UCL Institute for Global Prosperity


PhD Spotlight: Sebastian Paredes Smith

Sebastian Paredes Smith started his journey of a PhD in Global Prosperity in 2021, incorporating his interests and experiences in housing finance and promoting habitat prosperity.

Sebastian Paredes Smith

About Sebastian Paredes Smith

Looking to move into the development field, Sebastian pursued a pathway of research that incorporated his interests and experience in housing finance to studying a PhD in Global Prosperity at the UCL Institute for Global Prosperity.

Q&A with Sebastian

What is your background and why did you choose to study the PhD in Global Prosperity?

"I graduated as an architect, but I was looking to move towards the development field, so I decided to study a MSc in Development Administration and Planning at The Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU). Later, while in my practice, I found a deep curiosity for researching the complexities of housing finance and decided to look for a research pathway. That’s how I found the PhD in Global Prosperity."

What have you been doing since graduating and how did your MSc help you progress in your career?

"I am now the Co-Founder of MUTUO, a consultancy agency with the mission to contribute to promote habitat prosperity through the articulation of actors. I have had experience working with the public, private and NGO sector as a consultant for policy design, programme implementation and research. My topics of expertise are mostly related to the urban field, including urban innovation, housing innovation, housing finance, housing policy and program design and research. I also have experience working in the field of Education and Sustainable Development. In my journey, I have had the privilege of working with institutions and NGOs such as The Ministry of Housing of Perú, International Finance Corporation, The Inter-American Development Bank, The Municipality of Lima and UNESCO.

My postgraduate studies have been catalytic to facing challenges such as project stagnation and stakeholder participation. In fact, my master's dissertation, which focused on housing finance blends and institutional articulation, has informed my practice in a lot. Currently, I am researching financial geographies of housing in the Informal Settlements of Lima, opening many opportunities to contribute to the academic and policy debate in my own country."

What did you enjoy the most about studying with the IGP?

"The most valuable aspect of studying at the IGP for me has been engaging with people from a diversity of backgrounds. This has made me question my own educational formation and recognise many of my own biases. From students and staff, there is always a chance to engage and share perspectives and experiences and to find someone who actually listens."

Which topics, extracurriculars, or electives did you find most interesting and why?

"I studied Debt, Finance and Prosperity as one of my elective modules during my MSc which meant I got the opportunity to study a module that was outside of my department. I enjoyed learning with Dr Christopher Harker and I was fascinated with the new looks to finance that geography and sociology could provide, opening a larger perspective for me. Fast forward to a couple of years later, and Dr Christopher Harker is now my PhD supervisor whom I am benefitting greatly from his invaluable guidance."

What was the topic of your dissertation and could you share your journey around it?

"My dissertation focused on the design and definition of a Housing Finance Blend framework. I used this framework to assess a longitudinal housing project in Lima, Perú and determine the catalytic factors that made them fail and succeed in many areas, and to ultimately inform future projects and programmes.

The framework itself and the conclusions of the financial analysis was critical in approaching a social housing experiment we started with MUTUO before completing our master's. The result of this project is presented in a short documentary about the CIUDADES [en] VISIBLE project.

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://youtu.be/914CJTNsKK8?si=FhndhgmXs3k_iAWY

Can you tell us about your experience outside study, such as living in London or travelling in the UK, and how it has shaped or inspired you?

"The first thing I value a lot in London is discovering its infinite natural spots, many of them no farther than a 30 to 45-minute tube ride. The culture of people spending more time outdoors in London during the summer is amazing. Second, I really enjoy having the opportunity to engage with people from many places and cultures of the world. Meeting people and exchanging cultures and views of the world has made me very happy."

What does prosperity mean to you?

"To me, prosperity is the lens of acknowledging that we can live better in a less hierarchical and accumulative way. Prosperity is also not assuming hegemonic realities as the most suitable just because they are the dominant ones."

What advice would you give to new IGP students and to those thinking of applying?

"Embrace not knowing. When I started my master's, I felt frustrated for having a background that didn't necessarily match the theoretical literature of the course, however I learned much more by embracing not knowing and asking, rather than pretending I knew everything. Completing a degree is an experience of learning - not a competition."

Are you interested in studying the PhD in Global Prosperity at UCL?

Three students in discussion

Discover more about the course and the career opportunities it could unlock by visiting the UCL Graduate prospectus. 

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