Chongqing Hongyadong scenery. Shutterstock, HelloRF Zcool

Land Cover Changes and Urban Expansion in Chongqing, China: A Study Based on Remote Sensing Images


Sun X, Liu Y, Sun T, Yu S, Li C, Zhai L. Land Cover Changes and Urban Expansion in Chongqing, China: A Study Based on Remote Sensing Images. Environment and Urbanization ASIA. March 2021. DOI: 10.1177/0975425321998035


China has experienced an unprecedented rate of urbanization in recent decades. As a city with strong political and economic influences in the southwest of China, Chongqing is a typical example of rapid urban development in this period of time.

To study the land cover changes and urban expansion of Chongqing, Landsat images from 1999 to 2018 were selected, processed, and quantitatively analysed.

The results showed that the built-up area of the city had increased tremendously during these years, yet vegetation still accounted for the vast majority of the city’s land area. Restricted by the local topography including mountains and hills and infrastructure constructions, the urbanization process that occurred in central Chongqing actually showed a dominant expansion direction, an obvious spatial clustering tendency, and significant spatio-temporal differences among various regions.

Stream of people travelling from work towards home in Zirabo. © 2020 SHLC Bangladesh.

Sustainability Challenges for Sprawling Dhaka


Roy S, Sowgat T, Islam SMT, Anjum N. Sustainability Challenges for Sprawling Dhaka. Environment and Urbanization ASIA. March 2021. DOI: 10.1177/0975425321997995


Dhaka’s sprawled area is likely to supersede the total land area of the Dhaka city in the near future. This article combines quantitative and qualitative methods to investigate sustainability concerns that have arisen because of irregular and rapid sprawling in Dhaka.

Land cover change detection reveals that since 1991, the city outskirts have seen an addition of 234 square kilometres of built-up area. Spatial metrics show the dynamic process of infill and the fragmented transformation of land covers in Dhaka, which have led to low-density, leapfrog and ribbon sprawling. The city outskirts, especially the economically advantaged regions, have been observing rapid urban densification of neighbourhoods.

Field observation and interviews in 19 sprawled areas confirm that the change has been influenced by industrialization, increasing demand for housing, high cost of living in Dhaka city, growing population and lack of development control regulations.

The advantage of the sprawling process is that it offers economic opportunities, contributing to poverty reduction and national economic growth. However, the abrupt and sporadic nature of this transformation puts the long-term economic and environmental viability of new business activities and habitation into question.

Congested housing, poor accessibility, inadequate drainage system and sanitation facilities in sprawled areas have resulted in poor liveability and created social inequality, thus impeding the way for a sustainable urban transformation of peri-urban Dhaka.

This article calls for a greater acknowledgment of sustainability concerns in development control regulations and a more inclusive form of governance to deal with existing sustainability challenges for Dhaka city and its rapidly transforming peripheral region.

Inequality and Urban Density: Socio-economic Drivers of Uneven Densification in Cape Town


Scheba A, Turok I, Visagie J. Inequality and Urban Density: Socio-economic Drivers of Uneven Densification in Cape Town. Environment and Urbanization ASIA. March 2021. DOI: 10.1177/0975425321998026


Global policies promote urban compaction to achieve sustainable development. This article highlights the limits of analysing densification at the city scale and advocates for a more granular approach.

The case study of Cape Town shows how overall consolidation has been mainly driven by poor households crowding into already dense neighbourhoods on the urban periphery. This has aggravated historic segregation and intensified urban management challenges. Meanwhile, formal private sector driven densification strengthens the social and economic vibrancy of affluent neighbourhoods.

This article argues that uneven residential patterns reflect deep-seated social inequalities that are amplified through labour and property markets.

Satellite data also illustrates how Cape Town’s built-up area has changed between 1998 and 2019. Based on geo-spatial analyses, the article suggests that taking these drivers seriously is crucial to promoting a denser and more equitable urban form.

Aligning housing policies with spatial transformation and economic development objectives offer possibilities for change.

