I2UD is a non-profit organization specializing in urban planning to address issues of:

Climate change adaptation

Historic Preservation

Municipal management and finance

Regional and cross-border cooperation

Access to land, housing, and services for low-income communities, globally





The terms ‘urban development’ and ‘urbanization’ often conjure up vast, undeveloped spaces or slums. At I2UD, we simply recognize an underserved need that demands our attention.

-John Driscoll


Established in 2005, the Institute for International Urban Development (I2UD) regroups the academics and professionals who created and ran the Center for Urban Development Studies (CUDS) from 1987 to 2005. 

The Center (CUDS) at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design was internationally recognized for applied research, advisory services, technical assistance to policy makers, and capacity building programs.

I2UD builds on this history of excellence, providing continued services in research, technical assistance, and capacity building as a registered non-profit organization in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 

Our current AI Climate Platform initiative is supported by the Patrick J Mc Govern Foundation Accelerator Grant, I2UD Board members and an AI for Earth Microsoft Azure Compute Grant.

Our new Digital Resources include the
The I2UD Document Library, a database to facilitate research access to materials from our project history, covering a global scope of urban development and planning initiatives.

The new I2UD Photography Galleries illustrate the geography and community of vulnerable housing communities, as seen through I2UD’s contributions to international urban planning.

Development of The I2UD Document Library and the Dr. Mona Serageldin Digital Archive (currently under development), are supported through I2UD Board contributions.  

Our past activities have been funded by local and national governments, foundations and international organizations. Past partners and sponsors include The World Bank, UN-Habitat, USAID, the Inter-American Development Bank, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Aga Khan University, the Christensen Fund, the Jordanian Royal Scientific Society and the Peter Sager Wallenburg Charitable Trust.

I2UD Photography Gallery 8

The Patrick J. McGovern Foundation has included I2UD in their donation program, providing digital access to high resolution satellite images for our AI Climate Platform project.

The Patrick J. McGovern Foundation is a global 21st century philanthropy bridging the frontiers of artificial intelligence, data science, and social impact to create a thriving, equitable and sustainable future for all.

The Foundation’s work focuses on bringing together academia, practitioners, and civil society to pursue the potential of AI and data science to address some of the world’s most urgent challenges.

Public housing in Helwan, Cairo, Egypt. August 1985. MSDA/I2UD Slide Collections. M01, Egypt, Cairo, 44-012. Original series: “Urban Fringe – Informal Housing: Public Housing Helwan.” The Institute for International Urban Development. Digitized 2022.

Our Mission

The Institute for International Urban Development (I2UD) is a global leader in identifying urban trends and developing solutions to new challenges.

Our mission is to formulate sustainable urban and regional development strategies with local governments and communities building upon their unique cultural and social assets.

Our principles


I2UD works with partners and key stakeholders to find solutions that work for them.

I2UD brings together communities, governments, and development organizations to integrate urban planning and management into their programs and encourage less powerful local actors to have a voice.

We use these experiences to contribute to international networks to strengthen the urban policy agenda. 


I2UD provides academic consulting and training on city management to communities and local governments.

Our education activities help communities and governments to better manage how they shape their growth and deliver important services.

I2UD brings together experienced urban development educators that integrate training and mentoring into their work and also offer tailored executive training courses. 


We develop urban and regional strategies that local authorities can implement.

I2UD’s unique approach builds a bridge across policy, research and practice to manage and guide sustainable urbanization practices.

Our emphasis on participatory, implementation-oriented strategies enables local authorities to analyze, visualize and present strategies and plans ranging from community action plans to strategic regional plans. 


Our work addresses the cultural, financial, and environmental sustainability of cities.

When development pressures threaten the integrity of a city’s architectural and cultural heritage, we develop management strategies to revitalize and preserve historic sites while continuing to support urban development.

We also strive to enhance the resilience of urban communities, particularly in low-income neighborhoods, as they confront diverse climate change challenges. 

We fulfill our mission to encourage sustainable urban development programs across the international community by expanding digital access to our project documentation and history in the I2UD Document Library and Photography Collections.

AI Climate Platform


AI Climate Platform is a land management and decision-making tool geared to Global South cities that lack local data. Its objective is to use advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques and freely available satellite images to cut the time and expense involved in mapping, monitoring, and predicting exposure to shocks and stresses in fast urbanizing smaller cities of the Global South.

