The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


DPU staff awarded UCL Global Engagement Fund for research project proposals

9 December 2021

Congratulations to Prof Julio Davila, Dr Alexandra Panman, Prof Haim Yacobi, Dr Barbara Lipietz and Dr Rita Lambert who have successfully received funding from UCL's Global Engagement Fund 2021/22 call.

GEF 2020/21

The UCL Global Engagement Funds are intended to support UCL academics in collaborating with colleagues based in other countries. The funds are led by UCL's network of Vice-Deans (International) and Regional Pro-Vice-Provosts, supported by the Global Engagement team.

We are delighted that five seperate proposals from the DPU have received funding for the 2020/21 edition of the call. Dr Alexandra Panman has been awarded £5000 for her proposal titled 'Understanding the Promises and Pitfalls of Common Property for Sustainable Urban Development'Dr Rita Lambert for a project on 'Understanding the impact of the ‘hotspot approach’ to tackle the refugee crisis on fragile island systems'; Dr Barbara Lipietz for her proposed research on 'Urban alliances towards the just city II: Exploring collaborative innovations to address ‘displaceability’ in globalising cities'; Prof Haim Yacobi for his project 'Towards Marrakech's Urban Health Profile'; and Prof Julio Davila for his proposal on 'Urban mobility and exposure to air-borne pollutants in Barranquilla, Colombia'.

Read about each of the five projects below:

Urban mobility and exposure to air-borne pollutants in Barranquilla, Colombia

PI: Prof Julio Davila
Co-I: Dr Daniel Oviedo

Outdoor pollution is one of the greatest environmental risks to health, with a growing body of research showing the adverse effects to humans of continued exposure to particulate matter and other air pollutants. In heavily congested cities daily urban mobility entails repeated and prolonged exposure to peak concentrations of air pollutants.

As part of long-term collaboration with colleagues in Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla, a port city in the north of Colombia, Prof. Davila and Dr Daniel Oviedo were awarded funding by UCL's Global Engagement Office, with the aim of co-producing a methodology and collect evidence to help identify the links between variability in personal exposure to outdoor pollution, mobility practices and  the socioeconomic and spatial characteristics of users of informal transport.

This will complement the doctoral research work of DPU PhD student Maria Jose Nieto, who is also a recipient of the DPU60 PhD scholarship.

Understanding the Promises and Pitfalls of Common Property for Sustainable Urban Development

PI: Dr Alexandra Panman

Common property regimes are widespread in the Global South. As rapid urbanisation advances, however, this land is generally sold-off to the highest bidder. Growing calls for protection of collective titles stress that this results in alienation of the most vulnerable, damage to the environment, and loss of cultural heritage.  Yet privatisation of land is also understood to be fundamental to economic modernisation and transformation, and little is known about the capacity of common property regimes to respond to the opportunities of urban land exploitation.  

The work aims to support new knowledge on these dynamics over two main activities: developing new research on First Nations reserves in urban areas, and hosting an international workshop on common property in urban areas.

The project aims to develop a joint research project to understand the development of protected common property in urban areas in Canada. This research will draw on unique data to analyse patterns in wellbeing and land use in more than 600 indigenous common property regimes (First Nations Reserves) located in or close to cities. The findings will contribute to academic debate and policy in Canada, and will provide a new point of insight to stimulate cross-national knowledge exchange relevant to cities in the Global South.

The second intended activity will involve organising a joint workshop. This will be a space for international exchange on common property and sustainable urban development that will bring together researchers working in North America, Australia/New Zealand, China, India and Africa. The activity aims to stimulate new partnerships and engagement by bringing together researchers with shared interests but limited engagement across regional/disciplinary boundaries to date.

The grant will be used to support a collaboration with Dr. Liam Kelly (Assistant Professor in the department of Economics at UNBC), with DPU Director, Prof. Michael Walls, will be a collaborator on the workshop portion of the grant.