Street scene with labourers waiting to start work. Kigali, Rwanda. Credit: Shutterstock, Jennifer Sophie

Urban Growth and Land Use/Land Cover Changes in the Post-Genocide Period, Kigali, Rwanda


Nduwayezu G, Manirakiza V, Mugabe L, Malonza JM. Urban Growth and Land Use/Land Cover Changes in the Post-Genocide Period, Kigali, Rwanda. Environment and Urbanization ASIA. March 2021. DOI: 10.1177/0975425321997971


Kigali is a rapidly growing city, as exemplified by the phenomenal increase of its inhabitants from 358,200 in 1996 to 1,630,657 in 2017. Nevertheless, there is a paucity of detailed analytical information about the processes and factors driving unprecedented urban growth in the period following the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi (1994) and its impact on the natural environment. This article, therefore, analyses the growth of the city of Kigali with respect to its post-genocide spatial and demographic dimensions.

The methodology involves a quantification of urban growth over the period of the last 30 years using remote-sensing imagery coupled with demographic data drawn from different sources.

The analysis of land cover trends shows how significant the pressure of urban expansion has been on the natural environment, with a 14 per cent decrease in open land between 1999 and 2018. Spatially, the average annual growth rate was almost 10.24 per cent during the same period.

This growth is associated with the building of a large number of institutions, schools and industries. Moreover, the increase in low-income residents led to the construction of bungalows expanding on large suburbs and the development of new sub-centres in the periphery instead of high-rise apartments.

South West Township, Soweto - Johannesburg South Africa. Credit: Cedric Weber/Shutterstock

Urban Sprawl and Land Cover in Post-apartheid Johannesburg and the Gauteng City-Region, 1990–2018


Katumba S, Everatt D. Urban Sprawl and Land Cover in Post-apartheid Johannesburg and the Gauteng City-Region, 1990–2018. Environment and Urbanization ASIA. March 2021. DOI: 10.1177/0975425321997973


Johannesburg and the broader Gauteng City-Region in which it is located are considered to be the economic powerhouse of South Africa. This has led to massive population growth in the region, as well as severe inequality.

Given South Africa’s history of racially excluding black South Africans from urban areas, ongoing research in this area has to analyse land cover and define ‘sprawl’ in a context where the technical language has politically loaded overtones.

This article tries to understand the scale of informality within a broader examination of urbanization and sprawl. It concludes that in the absence of a formally adopted urban edge and under massive pressure from population growth (natural and via migration), formal dwellings (residential and economic) have grown unchecked, and informality is now growing at high speed and also largely without regulation or control.

With no apparent political will to stop urban sprawl, both informal and formal covers are steadily pushing towards provincial borders, while densifying in Johannesburg in particular.

Fisherman boats in front of Kivukoni fish market, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Shutterstock, Igor Grochev

Land Pattern of Highly Urbanizing Cities: Change in Built-up Area, Population Density and Spatial Development of the Sprawling Dar es Salaam City


Msuya I, Moshi I, Levira F. Land Pattern of Highly Urbanizing Cities: Change in Built-up Area, Population Density and Spatial Development of the Sprawling Dar es Salaam City. Environment and Urbanization ASIA. March 2021. DOI: 10.1177/0975425321998036


Dar es Salaam is one of the most diverse cities in Tanzania in terms of its physical, social, economic, environmental and spatial features. This diversity has contributed to differences in built-up area, population density, as well as the pace of spatial development across different parts of the city.

This study aims to examine the relationship between physical built-up area changes in Dar es Salaam, population density change and spatial development using remote sensing images and census data.

The study finds that the city population has grown tremendously, with peri-urban wards in particular having experienced positive growth. Dar es Salam’s built-up area change and urban sprawl emerging at the city’s edges distinctly follows the pattern of demographic change. This is accompanied by substantial compact growth in the inner parts of the city. A number of factors such as transport, residential development, migration, high natural growth rates, public policies and land speculation are found to have contributed to these changes.

