Cities are complex living systems and are increasingly at the nexus of economic, social and climate concerns as well as opportunities. Cities must not only address longstanding urban challenges — such as housing, water, transport, sanitation and energy — but are also expected to bear the brunt of climate change impacts in the coming years.

Responses to urban issues that operate through short-term, single-sector interventions are insufficient to address the complexity of the modern city. We need to enact multi-sectoral, long-term and locally led solutions to create healthier, safer and more sustainable cities for people and the planet.

About the Deep Dive Cities Initiative

WRI Ross Center’s Deep Dive Cities Initiative focuses on locally driven strategic projects as entry points to foster long-term, cross-sectoral and transformative change. Through the initiative, WRI provides strategic funding and additional technical capacity to support a wide range of projects, from decarbonizing transportation and enhancing climate action, to strengthening disaster preparedness and urban resilience. The initiative also allows WRI to share lessons learned from across its network of partner cities.

The Deep Dive Cities Initiative is a core approach to how WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities does its work, bridging support across multiple political administrations and projects and building relationships with diverse stakeholders to strengthen strategic planning and implementation.

This initiative builds on existing engagement and strong relationships with cities across WRI Ross Center’s network of offices in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, India, Turkey, Ethiopia, Rwanda and China to advance pathways for transformative change.

Where and How Does WRI Engage With Deep Dive Cities? 

Priority cities are chosen where WRI has a strong presence through existing projects and multi-sectoral partnership opportunities are strongest. By leveraging ongoing WRI work in cities while jumpstarting new key initiatives, priority cities become measurably more inclusive, resilient and low-carbon. The results not only improve quality of life and sustainability directly but contribute to creating an enabling environment for sustained engagement over time. 

The Deep Dive Cities Initiative enables transformative urban change in three primary ways:

  1. Multi-year engagement: Inspired by the successes of over two decades of engagement in cities like Bengaluru, Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro, the initiative helps WRI Ross Center work in priority cities beyond typical project lifecycles. We build coalitions and support work across political administrations and funding sources, implementing strategic projects that catalyze enduring urban transformation. We also provide flexible financing to act on opportunities as they emerge and build momentum over time. 
  2. Cross-sectoral technical expertise: The initiative supports knowledge exchange and the practical application of technical expertise that transcends traditional sectoral divisions. From guiding the creation of “climate-smart communities” in Shenzhen to creating educational cycling campaigns in Istanbul and improving disaster resilience in Kochi, we help municipal and community stakeholders to document and apply evidence-based solutions that cut across traditionally siloed policy areas including transport, water resilience, urban regeneration, clean energy and air quality. 
  3. Trusted relationships: By supporting consistent engagement and impact on people’s lives, the initiative helps WRI Ross Center build trust and deep relationships across stakeholder groups. Indeed, for most priority cities, such as Istanbul and Addis Ababa, WRI experts live and work alongside community stakeholders, government officials, advocacy organizations and businesses. This relationship building is deeply tied to the longevity of WRI’s work, and frequently leads to workshops, trainings and research products that are co-created by WRI experts and municipal leaders. It often allows projects to succeed despite short-term political or economic changes, and it creates the opportunity to influence broader global agendas for equitable urban development, urban data analytics, climate justice, and sustainable and safe transportation.

By connecting diverse projects and external partners, the Deep Dive Cities Initiative helps scale up and scale out WRI Ross Center's integrated urban planning approaches while responding to unique regional and municipal contexts.

Image credit Leu Britto - Monomito Filmes/WRI Brasil