Strengthening neighbourhood level research capacities for sustainable communities in fast growing Nigerian cities.
Principal Investigator:

Basirat Ashabi Oyalowo, University of Lagos Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development, Nigeria.


Academic Partners:

Centre for Human Settlement and Urban Development, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State Nigeria (Prof Nuhu Muhammad Bashar).

Department of Estate Management, Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu University, Anambra (Dr Mike Anyakora).

Non-Academic Partners:

Nigeria Slum/Informal Settlement Federation, Lagos, Nigeria (Mr Raymond Gold)

CEO, Arctic Infrastructure, Lagos, Nigeria (Mr Luqman Oshodi).

Bariga & Ifelodun Local Council Development Areas (LCDA) Regeneration Programme, Lagos State Urban Renewal Agency (Mr Tunde Babawale, Assistant Director Town Planning).


The aim of this project was to strengthen the capacity of early career researchers across Nigerian universities to undertake neighbourhood level research (NLR).

Over a five-day workshop held in Lagos between 7th and 11th November 2019, 34 participants from 18 Nigerian Universities learnt the techniques, practices, challenges and opportunities associated with NLR. They interacted with various communities during the field assignment and presented a preliminary NLR plan to address critical urban, health or education challenges identified. Achieved in collaboration with civil society, professional and government partners, all presentations have been condensed into a toolkit for neighbourhood level research publication.

Meeting Urban Residents at Neighbourhood Level Research Workshop, Nigeria. Credit: University of Lagos


The five-day capacity-building workshop project was aimed at producing a mass of early career researchers who are capable of identifying and proffering policy-based solutions to issues limiting urban, education and health sustainability in neighbourhoods.

Specific objectives were to:

  1. Enable participants to understand the theories, tools and techniques of neighbourhood level research (NLR)
  2. Provide opportunities to learn from research leaders who have successfully carried out NLR
  3. Strengthen researchers’ confidence in planning, managing and communicating collaborative and interdisciplinary NLR to global standards
  4. Connect participants to opportunities for carrying out NLR research through grant applications.

The workshop was designed to meet these objectives through panel sessions, seminars, field trips, participants’ collaborative work and mentored participants’ presentations. Achievement of objectives was measured through post-session and post-workshop feedback surveys.

The rating from the final feedback form showed that all participants agreed that they had improved understanding of the theories, tools and techniques of NLR as a result of attending the workshop (Objective1). Objective 2 was achieved during the workshop, which provided strategic linkage between participants from multidisciplinary backgrounds at different stages of understanding NLR. Sessions at the workshop were facilitated by academics who had themselves successfully carried out NLR. In addition, participants learnt from non-academics involved in community engagement, for example, community leaders, professionals, practitioners and civil society actors. 97% of participants agreed that the workshop had provided this opportunity.

Objective 3 was achieved during the workshop and by further engagements after. All participants agreed that they had acquired new knowledge and skills and tools for carrying out NLR. Participants noted that the techniques, such as street mapping, photography, focus group discussion and ethnography went “beyond the basic tools” and were key learning outcomes. New skills such as blog writing were demonstrated a few weeks after the workshop. Two participants displayed their new confidence by writing their experiences in a blog series that has been featured on SHLC’s website: Capacity Building in Neighbourhood Level Research: My Personal Gains and Prioritising Sustainable Livelihoods in Urban Slums: Lessons from the Neighbourhood Research Field Trip in Lagos, Nigeria. Non-academic communication tools such as policy briefs and message boxes were also taught. The participants had an opportunity to use the message box to communicate their findings after the field trip.

Objective 4 was achieved, as the network utilised a ‘WhatsApp’ group chat for communication, where over 300 opportunities for carrying out not only NLR research but also other knowledge and career development opportunities such as grants, call for book proposals, Post-Docs, etc have been posted since it was created in November, 2019. In addition, there has been a successful joint AHRC application between two participants, the two grant holders and other colleagues at the University of Lagos on a COVID-19 related subject in 2020. The research required a multi-disciplinary team to study the adaptation strategies of residents of multi-family housing in Lagos. In recognition of the neighbourhood level scale of the research, and having a pool of trained researchers from this activity, the project PI was able to reach out to participants from music and literature to support data collection and dissemination through non-academic routes. See full project details here: A Study of COVID-19 Adaptation Strategies for Residents of Multi-tenanted Housing in Lagos, Nigeria.

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

The project was carried out in Nigeria, a country in West Africa which is ranked as a LMIC. The following activities were carried out to recognise and seek means of addressing the challenges peculiar to urban areas in LMIC.

  1. Field Work: Field work to four distinct communities was carried out. These communities are low income (Bariga-Mosafejo & Ebute, Ilaje-Bariga) and medium to high income communities (Magodo-Brooks Estate, Magodo and Abiola Court 6, Lekki). The objective was to gain understanding of the type of urban challenges being experienced in environmental, education and health domains. Through this activity it was discovered that all communities whether low, middle income and high experienced some sort of urban problem simply by virtue of location and socio-economic circumstances of its residents.
  2. Interactive Session: About two months after the workshop, an interactive workshop was held with the low-income communities to further establish a relationship that could be used to ignite future interventions. In attendance were seven representatives of the communities that the participants had engaged with during their field trip, one representative of the Nigeria Slum/Informal Settlement Federations, and six participants whose groups had visited these communities, albeit only those in Lagos were able to attend the workshop.