Our ongoing development effort for AI Climate uses data from Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, the two largest urban areas in Honduras, Central America. Climate change in Honduras is increasing the frequency and strength of tropical storms and hurricanes, impoverishing farmers and pushing them to settle in informal urban settlements, which are also at risk from climate change. AI Climate builds on a long record of innovative technology use at I2UD, such as our pioneering use of remote sensing and machine learning in Arusha, Tanzania, in 2013.

Our technical partner, Dymaxion Labs, has garnered extensive experience in applying AI to remote sensing—recognizing patterns in satellite and aerial images—since its founding a few years ago in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Dymaxion Labs is incrementally developing tools to account for hazards ranging from flooding to heat islands and the location of socially vulnerable communities in Honduras.

AI Climate is conceived as a platform that will offer an integrated tool to identify significant risks from climate change affecting poor urban communities. I2UD’s AI-Climate Platform is a response to two significant trends:

The combination of impacts of climate change, fast expansion of informal settlements, and budgetary and trained-personnel limitations

Rapidly increasing geospatial imagery availability and falling processing costs

Press Update – 10/20/2022:
“Planet Launches Nonprofit Program to Empower Mission-Driven Organizations with More Access to Timely, Global Satellite Data”

Planet is putting together a new, standardized program aimed at providing significant amounts of highly discounted imagery to NGOs and nonprofits. The launch of Planet’s Nonprofit Program will feature the collaboration with I2UD and Dymaxion Labs have been doing with mapping informal settlements in Honduras using PlanetScope imagery.

[Excerpt:] “In line with Planet’s mission to use space to help life on Earth and in effort to enable more impactful uses of Planet’s data, the offering addresses two traditional challenges facing nonprofits – limited budgets and resources, and the infrastructure and technical expertise to analyze the data. The goal is that by providing more accessible data products and technical support services, the Nonprofit Program will help users better extract information and create applications that power decisions and enable action.”

“The work I2UD completed [is in] collaboration with Dymaxion Labs, Habitat for Humanity Honduras, GOAL Honduras, and the Honduran Institute of Earth Sciences (IHCIT), in partnership with the Data and Society Accelerator Program from the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, which introduced Planet to I2UD.”

“The team improved and evolved a land management and decision-making tool geared to Global South secondary and tertiary cities that lack quality and up-to-date local data to monitor exposure of informal settlements and low-income communities to severe and extreme weather impacts. The tool, AI Climate, processes geospatial images and geo-referenced datasets and derives analytics-ready layers of impacts associated with climate change. I2UD is improving and developing layers to identify flooding and landslide risks, informal urbanization, and land value differentials.”

“By using PlanetScope basemaps, I2UD and its partners were able to map vulnerable communities in Tegucigalpa and Sula Valley in Honduras. Compared to previous satellite data platforms, the project analysts found PlanetScope basemaps performed significantly better in both geographies based on intersection of ground truth (IoGT) data, with fewer noisy predictions, and a bigger size of image could be fed into the neural network.”

“Since both climate change and socially vulnerable communities, including informal settlements, are moving targets, it is imperative to aim for speed and frequent updates to make risk information available to those communities as well as planners and policy makers in fast-urbanizing cities; our goal is to use just enough information to keep AI Climate economical and agile but still with good quality prediction,” said Alejandra Mortarini, Vice President, I2UD.”

“An essential part of the I2UD AI Climate platform is to incorporate local partners and communities’ knowledge of their own conditions to ensure that community organizations can make sense of the platform’s findings, and are able to use those outcomes for their own benefit. “The combination of Planet’s higher resolution images, AI technology, and ground truth provided by local partners create a powerful tool for effective city resiliency co-production,” Alfredo Stein, University of Manchester, UK, Senior Advisor to AI Climate, explained.”

“That is why Planet’s imagery was key in providing higher resolution to better create local data for local partners,” Carlos Rufin, President, I2UD, continued. “The cost of higher-resolution imagery is typically unattainable for nonprofits. By providing highly discounted imagery to NGOs and nonprofits, Planet could make a difference in so many dimensions.”


