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Urban Observatories: A Comparative Review

The report outlines the operations of urban observatories, their 'value proposition' and their challenges in a variety of urban contexts around the world. Drawing from 32 case studies in cities equally across the Global North and South, the report offers tangible comparative evidence of the functioning of these institutions and contextualises their functions, activities, and outputs against the current COVID-19 crisis.

It emphasises the important role these institutions play in urban governance in several ways. First, urban observatories support evidence-based decision-making with robust, longitudinal data and analytical expertise, either through strategic advisory roles or through capacity-filling roles in cities where state data is weak.

Second, observatories play a key role in bringing multiple forms of knowledge to inform the evidence base used by decision-makers, advocating for recognition of the diverse urban realities experienced by city dwellers rather than a singular vision that does not account for the complexities and variance within a single locality. And third, observatories network knowledge within and between cities, making knowledge inclusive and accessible to a wide range of stakeholders and giving cities the opportunity to reference the successes and failures of other places when attending to their own challenges.