Recently many cities have become end points for local and cross-border mobility caused by environmental, economic and political upheaval. Sixty percent of the world’s refugees and 80 percent of internally displaced people live in urban areas, making temporary settlements inviable. This project argues that these cases of displacement are not only short-term humanitarian challenges but a rapid urbanization process that occurs under dire conditions—a process of urbanization in motion.Situations that involve large-scale displacement of people are considered moments of crisis, and fall under humanitarian aid mandates. However, the process of urbanization in motion is challenging the go-to mechanisms of humanitarian aid by introducing a new context to these mechanisms: the city. The aim of this project is to introduce a new lens through which aid organizations approach urban challenges that accompany urbanization in motion. This lens is a research tool that reframes the narrative around these urban challenges in order to present new opportunities for collaborations and partnerships with nontraditional actors, partnerships that are rooted in rebuilding communities and supporting existing social structures in the city as a whole.Based on the case of urban refugees in Istanbul, a city currently hosting over 350,000 Syrian refugees, the project utilizes fieldwork and analytical research to demonstrate the application of the proposed research tool. The project exposes an emergent urban system that acts as a social safety net in the city.