Centre for Multidisciplinary and Intercultural Inquiry


Prof Caren Levy

Prof Caren Levy



34 Tavistock Square


  • Professor of Transformative Urban Planning
    Development Planning Unit
    Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL


My research is focused on interdisciplinary and applied knowledge production in the context of development theory, policy and planning practice in a range of organisational landscapes, both institutional and geographical.  The common theme in all is that of methodology development, focusing on the institutionalisation of social justice in policy and planning in the context of inequalities in the global South.  My interests fall within three distinct but interrelated areas:
Gender in Policy and Planning: Since 1984 I have been involved in two lines of inquiry related to incorporating a gender perspective in policy and planning.  Firstly, I have contributed to the international critique of gender mainstreaming in international development policy and planning (Levy, 2009).  In relation to this, I have developed conceptual tools to address gender mainstreaming in development policy and planning, in particular, ‘the web of institutionalisation’ (Levy, 1996, 1997).  This process of knowledge production has been supported by a range of knowledge transfer and action research projects in-country (eg Egypt, Namibia) and in bi-lateral aid  (eg SIDA, SDC).   I have also applied this tool in the context of planning and participation in human settlement development (Levy, 1996, 1998), and it has been taken up by academics and practitioners in other fields where it fills a gap related to the institutionalisation of urban change (eg  Allen and You, 2002).  Secondly, I have contributed to the critique of ‘gender blind’ planning and provision of transport, housing and other infrastructure (primarily water and sanitation) in cities of the global South (Levy, 1992b, 2013a, 2013b; Levy & Taher, 2000).
Urban development planning: Addressing the reality of an increasingly urbanized world, my applied research has focused on methodologies and institutional frameworks necessary to address inequality in cities of the global South through the exploration of two challenges for planning in 21st century cities: doing socio-environmentally just planning in societies with increasing social cleavages (Levy, 1992a, 2002, forthcoming); and planning responses to insurgent social movements and organisations of the urban poor.  Building on the early work by DPU colleagues, I have developed the notion of Strategic Action Planning in the context of contemporary urban conditions (Levy, 2007).  The knowledge production underpinning this is ongoing and rooted in my teaching, consultancy and applied research, recently particularly in the context of in India (Mumbai, Bangalore and Madurai), Thailand (Bangkok), Colombia (Medellin) and South Africa (Cape Town).
Education of development planning practitioners: Since 2009 I have engaged with two major projects related to the education of development practitioners. The first is as joint PI in a partnership with the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS), supported by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation (2009 to-date).  This has involved curriculum and research development.  The second is as PI in a review of planning education in the Commonwealth, which identifies the continuing problematic influence of the British colonial planning system and a serious lack of investment in planning education in the context of growing urban challenges in Commonwealth countries of the global South (Levy et al, 2011).
Award year Qualification Institution
1973 BA
Bachelor of Arts
University of Cape Town

Urban development planner working on planning, community-led development and governance, with a focus on housing, infrastructure and transport in urban areas in the global South. She has a special interest in the institutionalization of social justice in policy and planning, particularly related to the cross-cutting issues of gender, diversity and environment.  In these fields, she has 25 years  experience of teaching, research, training and consultancy in mainstreaming social justice in organizational development, and exploring innovatory approaches to planning methodology, planning education and capacity building.  She works both in London and abroad with communities, governments and international organizations, including UN Habitat, ILO, EU, DFID, SDC, SIDA. Country experience includes Egypt, Namibia, India, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Chile, Colombia and Brazil.