The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Co-designing social infrastructure with children affected by displacement (DeCID)

The DeCID project aims to develop a new approach for the participatory design of social infrastructure for children in urban areas affected by displacement.


26 March 2020

The project begins from the premise that improving the social infrastructure in urban areas affected by mass displacement for the benefit of both vulnerable host and refugee communities can contribute to social cohesion and better living conditions by:

  • creating local employment
  • building local skills
  • empowering both refugee and host communities.

In partnership with humanitarian actors, local communities, municipalities and academics, the DeCID team will develop a practical toolkit to support those involved in the co-design of such infrastructure. The toolkit will be launched in June 2020.

Further information on the dedicated project website (link)


According to the UNHCR, global forced displacement has reached a new record high, with nearly 71 million people forced from their homes.

Of these, nearly 26 million are refugees who have been forced outside the borders of their own countries, and over half of these are children under the age of 18. Most refugees move to urban areas often in the poorest cities, towns and neighbourhoods in neighbouring developing countries, living side by side with the most vulnerable host population. The newcomers often substantially increase the population of an area, transforming urban dynamics and putting pressures on existing infrastructure and resources.

The impact of this unprecedented movement of people on host cities and on forced migrants themselves largely depends on how social infrastructure is adapted and created, eventually leading to economic and social integration or exclusion. Social tensions often increase when interventions focus on refugees and exclude the local host population.


The DeCID project team believes that the positive impact of this approach to participatory design of social infrastructure depends on bridging a number of professional and disciplinary gaps:

between institutions and professionals who work with children and/or displaced people on one side, and engineers and architects who work on urban infrastructure at municipal level on the other; between architecture, engineering, and urban planning on one side, and social work and sociology on the other; between affected communities on one side, and practitioners on the other.


The DeCID project aims to bridge these gaps by merging reflections from practice of local practitioners and affected communities as well as bringing together knowledge of social processes with technical built environment expertise. This requires a trans-disciplinary and intersectional approach to connect the technical side of designing and building social infrastructure with a diversity of residents across gender, class, age, religion, nationality, disability, and legal status.



Dr. Andrea Rigon - Principal Investigator

Joana Dabaj - Co-Investigator

Riccardo Conti - Co-Investigator

Howayda Al-Harithy - Co-Investigator

Ottavia Pasta - Graphic Designer

Alice Bayer - Communications Coordinator

Armando Caroca Fernandez - Researcher

Sandra El Gemayel - Researcher

Rawya Khodor - Researcher



DeCID is a partnership between the Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU) at University College London and CatalyticAction.

This project is led by Principal Investigator Dr Andrea Rigon who is an Associate Professor at the DPU with more than 15 years of experience in citizen participation in the international development and urban development sectors, working for international NGOs, academia, and consulting for the United Nations, international donors and governments.

The DeCID project is funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), a UK Government fund to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries. DeCID builds on the experience of Catalytic Action in Lebanon and previous collaborative work between them and the DPU.