The interactive session involved discussions around three issues:

  1. What are the experiences of community members with respect to the most compelling social, health and education challenges facing the neighbourhood as identified during the fieldwork?
  2. How do communities recommend that these challenges be addressed by government and its agencies as well as advocacy groups?
  3. What should be the Lagos State Government’s focus for neighbourhood-level intervention in the next three years and in the next 10 years?

As this project was a capacity building workshop, the major outcome of these activities was to deepen understanding of the challenges experienced by the communities and to create a pathway for future interventions based on co-production of ideas that could be used to address these challenges by government, social organisations and development agencies.


Short Term Outcomes
  1. Increase the critical mass of early careers who have received international standard training in the process and methods of NLR: This was achieved with 34 participants from 18 Nigerian universities attending the workshop. There were 25 early-career researchers and 9 PhD candidates. All sessions achieved Acceptable Quality Limits (AQL) above the 80% benchmarked for the workshop.
  2. Improved individual capacities to develop a neighbourhood research plan: This was achieved and during the fieldwork presentations, participants demonstrated capacity to apply the tools and techniques they had just learnt. The final feedback form also confirmed this.
  3. Improved understanding of how communities prioritise issues relating to urban, health and education challenges: This was achieved through the fieldwork exercise during which participants had direct interaction with residents. 97% of the participants confirmed this in the final feedback form.
Intermediate Term Outcomes
  1. Increased number of co-produced, interdisciplinary, neighbourhood level research studies: Again, 97% of the participants indicated that the workshop had enabled them to create links with researchers from multidisciplinary backgrounds, while 68% recounted that they had initiated research collaborations with co-participants.
  2. Strengthen motivation of researchers to communicate learning outcomes to colleagues, undergraduate, graduate students and policy actors: The final feedback form indicated that dissemination of learning outcomes to colleagues and students had occurred. Plans to engage communities further were underway, while dissemination to policy actors needed additional strengthening.

For example, one participant demonstrated how she shared her new knowledge and skills:

“During our annual conference on the Environment which was held from Nov 20-22, I educated some of the presenters on the need to disseminate the outcome of their research for them to get the desired attention or impact. On the issue of improving property tax compliance, which was one of the papers at the conference, I shared with them what was gathered from the study on Magodo neighbourhood where inhabitants had to negotiate with the government to provide basic amenities before they paid the Land Use Charge” (Dr. Chinwe Odimegwu, researcher in Property Taxation, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu University, Anambra State).

On dissemination to students, another participant reported:

“I have told students in my research class to agree with their interviewees and respondents that they (students) would come back to share findings of their studies with them”(Dr. Obasanjo Oyedele, researcher in Environmental/Risk Communication, Bowen University, Osun State).

Long term Outcomes
  1. Capacity to successfully apply for grants specific to NLR: 97% of the participants indicated that the workshop has given them confidence to apply for grants. About six months after, the Lead and Co-Applicant, two participants at the workshop successfully led the application for an AHRC Grant for a COVID-19 related study in low-income neighbourhoods.
  2. A tool-kit for conducting NLR was compiled from the workshop presentations. It is an easy-to-read hand book for new and emerging researchers in NLR in Africa. 90 Hard copies have been distributed so far.

Future Activities

Participants have recently discussed the following possible future activities through the WhatsApp group:

  1. Following up on the impact the group field-work exercise and findings had on the respective communities visited. This can be achieved through such medium as video documentary, street interviews etc, and would further deepen the emphasis of the workshop on non-academic/unconventional tools of information dissemination.
  2. Intervention projects for the communities that will address the urban, health and education challenges they prioritised during the field visit. This calls for civic action that will have impact with the communities and strengthen their response to researchers in the future.
  3. Publishing the process and the findings from the field excursions, either as a book or articles in highly rated journals. This would be instrumental in establishing long-term collaboration between the centre and the participants. Ideas of specific topics would be co-produced by the NLR group members, with data collection through virtual means. The focus of discussion would be on urban sustainability, housing and development.
  4. A range of articles, book chapters and a special edition NLR journal, are planned.

Capacity Strengthening

After a competitive Expression of Interest process, 34 participants from 18 universities were selected for the workshop. They were grouped into four to visit high, medium and low-income communities in Lagos. Each group was allocated a community leader to facilitate initial access to the residents. Interactions were held to understand how residents prioritised interventions for the various urban, health and education challenges they experienced in their neighbourhoods.

The workshop was delivered in partnership with non-academic partners. For instance, two panel sessions were carried out. The first panel, ‘Working with communities’, was conceptualised to bring researchers face to face with other actors in the NLR arena, while the second was to enable participants to learn about strategies for NLR from community actors themselves. All four panellists are executive members of residents’ associations from three distinct residential sub-markets.

The Post-Workshop activities were carried out to engage further with the low-income communities that were visited during the workshop. With close to 20 participants from the communities, workshop participants and the facilitators, the post-workshop community engagement enabled a strengthening of co-production capacities for both the academic participants and the residents themselves.