Oliver Harman

Oliver Harman is a Cities Economist for Cities that Work, an International Growth Centre initiative based at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford. The initiative works to develop a network of economists, urban planning practitioners and policymakers to translate economic research into clear urban policy guidance.

In this role and previous Oliver has engaged with local government Ministries and Mayoral teams across Africa, Asia, Latin America & Caribbean and Europe. Specific work includes local government reform in Guyana, urban resilience in Ghana, post-disaster policy in Mozambique and municipal finance in Malawi, Senegal, Somaliland and Uganda as well as inclusive growth in his hometown, Oxford.

He was focal point for IGC’s collaboration with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s ‘Global Future Cities’ programme as well as the European Commission’s ‘Enhancing the financial position of cities’ programme.

Oliver has previously written for World Economic Forum, World Bank, UNHabitat, OECD and of course the IGC.

Content by Oliver Harman
  • Blog post

    The gateway to carbon pricing? Air pollution policy

    Buying carbon is too cheap and easy. 'Gateway tax', focussing on air pollution, could be initial step. Outdoor air pollution causes 4 million deaths a year. When it comes to climate policies, of those available, the economist’s preferred tool tends to be the elusive carbon tax’. Despite notable successes, the implementation of carbon...

    21 Aug 2020 | Oliver Harman, Ondine Berland

  • Blog post

    In defence of density

    At their core, cities are absences of space between people. You can call it density, closeness, or proximity; it is the opposite of distance. The on-going COVID-19 pandemic has brought this core feature of cities under question. But this criticism paints with a broad brush: what matters are the type of density and the way it is managed. The type of density Density alone...

    3 Jul 2020 | Shlomo Angel, Patrick Lamson-Hall, Oliver Harman, Shahrukh Wani

  • Blog post

    Behavioural economics of lockdown compliance: In search of lost time and well-behaved neighbours

    There are some crucial insights that behavioural economics and surrounding psychological evidence can bring to bear on public policies of a lockdown. Such insights are particularly pertinent to leveraging humans' 'predictable irrationality' in its design. Applying this evidence suggests that, where lockdowns are implemented, it might be better for policymakers to impose...

    4 May 2020 | Oliver Harman, Victoria Delbridge

  • Blog post

    Tendering trash: Lessons in urban waste management from Indian cities

    South Asian cities are urbanising rapidly. With this, overflowing landfills and trash laden streets are becoming more common. Local governments and municipal corporations, many marred by inadequate financing and low capacity, are the first to be held responsible for this mismanagement, from which further negative spill overs occur. These can include high incidences of...

    17 Mar 2020 | Oliver Harman, Sidharth Santhosh

  • Blog post

    Urbanisation in fragile societies: Thinking about Kabul

    As part of the Blavatnik School of Government’s “Challenges of Government” Conference, the International Growth Centre’s Cities that Work team put together a panel on identity and legitimacy in Kabul. The discussion highlighted the importance of building legitimacy in fragile contexts, particularly given the emergence of fragmented identities and new networks of...

    13 Feb 2020 | Oliver Harman, Freshta Karim, Shoaib Rahim, Shahrukh Wani

  • Blog post

    Navigating the urban age

    Whatever we might say is right or wrong with cities of the 21st century, they are indisputably a defining feature of our age. As much as we are post-modern, post-gender or post-colonial, we are also post-rural. Our existence, for an increasing majority, is urban. Even more than that, our aspirations are urban. This is visible almost everywhere. In the US, people with...

    11 Feb 2020 | Oliver Harman, Shahrukh Wani

  • Blog post

    Urban data innovations: Three cities showing their smarts

    Last year the International Growth Centre (IGC) co-hosted a policy workshop in Washington DC in the United States (US) with the World Bank, George Washington University, and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) as part of the 6th Urbanisation and Poverty Reduction Conference. The theme was ‘Leveraging new data for better urban management and policies’. This year,...

    10 Feb 2020 | Victoria Delbridge, Oliver Harman

  • Blog post

    Climate change: won or lost in cities or by cities?

    Extinction Rebellion disrupted London and brought many transport routes to a standstill on Easter Weekend in 2019. A key demand for the direct action group was for the government to declare a climate emergency. This demand has since been met - by the UK parliament, as well as the Argentinian senate, the French parliament and the Canadian House of Commons. In fact,...

    1 Nov 2019 | Oliver Harman

  • Blog post

    Treedistribution: Combatting environmental inequality in cities

    Inequality is not a recent phenomenon. One root of inequality can be traced back to pre-historic urban civilisations, where grain stores varied in size and the grain-wealthy clustered together in particular locations. But with the increasing importance of inequality across and within countries over time, governments have often first turned their attention to addressing the...

    31 Oct 2019 | Oliver Harman

  • Blog post

    Inclusive growth for cities: Fuzzy, functional or forsaken?

    The challenge: Inequality in cities Inequality is one of the pressing issues of our time. China’s growth has reduced inequality globally, yet within countries, disparities have tended to increase. This increase in inequality has been most present in cities. Urban areas can be the most unequal: the benefits of scale and specialisation often failing to find their way...

    30 Oct 2019 | Oliver Harman, Neil Lee

  • Publication - Case study

    The BRT and the danfo: A case study of Lagos’ transport reforms from 1999-2019

    Over the last 20 years, Lagos has had to make large-scale investments in transport infrastructure to keep up with its growing population. Most notably, in 2008, Lagos opened the first ever Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system on the African continent. Today, the system boasts two different lines which cover over 35.5 km of track and transport over 350,000 commuters on a daily...

    28 Oct 2019 | Biodun Otunola, Sebastian Kriticos, Oliver Harman

  • Blog post

    Should I stay or should I go? Managing populations with urban to rural migration incentives

    Sydney you’ve got to let me know, should they stay or should they go. In 2011, Sydney, the largest city in Australia, asked its residents, should they stay or should they go? Despite regularly rated as one of the world’s top ten liveable cities, the government was offering residents AUD$7,000 (£4,500 or ~one month’s average wage) to move to the country’s rural...

    22 Jul 2019 | Oliver Harman

  • Blog post

    Urban density and the promises of proximity

    As an economist, an end of year tradition is to muse over The Royal Society of Statistics, ‘Statistic of the Year’. In 2018, the singled out stat was: 90.5% - the proportion of plastic waste that has never been recycled. An important statistic, but an area in which the International Growth Centre’s (IGC) ‘Cities that Work’ initiative has limited...

    16 May 2019 | Oliver Harman