Capacity Building Workshop for Early Career Researchers on Issues and Challenges of the Urban Sector in India
Principal Investigator:

Prof. Debolina Kundu, National Institute of Urban Affairs, New Delhi, India


Centre for the Study of Regional Development, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India


India is striving to recast its urban landscape to make cities sustainable, inclusive and at the same time investment friendly. The new urban transformation strategies of India are guided by the twin objectives of meeting the challenges of urbanisation and at the same time ensuring that the benefits of urban development ‘leaves no one behind’. In this context, it becomes important for the new generation of urban researchers to develop a clear macro perspective of urbanisation and its multi-faceted manifestation so that future strategies and decisions could address urban challenges in a holistic and sustainable manner.

The National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) in partnership with the Centre for Study of Regional Development, Jawaharlal Nehru University organised a one-week capacity building programme (workshop) for early career researchers. The workshop helped young researchers to have first-hand experience and knowledge about the urban sector and its growing multidimensional challenges. The workshop also aimed to strengthen the capacity of researchers to undertake evidence-based urban research; to use data analytics and research to influence urban planning, policy and practice and promote project proposal formulation and management skills.

NIUA invited distinguished scholars, academicians and practitioners to guide early career researchers. The design of the programme was a mix of classroom sessions, lectures, case studies, field visits and hands-on-training.

Participants at a Capacity Building Workshop for Early Career Researchers


The main aim of the programme, “to build on the existing understanding of the urban sector and to bridge the knowledge gap of the early career researchers” was achieved.

The one-week (6 days) workshop focused on:

  • Facilitating the development of a new generation of multi-disciplinary urban researchers;
  • Strengthening the knowledge and skills in theory and practice, research methodologies and data analysis in the urban sectors;
  • Strengthening innovative quantitative and qualitative research skills, methods, and data systems to study urbanisation;
  • Strengthening the capacity to undertake evidence based urban research and influence policy and practice;
  • Developing the skills of logical framework and monitoring and evaluation of projects;
  • Enhancing soft skills such as negotiations, conflict management and presentation techniques.

Contributions to challenges in low and middle-income countries (LMICs)

India is an ODA recipient country and falls under the category of lower middle income countries and territories. The workshop was designed specifically for participants from India.

The urban missions such as Smart cities, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), Housing for All, Swatch Bharat Mission, National Urban Livelihood Mission were launched to recast the urban landscape of the country and to make it more inclusive. While these missions have ambitious objectives, in practice, the success of these missions will depend on the cities’ capacities, financial prowess, and preparedness to implement them. The urban sector not only requires specialised knowledge but also cross-sectoral learning to tackle new and emerging challenges in managing the cities.

Continuous skill building and development of research to undertake evidence-based research and influence policy and programme implementation is an absolute necessity for bringing about the requisite changes. The workshop facilitated the same by having sessions on learning from past experiences and bringing in new and improved methods of research. The workshop had sessions on all major urban development programmes (current and previous). It also familiarised the participants on trends and patterns of urbanisation along with New Urban Agenda, Sustainable Development Goals and National Urban Policy Framework.


The overall outcome of the workshop was to directly address the major objectives of the Core SHLC project i.e strengthening research capacity among urban researchers, practitioners (government and UN officials) and policy makers in public and private sectors based in developing countries.

The project team received 69 applications from which 34 participants were shortlisted. A final 32 participants successfully completed the 6-day workshop and were awarded a completion certificate.

Upon completion of the workshop, participants were asked to submit a concept paper, which they would like to develop as a full–fledged research article. 24 participants submitted the concept paper and a final 3 were selected. The selected three participants were provided with mentorship for six months. The three research papers were reviewed internally and externally and now have been submitted for publication in suitable journals. See Outputs section for details of selected papers.

Workshop Outcomes:
  1. Increased research capacity of 32 early career urban researchers (completed/pursuing PhD)

At the end of the programme the researchers developed a better understanding of the issues and challenges of dynamic urban sector. This was evaluated by self-assessment and also by assessing revisions to participants’ pre- and post-workshop concepts notes, where marked improvements were noted.

  1. Development of relationships with key academicians and practitioners who came to take sessions during the workshop. E.g. A few participants are now directly interacting with the experts and taking guidance in their area of research.
  2. The systematic and varied programme design of the workshop which included lectures, training, field visits, mentoring, collaboration and publications was beneficial to all participants of the workshop.
  3. The research fellows at NIUA also attended the sessions of their respective interest. They also benefitted from the multi-disciplinary exchanges which enhanced their own capacities, knowledge and academic networks. They gained from exposure to new concepts and ideas.

Project Outputs

Research papers from participant mentorship:

  1. Pramanik, S., Areendran, G., Punia, M. & Sahoo, S. 2021. Spatio-temporal pattern of urban eco-environmental quality of Indian megacities using geo-spatial techniques. Geocarto International, 1-24. DOI: 10.1080/10106049.2021.1903578
  2. Contemporary Contradictions and Contestations in Varanasi City: Moving from old Heritage City to Smart City .
  3. Frontier, City and Empire: Understanding City Formation in India’s North East

SHLC News story: Grow, Sow, Reap’: Training India’s Future Urban Leaders

Future Activities

As a result of this successful workshop, NIUA received requests to organise such events at a regional level in India. MANIT Bhopal also approached the SHLC India team to organise similar events in Bhopal city. However, due to the lock-down, these activities have not yet been organised.

Capacity Strengthening

The main target group of the workshop was early career researchers mainly those pursuing Ph.D. During the workshop, they enhanced their skills from the specialised knowledge and experience of the experts. The cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary learning enabled them to develop knowledge from beyond their area of research.

The mentorship which was provided to the three selected participants helped them to improve their skills in academic research including their PhD theses. Their topics of research for PhD are as follows:

  • Deconstructing the ‘Right To The City’: Differential Peripheral Spaces In Kolkata, West Bengal, India
  • Cities in the Making: Understanding Hinterland Urbanism of the Brahmaputra Valley since, 1826
  • City size matters! Does small and medium-sized cities are more environment-friendly? An empirical study in India

The SHLC India team also benefitted from multi-disciplinary exchanges which enhanced their own capacities, knowledge and academic networks. They gained from exposure to new concepts and ideas. The SHLC team members who were largely from the economics and geography background with good understanding of primary and secondary data base, gained knowledge about urban planning, governance and financing urban development.

The programme created a strong partnership between the participating institutes and universities. The SHLC team members are now guided by the faculty members of JNU whenever they are stuck at any statistical techniques/method. The partnership may result in developing further research collaboration in future.

The programme benefitted from NIUA’s linkages with scholars, policy makers and practitioners who could share their experience with the researchers.

Capacity-strengthening workshop, Delhi, India.