Student Case Studies

Each year, GPEIG recognizes the best student case study on international planning. Following are the finalists from the 2017 contest. 

2017 Winner

Local Responses to Slum Resettlement: The Case of Tamesna, Morocco

Miriam Keep

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Since 2004, Moroccan authorities have promoted the development of new cities as a means to provide affordable housing to low-income residents. One of the major objectives of this policy is to provide a site for the resettlement of slum residents. While policymakers advance this agenda with the justification of alleviating poverty and promoting social inclusion, resettlement programs have faced substantial resistance from residents facing displacement. The second new city established under this policy, Tamesna, was established in part to provide a resettlement site for the approximately three thousand households living in informal settlements in the surrounding rural commune of Sidi Yahya Zaer. So far, only two-thirds of the households have resettled, and the refusal of some residents to participate continues to delay the resettlement process. This paper addresses the question of why so many households refuse to participate in a resettlement process that was ostensibly designed to meet their housing needs. Using an ethnographic approach to examine case studies of different households, this paper investigates the ways different circumstances shape residents’ reactions to the resettlement process.

Honorable Mention

Social Urbanism: Transformational Policy in Medellin, Colombia

Rebecca Chau

Hunter College



When Medellin entered the public view in the 1990s it was a condemned city at the mercy of violence. By the 2000s, Medellin started making headlines for its urban transformation. In a post-violence context, socio-spatial inclusion became central to the urban strategy.1 Interventions were deployed through a program called ‘social urbanism’, which was led by the visionary mayor, Sergio Fajardo from 2002 to 2004. Social urbanism can be explained as the a carefully executed vision, distilled into policies that aimed to address social inequality and violence, and restore dignity to the people of Medellin. Success of these actions was contingent on sensitivity to the political context, responsiveness to citizen values and financial viability. The degree of this success can be measured with respect to improvements in mobility, accessibility, ridership, economic growth, crime and safety, user satisfaction, and community perception. Appraising these metrics revealed that social urbanism had few quantifiable social outcomes, but had a deep impact on recalibrating the city of Medellin, and establishing a social fabric amenable to continued transformation.

Drawing on the case of a shipyard in Pernambuco, Brazil, this paper examines the problem of skill formation and retention in less developed regions of emerging economies. Brazil, like other large developing countries, experienced resurgent industrial growth in the past decade, moving into higher skill and higher value-added activities at a rapid pace. This growth placed fresh demands on the labor market for new skills and capabilities among workers that traditional institutions have been unable to meet. The persistent inability of many firms to fill openings for highly skilled labor has led to a variety of responses by the private and public sectors, including international labor recruitment, the intensification of internal training systems and the expansion of public and quasi-public vocational training organizations. Despite the numerous challenges associated with quickly scaling up training institutions, Pernambuco’s shipbuilding industry succeeded in creating a large cadre of skilled, mid-tech workers in record time. Using data collected through interviews, fieldwork and archival research this paper explores the establishment of a set of innovative practices and vocational training institutions for welders and assembly workers, which have permitted the shipyard to realize an extremely rapid speed-to- production and create a broadly skilled workforce virtually from scratch. Most notably, the shipyard has been able to retain most of the newly trained workers in spite of tight labor market conditions and the presence of higher wage rates in richer regions of the country. This paper will show how successful training and retention in tight labor markets increasingly requires labor practices that create linkages between circles of skill formation at the workplace, socially situated perceptions of loyalty and status, and place-specific investments that socially embed of worker as citizens within the local community.