Dr Vandana Desai

Vandana Desai

Dr Vandana Desai

Senior Lecturer in Human Geography

Phone: +44 1784 443650

Personal profile

My research involves an integrated strategy of cross disciplinary research collaboration combining my own background in development with the research of academics from geography, sociology, social policy, gerontology and international NGOs such as Practical Action and WaterAid in seeking to influence international policy making – focussing on theoretical and implementation issues in development policy, urban governance, and North-South donor relations in areas of low-income housing and infrastructural development (water and sanitation), ageing and gender issues. 

My current research is organised in three themes. 

(i) Speculating on Slums: Improved infrastructure and services and the threat that it creates for security of tenure for slum dwellers with Dr. Alex Loftus (Geography, Royal Holloway), Dr. Mansoor Ali (Practical Action) and Mr. Nick Bundle (WaterAid UK). 

(ii) Ageing, Livelihoods and Poverty - strategies adopted among the urban poor in Mumbai and Indian migrants in London and global healthcare pathways with Dr. Deborah Price (Institute of Gerontology, Kings College, London). 

(iii) Gender and Development - cultural transformation and gender issues in India and Indonesia, in collaboration with Dr. Shruti Tambe, University of Pune (India), and Dr. Harriot Beazley in Queensland University, Australia.


My previous research can be categorised in two themes:

(i) Grassroots Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)

Funded by DFID (UK) and a grant from the British Academy, the research was the first of its kind in focusing on a sample of 67 urban NGOs in one city i.e. Mumbai.  This research led theoretical debates on how NGOs are increasingly called upon to fill the gap between the needs of vulnerable urban groups and the partial service delivery of the public sector. I have collected data over the years and developed a data base on NGOs in Mumbai.  I am hoping to update this database again and I am intending to revisit the sector to construct what will be a unique longitudinal dataset on this vitally important sector.

(ii) Community Participation and Informal (slum) Housing

The research explores the nature and scope of community participation and analyses the concepts of 'influence' and 'power' in community participatory procesess.  The research focuses on two questions in Mumbai: What impact does community mobilisation have on the process of slum upgrading and secondly what is the extent of participation and how it affects the services provided at the grassroot level.  More specifically, the research seeks to understand how the needs of the urban poor with respect to housing and basic services are articulated and fulfilled, their involvement in community organisations and the role that the community and its leaders play in influencing state action.


I have been a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the journal Progress in Development Studies for the last eleven years.  I was appointed a member of the editorial board “The Urban World” a quarterly journal of the Regional Centre for Urban and Environmental Studies (RCUES), All India Institute of Local Self Government, Mumbai in May 2009.  I also hold external positions of responsibilities such as gender adviser to the Diversity Unit of the  British Council, elected member of the advisory council of Think Global (Development Education Association - DEA) and research associate with Equality Research and Consulting Ltd

I have co-edited two of the leading development text books.  I teach on the undergraduate and Master’s programme and supervise PhD postgraduate and post-doctoral researchers.

I did my Masters at University of Liverpool and a DPhil at Oxford University on completion in 1992, I was appointed as a Research Fellow for three years at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex and in 1996 moved to a Lectureship to the Geography Department at Royal Holloway.

View all (39) »

View all (21) »

ID: 17961