The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


David Sweeting

David recounts experiences of studying MSc Urban Development Planning at the Development Planning Unit

David Sweeting
David Sweeting, Australian, Graduating class of 2011/12

I have a diverse background spanning 15 years in engineering, international development, research, social innovation and social entrepreneurship. I am passionate about helping organisations and businesses design, test, and scale innovative and sustainable approaches that address complex social, environmental, economic and spatial issues.

I have developed and managed a range of urban projects and partnerships across governments, for-purpose organisations, academia and the private sector. Having taken an entrepreneurial and shared value approach to addressing urban development issues throughout my career, it has allowed me to gain unique insights in the areas of housing, land, service delivery, disaster risk reduction, governance and policy. It also has given me the opportunity to understand different perspectives about urban development from the vantage point of startups, small to medium enterprises, large organisations and through my own business, The Urban Platform Studio - a boutique consultancy practice that supports clients to tackle complex challenges in cities, develop new strategies, facilitate innovation, and drive change through their organisation. I have previously worked as an urban specialist, advisor and consultant for World Vision International and Australia, Save the Children International, US and Australia, Care International, Habitat for Humanity International, Western Sydney University, The Urban Platform Studio, Impact Hub Cambodia and, most recently in 2019, in my new role at NAB Foundation. 

In my current role, I lead NAB Foundation’s work to support social entrepreneurs and sustainable social innovation in urban and regional areas across Australia, and help build the social enterprise ecosystem through innovative philanthropy. NAB Foundation is the philanthropic arm of National Australia Bank.

I've always been fascinated by why cities are engines of economic growth, opportunity and innovation, yet neither all cities, nor all residents benefit from the potential that cities have to offer. By bridging theory and practice, the Urban Development Planning course at UCL offered a pathway to study these issues in-depth, through access to leading researchers, and application of social science frameworks to city production and urban planning. Being based in a global city like London, provides further opportunities to learn and network, which is another reason I was attracted to studying at UCL.
I would advise someone considering studying in the MSc UDP programme to have an open mind and be prepared to challenge your assumptions about urban development planning in the global north and south. Be active in the debates within class and consider how cities can connect people to place. Work hard, and make the most of the global connections in on and off campus with students, academic staff and professionals. And read, read and read some more.