Understanding the impact of the ‘hotspot approach’ to tackle the refugee crisis on fragile island systems 

PI: Dr Rita Lambert

Five Greek islands were earmarked as asylum ‘hotspots’ in 2015 by the European Commission in the European Agenda on Migration in response to the exceptional flows of migrants. The ‘hotspot’ approach seeks to consolidate all stages of administrative procedures concerning newcomers. Although targeted islands were meant to provide a temporary solution, they are now treated by the EU as permanent locations for the processing of large numbers of refugees which can take many years.

Little is documented about how the ‘hotspot’ approach impacts local inhabitants, the islands’ fragile ecosystem and refugees’ wellbeing alike. Given the persistent humanitarian and climate crisis which will see the continuous displacement of people around the globe, there is an urgent need to bring a team of academics, practitioners and civil society organisations to produce multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary knowledge to inform better planning and action to address the complex challenges facing refugees and host environments.

Learning from Samos, one of the hotspot islands with the first purpose-built refugee camp, the activities seek to open dialogue and collaboration between stakeholders to identify knowledge gaps and co-design a larger action-research proposal to foment sustainable environments and communities.  

Towards Marrakech's Urban Health Profile

PI: Prof Haim Yacobi

The project “Towards Marrakech's Urban Health Profile”, a collaboration with The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) a Moroccan NGO founded in 2000 by former Peace Corps Volunteers committed to furthering sustainable development, will structure the partnership between the DPU, and specifically the MSc Health in Urban Development (HUD), and HAF.

The participatory action research initiative in the urban parts of Marrakech, Morocco, is dedicated to identifying the priority needs of the residents in the city’s most challenged neighborhood areas, which are the historic mellah, which is at the heart of the old city, as well as the outskirts, which face similar challenges yet struggle with deteriorating development conditions that are rooted in systemic, rural causes.

Our approach is to gather the different actors (residents--women and men; people of all ages and backgrounds; those who own homes and land, those who rent, and who may be in search of a home; and people who are gainfully employed and jobless). We will facilitate interactive methods for generating dialogue that assist the participants in their identification of their own needs and priorities that enhance their health, livelihoods, environments, equality, and capacities to create and manage their growth.

Urban alliances towards the just city II: Exploring collaborative innovations to address ‘displaceability’ in globalising cities.

PI: Dr Barbara Lipietz
Co-I: Tim Wickson

Urban displacement and displaceability are on the rise in most cities, and have arguably become critical characteristics of contemporary urbanisation. Defined as the distancing of residents from full right to their city, displacement takes a variety of forms - from physical eviction and expulsion from homes, work and community spaces, to the suspension of rights to the use of urban areas, resources and services. Displaceability refers to the susceptibility of groups and individuals to eviction or distancing from these rights and resources. 

Yet, the notions of urban displacement and displaceability remain only partially elaborated in the literature. Scholarship is marked, on the one hand, by detailed case studies, situating instances of displacement within place-specific development processes. On the other hand, attempts to develop explanatory frameworks for the global(ising) phenomenon tend to be over-determined by singular or overarching tropes, often derived from global north contexts and analytical frames. Literature on 'the neoliberal city', 'planetary urbanisation' and 'planetary gentrification' are a case in point, prioritising the processes of capital accumulation to explain the (re)surgence of displacement across global north and south cities. Such explanations, however, are often at odds with the multiplicity of modes and drivers of displacement, connected to diverse 'engines' of urban change, identified through fine-grained analyses of urbanisation processes in place. Moreover, the dominance of certain narratives of displacement/displaceability run the risk of becoming politically disempowering, closing off the diagnostic capacities to map out embedded and strategic modalities of resistance.

As part of a growing collaboration with colleagues at Paris 8 and the Laboratoire LAVUE, the collaborative project seeks to bring together researchers and activists from Paris, Cairo, Colombo, London and Tel Aviv to develop a global comparative research agenda excavating the growing phenomenon of displaceability. In discussion with international regional and global networks working with localised notions of the right to the city, the project seeks to support the development of place-based and rigorous analytical capacity to support resistances and more just urban futures.  

The project is a follow-up grant from UCL’s Cities Partnerships Programme Fund (Paris).