The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


State Market

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;
  • 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.

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.


Dr Alexandre Apsan Frediani
Lecturer in Community-Led Development in the Global South.
View Alex's Profile
Email: a.frediani@ucl.ac.uk

Dr Camillo Boano
Director of MSc Building and Urban Design in Development 
View Camillo's Profile
Email: c.boano@ucl.ac.uk

Caren Levy
Senior Lecturer
Director of the MSc Urban Development Planning
View Caren's Profile
Email: c.levy@ucl.ac.uk

Patrice North
Co-Director of MSc Social Development Practice
Email: p.north@ucl.ac.uk

Julian Walker
Senior Lecturer
Co-Director of MSc Social Development Practice
Co-Director of Gender Policy and Planning Programme
View Julian's Profile
Email: julian.walker@ucl.ac.uk

Dr Michael Walls
Director of MSc Development Administration and Planning 
View Michael's Profile
Email: m.walls@ucl.ac.uk


Cities, Decoupling and Urban Infrastructures (2011-2012)

Through a short desk study, the DPU is contributing to the development of a flagship report of the International Resource Panel (IRP) commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The study is concern with providing an in-depth interdisciplinary understanding of the resource flows through cities and the infrastructures that have been configured to conduct these flows. This is a highly relevant task, insofar as insufficient attention within the sustainable cities literature has been given to the fact that the design, construction and operation of infrastructures create a socio-technical environment that plays an important role in shaping the 'way of life' of a city's denizens and how resources are procured, used and disposed by the city.

For more information please contact Adriana Allen  or Vanesa Castán-Broto 

Shock(not)Horror: mediating radical transformations in infrastructure provision 

is an interdisciplinary project funded by the EPSRC between Newcastle University, the Open University and UCL (2011-2013).

The project will develop a new concept of infrastructure resilience, both by using shocks as a way of both highlighting the interdependencies of existing infrastructure systems (identifying the weak points), and improving infrastructure by restoring it to a better state after the shock (rather than re-instating what was there before the shock).

To learn more about this project, please contact: Vanesa Castán Broto 

Climate variability, water risk and its management in Bolivia’s Altiplano development strategy (2011-2013)

With funding from CAFOD and led by the UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction, this project examines the natural, institutional, political and socio-economic processes that put at risk the quantity and quality of water resources and the livelihoods and wellbeing of the communities living in the Altiplano area or depending on water resources from far a field.

For more details please contact Adriana Allen 

Local Governance, Urban Mobility and Poverty Reduction: Lessons from Medellin (Colombia)

To learn more about this project, please contact: Julio Dávila 

Urban water poverty halfway through the Decade of Water for Life (2010-11)

In 2000 the United Nations included targets to reduce by half the proportion of people without access to safe water and sanitation in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and in 2005 it launched the Decade of Water for Life. We are now more than halfway through that decade and only four years away from the 2015 deadline set by the MDGs, a useful point to reflect on current research and action in relation to the problem of urban water poverty.

This short project instigated dialogue between practitioners and academics within UCL across a wide range of disciplines by focusing on the following questions: What do we know about urban water poverty and how to tackle it? What additional conceptual frameworks can shed light into the way in which water material and immaterial flows produce cities and accumulation and deprivation within them? What needs to be done differently if we are to put this knowledge into practice up to and beyond 2015?

A special issue of the International Journal of Sustainable Urban Development edited by Adriana Allen and Sarah Bell articulates a diversity of approaches and the need for rigorous evidence to support policy making as well as critical thinking and engagement to ensure the needs of the urban poor are met when decisions are made about urban water management.

Click here to access the journal on-line  

For more details about this initiative contact Adriana Allen or visit Sustainable Cities

Small town water and sanitation delivery: Taking a wider view (2009-10)

Working with Building Partnerships for Development (BPD) and WaterAid, DPU staff provided advisory support to this project, funded through a planning grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Focusing on six WaterAid country programmes (Bangladesh, Madagascar, Nepal, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda), the project sought to answer the following two main questions:

• What is different about the challenges and potential solutions for the delivery of water and sanitation services in small towns as opposed to large urban or rural environments?

• Can we learn lessons from other sectors that deliver infrastructure that could inform the design of water and sanitation solutions?

To learn more about this project contact contact: Adriana Allen or visit Water Aid Documents

Rural-Urban Transformations and Wastewater Management (2009)

Supporting an initiative led by UNESCO-IHE, this short desk-study examined what service delivery options work for the urban and peri-urban poor and why. The project included two major outputs: an online course on urban sanitation policy and management in developing countries and a book entitled Peri-Urban Water and Sanitation Services. Policy, Planning and Method, edited by M. Kurian and P. McCarney and published by Springer in 2010.

Moving down the ladder: Governance and sanitation that works for the urban poor (2007-2008)

The widespread privatisation of basic services in the 1990s has in turn led to a redefinition of the role of an ‘instrumentalised state’, in which the traditional functions of legislation, regulation, direct provision and investment have been significantly redefined, in many cases bringing the role of the state closely aligned with the creation of new business opportunities for transnational corporations. However, neither the public nor the international private sector are filling in the gap of meeting the WATSAN needs of the urban and peri-urban poor.

This desk-study contrasts a so-called ‘rationalist perspective’ dominated by the public-private controversy with an ‘empirical perspective’ concerned with gaining a better grasp of the multiple – and often neglected – practices and arrangements by which the urban poor effectively access sanitation[i] on the ground. The study was commissioned by the International Water and Sanitation Centre (IRC) with the purpose of providing a synthesis of the current debate concerned with the governance of urban sanitation for the poor and also some ‘discussion teasers’ to stimulate the debate at the IRC Symposium on Urban Sanitation held in November 2008.

For more information, please contact Adriana Allen or Pascale Hofmann or visit here 

Governance of water and sanitation services for the peri-urban poor(2002-2006)

The importance of considering water and sanitation in the peri-urban interface of metropolitan areas and regions arises from the fact that there are social, economic, environmental and institutional interactions between urban and rural areas which are captured in this interface. It is here where many of the processes of change in urban-rural flows take place, leading both to problems and to opportunities not only for peri-urban communities but also for the sustainable development of adjacent rural and urban systems.

Focusing on the peri-urban interface of five metropolitan regions in Mexico, India, Tanzania, Egypt and Venezuela, this three-year project funded by DFID examined the disjuncture between policy-driven arrangements to improve service delivery and the actual needs-driven practices deployed by poor women and men in these areas. 

To learn more about this project, please contact Adriana AllenJulio Dávila  or Pascale Hofmann , 

[i] The definition of sanitation adopted for the purpose of this paper focuses on the effective and safe management and disposal of human excreta and wastewater. Solid waste management is not included here.