Overall, the study aims to aid planning authorities in effectively responding to the rapid spatial development taking place in the city, for which a holistic approach that combines an understanding of physical and demographic changes is needed. By investigating the changing patterns in land use within this highly urbanizing city, it aims to generate insights into urban development control machineries and identify their underlying dynamics.

Participants and their selected art works with Mr Kabir sitting in the middle. Credit: Shilpi Roy

Creative Art Workshop: Appreciating ‘Ugly Beauty’ to Support Critical Thinking and Creativity in Future Urban Research

In this blog, SHLC’s research team in Bangladesh showcase their experience from a creative art workshop led by Mr Sahid Kabir, one of Bangladesh’s most renowned artists, and examine how a creative approach can support urban research and planning.

Contemporary ideologies and practices of city planning and urban development are primarily grounded in a scientific construct that embraces rationality, order, structure, and organisation.

Amid regular promotion of scientific rationality, planners often get carried away with logic, structure, and mathematical precision. This kind of approach may inhibit creative thinking and restrict urban planning research from appreciating what lies beyond rationality, be it an organically grown settlement or a hustling and bustling local market.


In the eyes of rational and scientific thinkers, the inner beauty of so-called ‘ugly’ remains less appreciated as part of the definition of ‘beauty’ and well-planned settlements, and often these kinds of places are dismissed as informal, unplanned, flimsy and congested settlements.

Eminent artist Mr. Kabir explaining his infamous painting ‘The slum queen’. Credit: Shilpi Roy
Eminent artist Mr. Kabir explaining his infamous painting ‘The slum queen’. Credit: Shilpi Roy

Appreciating beauty of everyday objects to support critical thinking


Beauty surrounds us everywhere in the everyday natural and human-made environment and should be better observed and interpreted through critical thinking as part of our urban research. Art appreciates many unnoticed objects ordinarily considered to be waste, filthy, or rotten. Kathleen Ryan creates sculptures of mouldy fruits and Vincent Van Gogh drew a painting of a pair of old and used boots. These examples show us that creative and critical thinking can help us appreciate the beauty of ignored and rejected objects. Science and art can often break the taboo of conventional rationality and go beyond the ordinary scientific lens. Thus, planners’ engagement in art, painting and sculpture can help them to think beyond their conventional philosophical lens. 

Participant appreciating ‘ugly beauty’ in their art works during the workshop. Credit: Irfan Shakil
Participant appreciating ‘ugly beauty’ in their art works during the workshop. Credit: Irfan Shakil

Encouraging creativity in urban planning

We organised a recent creative art engagement event at Khulna University, Bangladesh to engage academics, artists, and young planners. The event was designed to introduce the idea of ‘ugly beauty’ and influence the creative thinking of planners for future urban research. The team hopes similar events will be included as a part of the urban planning undergraduate curriculum at Khulna University as well as impact activities with school children.

The team invited one of the most renowned artists in Bangladesh, Mr Sahid Kabir, who is renowned for his work on urban issues. Kabir’s long career in Bangladesh and Spain involved many experiments with ‘ugly beauty’. His most famous work sought inspiration from dying rivers and brickfields in peri-urban areas, slums, poverty, poor health opportunities, and objects we often ignore. His use of bright and vivid colours, foreign materials in paintings and perspective of looking at subjects are unorthodox yet highly creative.

At the beginning of the event, Professor Tanjil Sowgat briefly introduced basic concepts of graphics, compositions, and colour schemes and their link to the day-to-day work and thoughts of planners. Kabir then introduced some world-class artworks and discussed the subject matter,  application of art elements and principles in his own famous work. He highlighted how thinking beyond rationality and thinking about visual composition contributed to his art.

In the second part of the event, he worked with the team to create small pieces of artworks that appreciated objects that are ordinarily ignored like rotten fruits, old plates, old pots, and diseased flowers. With lessons on different drawing techniques, Mr Kabir and Mr Mahamudul Hasan, also a painter, helped the SHLC team members think creatively and create artwork.

At the end of the event, all the SHLC members revealed new directions for their critical thinking. Mr Rehan highlighted that:

‘‘ I work on maps almost every day but never understood how colour composition matter. For example, I knew little about the role of the split complementary colour scheme in good composition’’.

