Stefan Chavez-Norgaard

Democracy Visiting Fellow, AY2023-2024

Headshot of Stefan Chavez-Norgaard
Program Involvement

Reimagining Democracy Program

Stefan Chavez-Norgaard is a visiting fellow with the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School and an in-resident scholar with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy for the 2023–2024 academic year. He is a PhD Candidate in Urban Planning at Columbia University, where his research foregrounds planning history and theory; local government and planning law; political economy and world systems; urban governance and democracy; and African urbanism with a focus on South Africa. Stefan’s dissertation research explores the disjuncture between regimes’ nominal federal-level transitions to democracy and deep democratization in the everyday local state. His research focuses on one capital city of a former South African “Bantustan,” or receiving site of forced relocation during apartheid, Mahikeng, North-West (formerly Mmabatho, Bophuthatswana). In his dissertation, Stefan examines how communities contest and repurpose top-down technocratic planning schemes with an array of multi-actor amalgams, creative assemblages, and heterogeneous spatial forms. His dissertation analyzes the extent to which repurposing—how plans are received and re-worked by communities in implementation—is a glimpse into grassroots popular democracy. From his research, a general lesson applicable to the field of urban planning emerges: planning does not end with the plan; it merely begins with the plan.

Stefan has worked as a NYC Urban Fellow with the New York City Department of Transportation and as a Tom Ford research fellow in philanthropy with the Ford Foundation’s Equitable Development Team. He has also held positions with the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative (BHCLI), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and U.S. Department of State. He holds a Master’s in Public Policy (MPP) degree from the Harvard Kennedy School and a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.H) in Urban Studies and Public Policy from Stanford University, where he received interdisciplinary honors in Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (DDRL).