This initiative is a response to two significant trends: On the one hand, the combination of impacts of climate change, fast expansion of informal settlements, and budgetary and trained-personnel limitations, especially in secondary and smaller cities; and on the other, rapidly increasing geospatial imagery availability and falling processing costs, which make it possible to cut time, expense and improve quality of documentation to craft policies, spatial plans, and interventions aiming at safer, resilient cities.

Community involvement is a crucial need in contexts of the limited capacity of local governments to produce relevant data and address local hazards. AI Climate also incorporates a community inclusion, validation, and mapping processes, to integrate local knowledge and to help communities make sense of AI results and put them to use effectively.

In 2020, we received seed money from I2UD Board Member Sherif Lotfi to start a Proof of Concept of the AI Climate tool. At present, a $10,000 in-kind grant from Microsoft’s AI for Earth Program, and a $100,000 Accelerator Grant from the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, are allowing us to improve and develop capabilities to identify flooding and landslide risks, informal urbanization, and land value differentials. Our vision is that AI Climate will help plan strategies for climate change adaptation and mitigation in cities through participatory processes that include free, equitable access to the tool.

Technically, AI Climate processes geospatial images and geo-referenced datasets and derives analytics-ready layers of climate impacts such as flooding and landslides. Our methodology for developing AI Climate is based on supervised learning techniques, combining the availability of global and local data to calibrate the precision of the models regarding the different data sources and their acquisition cost. All software involved is open source to ensure that the AI Climate Platform is widely accessible to many cities and communities in the Global South that lack the resources to carry out regular and comprehensive hazard identification.

To illustrate how AI Climate works, the image below provides a synthesized graphic of our current development effort’s first round of predictions. It shows a section of Tegucigalpa with the actual areas of socially vulnerable communities we have identified (“ground truth annotations”), the actual communities identified by our algorithms “prediction results”, and also our flooding risk prediction results.

AI Climate generated map showing informal settlements (Red) and flood susceptibility regions (Blue) in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Map of socially vulnerable communities in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Central America, showing Informal settlements, “Ground truth” annotations, Prediction results, and Flood susceptibility results. I2UD/Dymaxion Labs, 2022.

To find the “ground truth” that we need for the machine learning process underlying AI, we work closely with partner organizations in Honduras. The image below shows a snapshot of the interactive map of the Honduras San Pedro Sula region we have developed with our partners. The ground truth data input is represented by the blue pins, indicating the presence of socially vulnerable communities. The red polygons denote our initial predictions about the location of these communities. Comparing both indicators facilitates validating our results by local experts and communities.

Map of socially vulnerable communities in the Sula region, San Pedro, Honduras, showing ‘ground truth’ (blue pins), compared to AI-generated predictions (red polygons). I2UD/Dymaxion Labs, 2022.

Additionally, we have sought to use both satellite images in the public domain and higher-resolution images typically available from commercial sources only to improve the quality of our expected outcomes. Given the high cost of the latter, our approach has been to build relationships with commercial suppliers to request philanthropic use of a limited set of their images, given the non-profit nature of our organization and the project objectives.

With the help of the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, we are working with a major global provider of high resolution satellite images, Planet, which has agreed to include us in their donation program. The Patrick J. McGovern Foundation is a global 21st century philanthropy bridging the frontiers of artificial intelligence, data science, and social impact to create a thriving, equitable and sustainable future for all. The Foundation’s work focuses on bringing together academia, practitioners, and civil society to pursue the potential of AI and data science to address some of the world’s most urgent challenges.

An essential part of our project is to incorporate local communities’ detailed knowledge of their conditions and to ensure that they can make sense of the findings and use them or their benefit. In Honduras, our approach relies on local partners that are well established in that area, produce high-quality work, and understand and value the nature and objectives of AI Climate. These include Habitat for Humanity, GOAL, and the Honduran Institute of Earth Sciences (IHCIT), and technical advisors Alfredo Stein and Carlos Rivas. These organizations’ prior work and long-standing local presence mean that they have strong connections with local communities, which will allow us to verify AI Climate’s predictions at the community level.

In sum, the AI Climate Platform is an exciting new step in the Institute’s long-standing commitment to bringing cutting-edge technology to the most excluded urban communities of the Global South.

Stay tuned as we share further updates on our AI Climate Platform!

