DSA-ESRC Workshop series
MEETING THE CHALLENGES
Interdisciplinary research for global development
Frontiers in Urban Infrastructure Research and Action
‘How can we plan for the bottom 40%?’ was the key question addressed in this workshop on urban infrastructure, focusing in particular on water management, transportation and energy. Of 37 participants, 9 were based in the Global South, with the others working mainly at the Universities of Sheffield and Manchester. There was a tremendous volume of experience in the room, drawing on diverse disciplines from natural science to engineering and hydrology; architecture, design and urban planning; geography, development studies and politics. Cross-cutting these disciplinary differences were the diverse ways in which people engaged in practice: as social entrepreneurs, as public intellectuals, as civil servants, as planners, as designers. The report below summarises some of the discussion, posing the following questions: How can people who live in poverty come to the centre of the planning process? What kind of planning works for people in poverty? What are the strengths and tensions of inter- and trans-disciplinary research? Who are, and should be, the key actors in urban infrastructure development? The value of the workshop is indicated by its outcomes: one successful research bid already, and another larger bid in the pipeline!
Prof Diana Mitlin, Managing Director of the Global Development Institute, sets out the key priorities for transdisciplinary research in meeting global challenges.
Dr Seth Schindler of Manchester’s Global Development Institute talks about the implications for researchers of the new urban agenda.
Architect, planner and activist Arif Hasan describes putting people at the centre of urban improvement in Pakistan
Professor of Design, Aguinaldo dos Santos, explains how researchers came to understand the importance of space for entertaining guests in a poor community in Brazil.
Mark O’Keefe explains how his Kenya-based start-up is working to help people switch to greener energy.
Peta Wolpe argues for better implementation, not more research, to promote greener energy solutions in South Africa.