Participants and their selected art works with Mr Kabir sitting in the middle. Credit: Shilpi Roy
Participants and their selected art works with Mr Kabir sitting in the middle. Credit: Shilpi Roy

Maria, a research assistant at SHLC-BD team, was happy to learn new techniques and methods of artwork, and at the same time, she felt:

‘‘We often ignore and undermine organic and natural built environment. Nevertheless, if we think critically and think beyond common rationality, there are many aspects that we can appreciate about spontaneous and organic growth. Today’s event will surely influence my thinking and make me think and observe planning issues from an unconventional yet critical perspective’’.

Irfan Shakil said:

“As the project manager, I am responsible for designing popular dissemination material. This event showed me a new path regarding how I can make our documents more attractive by making them aesthetically beautiful’’.

Mr Kabir’s work on the beauty of rotten fruits and old tin plate. Credit: Irfan Shakil
Mr Kabir’s work on the beauty of rotten fruits and old tin plate. Credit: Irfan Shakil

Three students – Oishy, Mugdha and Tanmoy – from the Urban and Rural Planning Discipline also attended the workshop. They were all keen learners and felt that such lectures should be included within the current undergraduate curriculum to better orient planners in creative thinking.


Dr Shilpi Roy – one of SHLC’s Co-Investigator – was excited about the potential of the event and hopes that similar engagement events with art and artists would benefit urban planners and help shift their philosophical approach.

The event initially aimed to enhance the capacity of SHLC’s Bangladeshi research team. However, in the end, the event also provided new directions regarding the future curriculum for planning education, the unseen connections between planning and arts and the potential of art engagement as an impact activity in influencing future urban thinking.

Epac Primary school, Kigali, Rwanda. Credit: Flickr

Learning Cities in Development and Sustainable Recovery: International experiences

Learning Cities in Development and Sustainable Recovery: International experiences

The SHLC research team contributed to a week of online activities organised by the University of Derby, to celebrate research that is supported by the Global Challenges Research Funding and addresses Global Sustainable Development Goals.

Shilpi Roy, Mike Osborne, Vincent Manirakiza and Pierre Claver together with Sebutege Ange (Mayor of Huye) all made contributions to a workshop entitled, Learning Cities in development and sustainable recovery: International experiences and the Derby Learning City Campaign chaired by Peter Dewhurst, Director of Strategic Projects, University of Derby.

A summary of the speakers’ contributions follows. Download presentations via the links below.

  • Pauline Anderson OBE, Derby City Council – Service Director – The Derby Learning City campaign
  • Judith James, former Head of Strategic Regional Collaboration, Swansea University,  Honorary Senior Research Fellow, University of Glasgow and PASCAL Learning Cities Network (LCN) theme leader, and Dr Shilpi Roy, Associate Professor of Urban and Rural Planning Discipline at Khulna University, Bangladesh and SHLC Co-I – Learning, Inclusion and Skills
  • Professor Mike Osborne, Director of the Centre for Research and Development in Adult and Lifelong Learning, Co-director of the PASCAL Observatory on Place Management, Social Capital and Lifelong Learning and SHLC Co-I – Learning Cities: Moving the lifelong learning conversation forward
  • Rwandan Learning Cities Network contributors: Sebutege Ange, Mayor of Huye; Pierre Claver, University of Rwanda (Sebutege) and Vincent Manirakiza, University of Rwanda (Kigali), SHLC Co-Is

Sufia Kamal National Public Library, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Credit: Shutterstock, Sal Galib

Local Challenges, Global Imperatives: Cities at the Forefront to Achieve SDG 4 – Panel Session at the 2021 Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) Conference

Local challenges, global imperatives: Cities at the forefront to achieve SDG 4 – a panel session at the 2021 Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) Conference

UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) and the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) together with members of the Centre for Sustainable Healthy Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods presented a Formal Panel Session at the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) conference on 29 April 2021.

A summary of that panel’s deliberations follows. Download presentations via the links below.


