The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Overseas practice engagements

Each year, our Social Development Practice MSc students focus on a two-week action-learning project in an urban area of the Global South, embedding their learnings in a real life case study.

About our overseas practice engagements

The overseas practice engagement forms part of our 'Social Development in Practice' module, which is a core aspect of our students' learnings and journeys to become better social development practitioners. Each year, our Social Development Practice MSc students focus on social development challenges and opportunities in an urban area of the Global South and engage in a two-week action-learning project that brings out the core concepts and concerns of our master's course (such as citizenship, wellbeing, social diversity and participation), and provides our students with practical research skills, such as engaging with issues raised by partners and communities in a local context. To date, we have engaged with partners and communities in Indonesia, Brazil, Kenya, and Tanzania.

To encourage collaborative working towards social justice outcomes, we centre relationships with partner organisations and local communities in all of our overseas practice engagements. Our students work in teams (usually with local students and/or community leaders) and carry out research to understand social, economic and urban policies, historical social movements, and the agency and everyday practices of residents on a given issue.

We particularly encourage our students to utilise participatory methods of primary research (such as interviews, transect walks and collaborative mapping) to provide evidence to support our partners' efforts of improving participation, recognition and redistribution of resources for residents.

Our previous overseas practice engagements

Discover where we've worked and the organisations we've partnered with in previous years:

2020 to present: Indonesia

In 2020, we began a four-year collaboration between the Social Development Practice MSc and Kota Kita through the Urban Citizenship Academy (UCA) to advance social justice and inclusive planning in Indonesia cities. UCA is an initiative by Kota Kita to engage a new generation of young leaders and support them in solving pressing urban problems.

Our engagement has been based on principles associated with knowledge co-production and action learning. In this collaborative programme, we explored the role of small-scale and informal food practices that impact food security in cities in Indonesia, and how these initiatives/practices can be improved, enabled, and supported to advance food security.


In 2023, our overseas practice engagement focused on food security and urban food systems as a part of Kota Kita’s project in collaboration with the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). We conducted our research in two cities in Indonesia, Jakarta and Solo, where the project has been running since 2020, working with different actors, including informal food actors, governments, and non-government organisations that work on similar issues.  


For the third year of our overseas practice engagement with Kota Kita and the Urban Citizenship Academy (UCA), our Social Development Practice MSc students drew on principles of knowledge co-production to explore grassroots aspirations for 'inclusive public space' and 'inclusive planning and design' along the Kali Pepe Riverbank in Solo, Indonesia. 

We asked our students to consider how varying aspirations and practices were underpinned by different social identities and how they related to policy and planning frameworks associated with inclusive planning, human rights commitments and conventions, and relevant social and urban development policies and instruments. 

In 2022, our engagement was conducted remotely with students working together over two months to plan a one-week research activity in the selected neighbourhoods. Together with the participating community members, our students conducted interviews, transect walks, focus group discussions, behaviour mapping, surveys and policy research throughout their research.

Ultimately, this engagement built on and contributes to ‘Rivers as Inclusive Common Spaces: Co-Development of Kali Pepe Riverbank, Solo, Indonesia’, a collaborative participatory design project between Kota Kita and UN-Habitat aiming to establish a vision for an inclusive common public space in the riverbank area. 


In the second year of our overseas practice engagement with the Urban Citizenship Academy (UCA), we focused on advancing inclusive design and planning in Indonesian cities through a process of remote knowledge co-production. We aimed to foster learning between students from UCL and the UCA about disability and inclusive planning in Indonesian cities, and to learn from and contribute to the Indonesian Organizations of People with Disabilities and low-income neighbourhoods in Banjarmasin and Solo. 

Students of the Social Development Practice MSc with UCA students and students from the Universitas Sebelas Maret (Surakarta) and Universitas Lambung Mangkurat (Banjarmasin) develop their research projects for two months from February to April 2021 remotely before conducting a two-remote research activity in April. Remote research activities included online interviews, participatory photography, mapping and policy research.

Additionally, our students and project partners organised an online webinar on 'Inclusive planning and design - City scale strategy' to explore strategies and advocate for city-wide inclusive development that support people with disabilities' citizenship practices, as well as their active involvement in city development processes.

