Tricia recounts experiences of studying MSc Urban Development Planning at the Development Planning Unit
Programme Leader in Applied Innovation at The Young Foundation (London)
I spent years scoping out postgraduate programmes. In fact, it became a minor hobby – easier than crocheting and arguably less productive.
After getting a BSc in Political Science and Philosophy, I worked in a US Congressional Office and my career was right on track until I decided that I wanted to get an MSc and would benefit from having non-governmental international work experience.
I ended up volunteering with a community development project in rural post-war Mozambique and then went on to spend the next decade and half building an eclectic résumé. I trained and worked as a chef in a bustling vegetarian restaurant in upstate New York, designed and managed projects for a quirky international development organisation in Central and South America, ran an adult education programme for Latino immigrants in Chicago and led strategic projects for a Quaker-values based NGO which carries out development projects and peace work in the US and in global hot spots.
Eventually I found my way to the Urban Development Planning MSc programme at the DPU. It combined theory and practice in a way that very few other postgraduate programmes offer. I was impressed at how international the DPU is almost to a cellular level–the staff, students, research, academic literature and theories, perspectives and of course the fieldwork.
My cohort carried out field research on the sustainable relocation of pavement dwellers in Mumbai. I learned a great deal from that piece of work–specifically how to carry out action research using a theoretical framework to better understand social impact.
All in all, the DPU was an intellectually challenging, progressive and practical MSc that helped me focus my expertise, broaden my worldview and sharpening my mind. And I had a really good time.
Since the DPU, I have been able to use the skills and knowledge that gained in the programme directly in my work and have even been able to work with few DPU graduates.
I led action research and community engagement projects on Future Communities, a partnership with the UK Homes and Communities Agency, Peabody Trust, and several local authorities exploring practical ways for new communities to succeed as places where people want to live, work and play.
I was a contributing author on the Design for Social Sustainability which proposes a design for creating thriving communities and sets out a social sustainability framework for built environment professionals (published by the Young Foundation in 2011 and now being taken forward by Social Life). I also led a community research project in Tottenham Post-Riots in 2011 which culminated in the report Tottenham Together: Voices from the Riots commissioned by the Haringey Community Panel to engage local residents in conversations about the impact of the riots and how the local community can recover and more forward.
Currently, I am leading the Young Foundation's work on Realising Ambition a UK-wide £25 million investment from the Big Lottery Fund building an evidence base of ‘what works’ in early intervention with children and young people and supporting the replication of what works in new geographical areas.
In October 2013, I am co-designing and co-delivering with the Social Innovation Exchange a project on Building Momentum for Social Innovation in Colombia in partnership with the Dirección de Innovación Social (Centre for Social Innovation) in the national Department of Social Prosperity.