The topic of the panel was ‘Local challenges, global imperatives: Cities at the forefront to achieve SDG 4′, and was informed by work of each organisations at urban level.

An important context for the presentations is that as the world is going through the COVID-19 pandemic, cities are at the forefront of coping with an education crisis that has affected over 60 percent of the global student population (United Nations, 2020 and UNESCO, 2020). In today’s increasingly decentralized education systems, cities, through their local elected authorities, are playing a growing role in the implementation of national and local education policies, in partnership with Ministries of Education and other local actors, to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 within their territory. Cities have a social responsibility to their citizens to provide them with equitable and quality education and lifelong learning opportunities. Such is their anticipated contribution to the 2030 Agenda, put forward in SDG 11 calling for ‘sustainable cities and communities’, that the OECD has queried whether cities are ‘the new countries’ (OECD, 2016: 61).

Through their unique position, cities are able to connect multiple state and non-state actors that comprise the local education community, including education staff, parents, pupils, civil society, and public and private institutions. Cities provide a holistic approach to education, complementing formal education through the provision of extra-curricular activities and non-formal education in collaboration with state and non-state actors. Furthermore, cities are the locations where the interdependence between education and other development sectors such as culture, sports, health, welfare or urbanism, is most emphasized. Cities are thus in a position to articulate the voices of the different stakeholders on their territory to co-design education strategies that are relevant to local needs.

With more than 66 percent of the world population expected to be living in urban areas by 2050, cities however face increasingly complex and multi-sectoral challenges to meet their social commitments. The most pressing issues affecting city-level educational planning include global migration, the expansion of the youth population, and the rapid growth of slums, which collectively and individually reinforces the demand for education and lifelong learning opportunities. Cities work in complex and rapidly-changing contexts, as highlighted by the ongoing health crisis. In most countries around the world, cities must articulate national imperatives with local challenges, with little support and guidance from national authorities. Disparities within their own territories increase. Local resources are shrinking, in particular for public services such as education, while the imperative to develop local education strategies that meet the needs of the overall education population and of specific groups, becomes stronger.

The development of education strategies by cities, relying on sound planning and management tools and processes, is essential for cities to ensure equitable access to and provision of quality education for all their citizens. When articulated with other development sectors, education planning can lay down the foundations for intersectoral collaboration and integrated planning, which constitute a prerequisite to provide a collective and coordinated answer to the complex challenges raised by our world. However, while available research and debates around cities focus on their overall contributions to sustainable development, and on urban planning, there is a dearth of analysis on how cities efficiently plan for education.

Based on the results of qualitative and quantitative research projects conducted in diverse geographical areas and socioeconomic contexts, and from the experiences of cities, this panel presented strategies to guide cities to successfully plan for SDG 4. The panel focused on cities that have made education a priority for their territory, and that have developed holistic, innovative and successful strategies to guarantee access to quality education for all children and youth. Specific attention was given to the city’s education strategy and its planning cycle, as well as the ecosystem of actors and sectors involved in educational planning and management at the city level.

In particular, presentations shed light on the following issues:

  • The educational planning cycle at the city level, focusing on the main strengths and assets, but also the challenges that cities face in this process;
  • The relationships between educational planning and urban planning at the city level;
  • Processes and challenges linked to monitoring and evaluation of cities’ education strategies.

The ultimate objective of the panel was to foster knowledge sharing and critical thinking with members of the research community and partners on the key role played by cities in planning for SDG4. It provided an opportunity to take a step back in a rapidly changing and complex context, to reflect on the most relevant approaches for cities to plan for sustainable and inclusive quality education for their youngest citizens, children and youth.

The Chair of the Panel was Michaela Martin, IIEP Research and Development team leader.

Leon Mugabe presents at CIES 2021. Credit: SHLC


Planning for SDG4 at the city level: Learning from experiences. Candy Lugaz, IIEP-UNESCO

In a 21st century characterized by quick changing contexts and unprecedented cross-sectoral crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, planning is a useful and powerful tool to anticipate and prepare for future scenarios. The existence ‘of rational, systematic analysis to the process of educational development’ (Coombs, 1970: 14) is crucial to cope with the evolution of our complex societies. Educational planning lays the foundation for any education system to guarantee the access of all children and youth to education quality, and to build sustainable and peaceful societies.