Discover the outputs from our 2021 project


In the first year of our overseas practice engagement with the Urban Citizenship Academy (UCA), we explored inclusive citizenship in the city of Banjarmasin, Indonesia. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we took our engagement online and research activities adhered to COVID-19 protocols once restrictions had reduced in the city. Over two weeks in May, groups of our Social Development Practice MSc students and students from the UCA worked together remotely to develop a research proposal for the relevant entry points to promote inclusive planning design in a neighbourhood of Banjarmasin.

2016 to 2019: Brazil

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From 2016 to 2019, we situated our overseas practice engagement in Salvador, Brazil, where we partnered with the research group 'Lugar Comum' (Common Place) from the faculty of architecture at the Universidade Federal da Bahia. Together, we carried out an action-learning initiative focusing on documenting collective practices claiming rights to the city in Salvador.

Throughought our field trips, our Social Development Practice MSc students gathered many lessons on the social conditions and practices employed by such collectives, which can support their ongoing mobilisation and inform the implementation of a building rehabilitation project in which Lugar Comum is involved.

Our student groups explored four thematic areas:

  1. Urban change and planning in Salvador and Brazil
  2. Social programmes and urban poverty
  3. Urban social mobilisation and collective action, and
  4. Social mapping and critical urban learning.
Discover the outputs from our 2019 project
Discover the outputs from our 2018 project

Student report - Bridging local collective practices towards a platform for the right to the city in Salvador, Bahia (PDF) This PDF also contains translations in Portuguese.

Students working together with Lugar Comum and community members in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil
Discover the outputs from our 2017 project

Student report - Collective practices, instruments for collective action and the right to the city in Salvador, Bahia (PDF) This PDF also contains translations in Portuguese.

Students and projects partners standing in a field of grass, surrounded by settlements
Discover the outputs from our 2016 project

Student reports:

Flickr Image/Slideshow Widget Placeholderhttps://www.flickr.com/photos/dpu-ucl/albums/72157670298400781


2013 to 2015: Kenya

Students and project partners working together in Kenya
In 2013, 2014 and 2015, we situated our fieldwork in Kisumu, Kenya. We worked with the support of international NGO Practical Action, an organisation that works to implement sustainable technologies in relation to urban services, energy, food and agriculture and disaster risk reduction, to challenge the conditions of poverty.


Student facilitating a workshop with project partners
In 2015, we assigned our students the project 'Social Action for Substantive Citizenship in Kisumu, Kenya' which emerged out of a partnership between The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, Practical Action and the Kisumu Informal Settlements Network (KISN), with the support of the Kisumu Urban Apostolate Programme (KUAP). Our Social Development Practice MSc students worked in groups, each investigating a campaign topics including housing, infrastructure, markets, and disabilities. The groups worked with Kisumu Informal Settlements Network (KISN) representatives and local facilitators in Kisumu's informal settlements to conduct research that culminated in a set of recommendations for advocacy strategies to support KISN campaigns and negotiations with local authorities.
Discover the outputs from our 2015 project


Students and project partners gather in a hall in Kisumu, Kenya
In 2014, our Social Development Practice MSc students worked closely with Practical action and the Kisumu Urban Apostolate Programme (KUAP). Together, we undertook an action-learning exercise which examined the role of Neighbourhood Planning Associations (NPAs) in enhancing the participatory capabilities of the urban poor to achieve substantive citizenship in Kisumu. Each group partnered with a different NPA to explore and offer recommendations on how issues such as practices of representation, operational context, and the relations to wider governance structures impacted on each NPA's role.
Discover the outputs of our 2014 project


Students and project partners on a transect walk in Kisumu, Kenya
In 2013, our Social Development Practice MSc students worked on a research project titled 'Participatory Informal Settlement Upgrading and Wellbeing'. This project focused on three informal settlements in Kisumu, seeking to understand how a process of community-led planning could support the full range of residents' aspirations.

Our students were asked to examine four different water and sanitation interventions within three low-income neighbourhoods in Kisumu. Each intervention represented a different model of service delivery, and students were asked to assess the well-being impacts of each, exploring dimensions including dignity, health, empowerment, security, recognition, accessibility and equity in relation to diverse identities within the settlement. 

Discover the outputs from our 2013 project

2000 to 2012: Tanzania

Project partners participating in fieldwork

From 2000 to 2012, our Social Development Practice MSc students carried out research in Tanzania, in collaboration with the Community Development Department, Arusha Municipal Council, to explore the effectiveness of NGOs in Sekei ward.

Discover thet outputs from our 2012 project