The Bartlett Development Planning Unit

Dr. Donald Brown

Dr. Donald Brown

Associate Professor

Development Planning Unit

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
1st Oct 2018

Research summary

I have an established publications record in urban environmental planning in development, with a particular focus on Asia and Africa. My current research focuses on: the links between processes of environmental change and health in fast growing towns and cities; the governance transformations unfolding in 'transitional spaces', namely emerging small towns and peri-urban areas; and the barriers facing rural-urban migrants’ ability to access basic services in highly mobile urban contexts.

Teaching summary

Donald teaches on two MSc programmes at the Development Planning Unit:

  • Health in Urban Development (HUD)
  • Environment and Sustainable Development (ESD)

Donald also supervises MSc and PhD students in their dissertations. He supervises primarily in the areas of:

  • Urban planning and governance, specifically informality
  • Urban living conditions and health, specifically the built environment 
  • Urban risk and its reduction, specifically disasters (everyday, small and large) and climate change
  • The governance of different forms of urbanisation, specifically though not exclusively small town growth


Donald is an inter-disciplinary development planner with a formal background in urban and regional planning. He has over ten years of international research and practical experience across a variety of pressing urban development issues, ranging from the informal economy to disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and public health set in the broader context of sustainable development.

Donald has worked with international and local NGOs, policy and research institutions, universities, hospitals, the private sector, communities and their local support organisations. His work has taken him to various countries throughout Asia and Africa, including Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somaliland, South Africa, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines and Thailand. 

Donald was involved in the ESRC-DFID research initiative Urban Africa Risk Knowledge (Urban ARK) dedicated to breaking cycles of urban risk accumulation in sub-Saharan African urban centres. His doctoral research focused on environmental health risks in fast-growing secondary centres.

Prior to joining the Development Planning Unit, Donald worked as a planner in Malawi and as an international research consultant in the UK.