It is the social responsibility of decision-makers at all levels, be they State or non-State actors, to drive such a change, based on sound planning tools. National governments are ethically, politically and technically committed to their citizens to contribute to the SDGs. Ministries of education have an imperative to design a road map to achieve SDG4 in their countries. Cities, through their local governments, have become their key partners at local level in achieving that goal, as highlighted by the COVID-19 crisis (United Nations, 2020).

Cities plan for the sustainable development of their territory. Involved in a daily relationship with their citizens, they are responsible for designing for the youngest opportunities to grow, learn and flourish. Cities design contextualized education plans to answer the main challenges of their territory and to build on their main strengths.

Planning for education at city level bears specificities in terms of processes, tools, and strategic areas. Relying on a strong proximity with their citizens, cities have the ability to unite all actors of the education community, including school staff, children, parents, civil society, local public administration and private companies. Designing the overall city’s development plan, they connect together sectors such as education, health, urbanism, welfare or culture. Because education intrinsically deals with socio-economic matters, it has the potential to lay the foundations for integrated planning (UNESCO, 2016; Persaud, 2016).

However, despite such a significant experience, from which inspiring lessons can be drawn for educational planning in general, there is a dearth of comparative and global studies on how cities plan for education. This presentation aimed at sharing the lessons learnt from research conducted in cities around the world in planning for education, based on two main activities implemented in 2018-2020: i) a quantitative survey carried out with the Global Network of Learning Cities, and its cluster on educational planning and management, and UIL; and ii) qualitative research conducted in four cities in France. While the cities studied vary according to their size, geographical contexts and socio-economic backgrounds, they share similarities in their contextualized approach to educational planning. The presentation discussed in particular the content of cities education strategies and the experiences of cities in designing, implementing and monitoring education plans, with specific attention given to co-designing processes and intersectoral collaboration.

Kigali toward achieving SDG4. Progress and Challenges in Education Planning. Léon Mugabe and Vincent Manirakiza, University of Rwanda

Kigali in Rwanda is one of the 14 cities under study within Centre for Sustainable Healthy Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods, and undergoing a remarkable urban modernization process observed from infrastructure development, economic opportunities and service delivery. At the same time, it is facing the challenge of rapid and uncontrolled urbanization. City planners and managers struggle to respond to the increasing demands of urban growth. In the education sector, despite some notable improvements, overall realization of desired targets to respond to achieve equitable education for all have not been met. This presentation analysed the urban and education planning framework of Kigali, and its projections and achievements in the last ten years. This was depicted from five education indicators including levels of education attainment,  literacy rates, computer literacy, learning facilities and gender equality and inclusion. The presentation also highlighted  existing problems related to student/teacher ratios and the disparity in terms of quality education between public and private schools. The research presented drew upon secondary data, mainly from the national census of 2012 and the Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey, commonly known as EICVs, conducted in 2010/2011, 2013/2014 and 2016/2017 by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR).

Educational planning in cities: Building a monitoring and evaluation framework for lifelong learning. Alex Howells, UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning

This presentation addressed the complex task of establishing a monitoring and evaluation framework for lifelong learning in cities. Beginning with an overview of lifelong learning as a broad, all-encompassing concept, the presentation touched on some endeavours to monitor and evaluate lifelong learning at the national and international level. Emphasis then shifted to the local level, specifically the implementation of lifelong learning through the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities (GNLC) and the ways in which educational planning feeds into the monitoring and evaluation of lifelong learning in cities. This was followed by an insight into the UNESCO GNLC’s ‘Key Features of Learning Cities’ as a general monitoring and evaluation framework for lifelong learning in cities, a discussion around its advantages and areas for improvement, and a look at how some members of the GNLC have used these key features as a basis when developing their own sets of indicators. Finally, the presentation raised some key questions for the further development of monitoring and evaluation frameworks for lifelong learning in cities.


