The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Diversity, social complexity & planned intervention

Diversity, social complexity & planned intervention cluster

This research cluster focuses on the following areas:

Social Complexity in policy planning and methodology

This sub-cluster focuses on the ways in which social complexity and diversity have been treated by development interventions and institutions, and includes critiques of efforts to institutionalise responses to multiple social identities. A number of problematic are examined, including:

The extent to which methodologies used by development institutions manage tensions between individual rights and needs (relating to the overlapping and at times contradictory identities of individuals), and group inequalities (relating to the existence of systematic inequalities related to particular aspects of identity, and to group affiliations); The ways in which organisational structures and policies focused on particular aspects of social identity (eg gender, disability, youth) attempt, or fail, to negotiate the intersectionality of social identity;


This research builds on the DPU's established work on methodologies for understanding and working with diversity, including the Web of Institutionalisation, the DPUs' Gender Planning and Policy Methodology, and the contributions that the DPU has made to the Capability Approach.

  • The extent to which institutional approaches to diversity recognise the subjective construction of social identity, which makes the practice of 'labelling' target groups on the basis of shared identity problematic, and;
  • How work on diversity, and radical efforts to promote recognition and equality for particular social groups, become depoliticised and co-opted when they are absorbed into the ‘technical’ and procedural realm of development practice.
Divided cities and post conflict resolutions

This sub-cluster links DPU research initiatives which attempt to understand how many of the institutional weaknesses and policy failures in addressing diversity lead to fragmentation, division, and violence on the basis of identity.

It also explores and critiques the policy and planning responses that are being proposed to address social divisions and identity based violence in cities, encompassing both efforts to avoid identity based conflict in cities, and efforts to promote equality, recognition and social integration in post conflict cities.

Together, they look at the relationship between social diversity, development processes and planned interventions. They explore the ways that social identities have (or have not) been addressed through development institutions, and the associated social and development consequences.

Research in this field will have a particular emphasis on:

  • how issues of social diversity play out in relation to the urban setting
  • where issues of space, fluidity, and rapid change create heightened possibilities for social fragmentation and conflict
  • possibilities for transformation

More information

To find out more about this cluster, please contact Julian Walker.

Research Projects

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