshi's picture
Haleemah Qureshi
Master in City Planning, 2018
Jennifer Ly's picture
Jennifer Ly
Master in City Planning, 2015
Jessie Lee Heneghan's picture
Jessie Lee Heneghan
Master in City Planning, 2017
Kadeem Khan's picture
Kadeem Khan
Master in City Planning, 2019
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
Prassanna Raman's picture
Prassanna Raman
PhD, 2020


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.


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


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