Michael Osborne, Professor of Adult and Lifelong Learning and Director of Research, School of Education, University of Glasgow responded to the presentations.

Professor Osborne began by suggesting that urban initiatives tend more often than not tend to side-line education in planning processes, and that there certainly is little recognition of the need to plan across different service portfolios. He spoke wearing several ‘hats’, as a Co-I within SHLC and as the Director in Europe of the PASCAL Observatory. He noted that the guiding themes for the PASCAL Observatory for almost two decades had been the need to take a place-based approach to learning, and reflected on four important issues that the observatory had focused on: the making and management of place; The promoting of Social Capital and socially inclusive policies and practices; the development of Learning Regions and Cities; the development of the role of Higher Education Institutions(HEIs)

Focusing on place management in particular he referred to coordinated efforts undertaken by the “shareholders” within a geographic region.  By collaboratively linking local assets – built, cultural, financial, human, natural, political, and social – shareholders can improve life in their cities and geographic regions.  Cities and multi-jurisdictional regions drive the new economy, and so it is important to think, act, learn, and measure in ways related to the context in which we all want to flourish. Regions that are socially inclusive have more inputs – and can generate more complex activities – for creating balanced development. Cities and regions that encourage boundary spanning collaboration are more sustainable and are better at competing in the global economy. Internally collaborative cities and regions facilitate lifelong learning and promote knowledge sharing. Both formal and informal learning are essential drivers of innovation. The development of the role of Higher Education Institutions(HEIs) in fostering inclusive learning cities and economic and social innovation is particularly important.

He noted that the three presentations spoke to the agenda that PASCAL had established. Candy Lugaz from IIEP had focussed on his initial observations that there is a dearth of comparative studies on a global level that focus on how cities effectively plan for education. Further she had emphasised the importance to look at not only at those with formal responsibilities for education, but at other actors. He added that it is also important to view schools as part of a wider urban eco-system of education.

He further argued that how this is done in the context of other aspects of urban planning is even more rare, and that Candy had made well-informed points about inter-sectoral collaboration. Education as a service is part of a much wider set of services, but there is little planning that crosses sectors. He suggested that Scotland might provide a good model in this respect since there is legislation for community planning that includes a range of providers. Another good model that he had encountered had been the setting up of a city department that explicitly links services together in Melbourne.

He also highlighted Candy’s observations about the importance of mixed methods research – they ‘what’ and the ‘why’, and the links that she has made to the idea of social capital development by stressing the importance of exchange between cities through a ‘community of practice’.

Léon Mugabe and Vincent Manirakiza presented the case of Kigali. The expansion of both the population of Kigali and its geographical spread is very important and implies considerable heterogeneity across the city. Vincent had illustrated this at the beginning of his presentation with the case of urban and rural schools. Mike pointed out that from this presentation we are reminded to always remember that cities are not homogeneous, and we need an understanding that intersecting issues  affect liveability in cities, These will vary from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. More generally the work of SHLC in Kigali is illustrative of the important link between education, health and sustainability not simply in cities as a whole, but in neighbourhoods.

In relation to Alex Howell’s presentation on learning cities. Mike pointed out that the indicators for a learning city are multi-faceted and include dimensions that cross many sectors and include measures related to health, environment, culture, infrastructure and much more. He concurred that monitoring and evaluation around key indicators that cross these sectors is important, but that one of the key tasks is to operationalise these indicators more extensively, and welcome the fact that UIL is revisiting its metrics. He pointed out that all speakers have pointed to the importance of measurement, and whilst we all intuitively know that COVID-19 has potentially had an enormous effect on learning, most of that discussion has been focussed on schools. However, it is just as likely that there have been effects, both positive and negative, on post-compulsory education. He suggested that we need to capture what these effects have been. To do that we need good measurement tools, and these need to be both macro and micro indicators. Most focus in the literature had been on on macro measures, but we also need to consider at individual level what changes are occurring in learning. What interventions create lifelong learners and what characterises such a learner? He had some thoughts on this issue and some different and possibly more efficient ways of gathering data other rather than surveys, including Big Data approaches as used within the Urban Big Data Centre at the University of Glasgow.