Front Media: (World Maps Online), “Satellite composite map of South America in August” (Projection: Lambert Azimuthal Equal Area; Land imagery: NASA’s MODIS; Ocean bathymetric: GEBCO.)

Accessed 2022 for Educational/Creative Commons Use from: Worldmapsonline.com, “South America Satellite Image Map – Topography & Bathymetry. Code: 1W-SA2-SAT1. Link: https://www.worldmapsonline.com/south-america-satellite-image-map/.

Our Expertise

Our Expertise

Over several decades, I2UD staff has developed a deep understanding of urbanization trends, the barriers that frequently obstruct development projects, and the process of working with government, communities, and international organizations to establish meaningful interventions.

As a non-profit “outsider,” we have a broader outlook on the urban development process, allowing us to facilitate inter-agency and cross-border communication and collaboration.

We encourage less powerful local actors to have a voice, knowing that such institutional capacity and consensus building form the foundation for future initiatives.

Wherever we work, the Institute emphasizes empowering municipal entities, enabling the formal and informal private sector to participate, and engaging community involvement in the development process.

Our project history covers
a range of expertise:

Urban Planning and Management

Housing Policies and Slum and Urban Upgrading

Historic Districts and Urban Revitalization

Climate Change and Resilience Building

Evaluations and Assessments

Education and Curriculum Development

Since 2020, we have expanded our activities in two directions:

Climate change, resiliency, adaptation

I2UD is employing AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology to model the spatial growth of informal settlements, a dominant housing typology in many countries. This new work brings together our deep expertise working with national and local governments on informal settlements, with the pressing climate change issues threatening vulnerable informal settlement communities.

See more: Climate Change / AI

Knowledge sharing

Our new Digital Resources support future research and education in urban development, using I2UD’s extensive document library and photo archive. The I2UD Document Library is organized around our major areas of expertise and project experience:

Urban Planning and Management

I2UD’s professionals, staff, and expert consultants have extensive technical expertise in urbanization, planning, and municipal development. This involves linking urban planning to: community-based development and public participation; local economic and infrastructure development, understanding the influence of land markets and management policies, and developing implementation strategies, including strengthening the institutional capacity of local governments.

►View in the Document Library – COMING SOON

Housing Policies and Slum and Urban Upgrading

Much of I2UD’s work centers on improving living conditions for the most vulnerable urban dwellers. This invariably requires a heavy focus on informal settlements and slums. Indeed, the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) consider slum improvement to be one of the main tasks in alleviating world poverty. At I2UD, we advocate an integrative process for improving the lives of citizens residing in informal settlements. 

►View in the Document Library – COMING SOON

Historic Districts and Urban Revitalization

I2UD has supported the activities of development aid organizations, international institutions, and cities in preserving and conserving the cultural and built heritage. 

►View in the Document Library – COMING SOON

Climate Change and Resilience Building

I2UD has been involved in technical assistance projects to mitigate the impact of natural disasters related to climate change, encourage city preparedness, and anticipate economic and housing impacts for vulnerable communities. 

►View in the Document Library – COMING SOON

Evaluations and Assessments

Constantly reevaluating conditions in developing cities is necessary to understand how various problems – climate change, infrastructure, urban migration, and so on – evolve. These assessments sometimes focus on broader issues, like social accountability and municipal infrastructure. But oftentimes they focus on the development of specific areas within a city.

►View in the Document Library – COMING SOON

Reconciliation and Development

In societies and economies coming out of conflict or undergoing rapid social, political, and economic transitions, reframing urban planning and management programs can support reconciliation and development. The Institute’s projects include our ten-year collaboration with Irish-based partners in Ireland and Northern Ireland, our work in post-apartheid South Africa, and supporting municipal development and regional cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe. 

►View in the Document Library – COMING SOON

Education and Curriculum Development

Includes capacity-building initiatives such as seminars, technical workshops, and executive training programs.

►View in the Document Library – COMING SOON

I2UD Digital Resources

The I2UD Document Library opens online research access to materials from our project history, covering a global scope of urban development and planning initiatives across the following categories:

Historic districts & Urban

Community Improvement

Informal Housing

Urban planning & Finance

I2UD Photography Galleries – Overview

Browse a selection of from our Photography Galleries