• Length:
    4 Weeks
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    2–4 hours per week
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About this course

Skip About this course

The COVID-19 pandemic accentuates existing vulnerabilities. While multiple international and national guidelines have been released, it remains unclear the extent to which these so-called “best practices” are adequate or feasible for the unique challenges faced by individuals living in self-built, urban poor settlements. Without a reliable source of income, adequate housing, water, or sanitation infrastructure, it is virtually impossible for guidelines such as social isolation, social distancing, and frequent hand washing to be implemented. What, then, is occurring on the ground in informal settlements, and which guidelines are legitimately helpful?

This course aims to answer that question, taking into consideration a wide range of perspectives. Experts from a variety of backgrounds, including academics, community leaders, residents of informal settlements, public officials, and NGO workers will share their experience through brief lectures and other resources. Students will have the opportunity to interact with experts and share their experiences as well.

This course is geared towards those who seek to understand the contrast between top-down governmental responses and bottom-up local responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. It addresses issues of governance to understand the politics that regulate urban poor communities and condition the response of governments and other development agents. This course will particularly benefit street-level public officials, community activists, non-profit advocates, settlement residents, and local and central government agents working in and with self-organized communities in the Global South. It will enhance their understanding of the current context, and contribute to their preparation for future crises.

Join MIT faculty, practitioners, and a global community of learners to understand the impact of COVID-19 in urban poor communities and how to address the unique set of challenges it presents.

What you'll learn

Skip What you'll learn
  • The characteristics of self-organized urban poor communities
  • The particularities of health issues in informal settlements
  • The different sets of COVID-19 guidelines from international and national organizations
  • The nature of COVID-19 local responses across the Global South
  • The centrality of communities’ organized response in the COVID-19 crisis

Meet your instructors

Ceasar McDowell
Professor of the Practice of Civic Design at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Karenna Groff
Department of Urban Studies and Planning Research Assistant
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Daniela Beltrame
Associate Researcher - International Cooperation and Urban Settlements
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Amelia Seabold
Department of Urban Studies and Planning Research Assistant
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Who can take this course?

Unfortunately, learners from one or more of the following countries or regions will not be able to register for this course: Iran, Cuba and the Crimea region of Ukraine. While edX has sought licenses from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to offer our courses to learners in these countries and regions, the licenses we have received are not broad enough to allow us to offer this course in all locations. edX truly regrets that U.S. sanctions prevent us from offering all of our courses to everyone, no matter where they live.