Coombs, P. (1970). What is educational planning? Paris: IIEP-UNESCO.

OECD. (2016). Trends Shaping Education 2016. Paris: OECD Publishing. Retrieved from:

Persaud, A. (2016). « Integrated Planning for Education and Development ». Article commandé pour le Rapport mondial de suivi sur l’éducation 2016, L’éducation pour les peuples et la planète : Créer des avenirs durables pour tous. Retrieved from:

UNESCO. (2016). Education for people and planet. Creating sustainable futures for all. Global Education Monitoring Report 2016. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from:

UNESCO. (2020). COVID-19: Learning Cities on the front line. Retrieved from:

United Nations. (2020). Policy Brief: COVID-19 in an Urban World. Retrieved from:

Participatory Research in Gurugram, Haryana, India. Credit: S. Ram Aravind

Our Health, Our Voice: Preliminary Findings of Mobile-Based Participatory Survey with Adolescents in Gurugram, India

This new report shares the preliminary findings of Mobile-Based Participatory Survey with Adolescents in Gurugram, India.

Reaping the benefits of India’s demographic dividend will be central to India’s economic development, but the largest generation of young people in human history faces enormous challenges towards realising their potential to contribute to the growth story. The Lancet Commission report titled, ‘Our Future’ had identified ‘adolescence’ as a “critical phase in life for achieving human potential” and concluded by recommending that only substantial investments in improving adolescent health and well-being would aid in India’s progress towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

But how does one generate evidence into priority areas of public policy that will ensure holistic development of adolescents, especially those belonging to marginalised communities? Drawing upon PRIA’s prior experience of engaging with youth, the research titled ‘Our Health, Our Voice’ seeks to advance the use of participatory research methodology into the thematic area of adolescent health. Through active participation of adolescent boys and girls living in urban informal settlements in Gurugram, a thriving satellite city of New Delhi in India, the research seeks to generate evidence on the health conditions of adolescents – seen from their eyes, and raising their voice on those health concerns that they are most vulnerable to. How do they seek and use health-related information? Which public health policies and program interventions do they think promote ‘adolescent friendly’ health.

This participatory research is a collaborative process with adolescents, the local university, care-givers, grassroots health workers, city (municipal) officials, and policy makers. On the demand side are the adolescents and their care givers (parents), and on the supply side is the health system – the National Health Mission (NHM), and the flagship Rashtriya Kishore Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK), under which Adolescent Friendly Health Clinics (AFHC) are to be set up.

The research uses a series of participatory tools – transect walk, mobile-based participatory survey, Focus Group Discussions and multi-stakeholder dialogues – involving adolescent boys and girls in all stages of the research process to understand their healthcare-seeking behaviour, the accessibility to health services, and the extent of utilisation of AFHCs. Their inputs have helped shape the questions in the survey questionnaire, analysis of the data is shared in meetings with them and the community, their insights are central in the group discussions that generate community demand for health services, and their interactions with government officials and health workers in multi-stakeholder dialogues will help find a way forward for action that results in improving adolescent-friendly health services.

This report presents the preliminary findings from the survey questionnaire that was administered to 330 adolescents aged between 10 and 19 years, of which 141 (42%) were boys and 189 (58%) were girls. Questions related to their awareness on sexual and reproductive health, nutrition, menstrual hygiene, health-related problems such as drug and substance abuse, and health-seeking behaviour. Data on other indirect indicators that affect health, such as sanitation, water supply, and living conditions in their houses, was also collected. The survey was conducted in five informal settlements (Sikanderpur, Ghata, Harijan Basti, Chakkarpur and Nathupur) in Gurugram in February 2021.

This research project ‘Healthy Cities for Adolescents: Participatory Research in Gurugram, Haryana, India’ was funded by the Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC)’s Capacity Development Acceleration Fund. SHLC is funded via UK Research and Innovation as part of the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund.