Challenges in Changing Cities

Spring 2021 Seminar Series - Urban research and the Covid-19 era

WATCH NOW - 22 April - Housing Policymaking and Practice under Lockdown



Housing Policymaking and Practice under Lockdown

Seminar Organised by the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE)


Dr Chris Foye: A year of PRS policymaking, politics and polling during COVID-19: a comparative study of England and Scotland

Dr Adriana Soaita: Everyday tenant activism: tenants demand right to home

Prof Kenneth Gibb: Help with housing costs and market recovery interventions

Dr Craig Gurney: Dangerous liaisons? Applying the social harm perspective to the social inequality, housing and health trifecta during the Covid-19 pandemic


CaCHE embarked on a series of research projects within a wider programme of Covid-19 research in May 2020, inspired by the invitation to work collaboratively on policymaking under lockdown by Professor Hal Pawson at UNSW. We have published several reports, blogs and papers in the period since and there are many more to come in the months ahead of us, including international comparative work between Glasgow and Sydney. The suite of projects stretches much further now than the original intent and this reflects the fact that Covid-19 and lockdown shed so much light on wider structural housing related questions, and not just policy making responses.   You can find out more about these projects at our website (link above)

In this seminar we present short presentations, summarising four such projects and identifying future challenges for the topic at hand. Each speaker will speak for no more than 12-15 minutes. This will be followed by a panel discussion with Q&A from the floor.

This seminar will be chaired by Gareth James, Knowledge Exchange Associate for CaCHE.

27 May - Understanding urban mobility during the pandemic


3–4.30pm, Register via Eventbrite here >

Understanding urban mobility during the pandemic

The pandemic has brought an unparalleled focus on mobility in urban areas. Initially the interest was in compliance with social distancing measures, then later in understanding transmission risks for the virus and guiding policies on easing restrictions. Looking ahead, the interest is shifting again to using mobility to provide rapid feedback on how cities are recovering – which areas and which activities bounce back, and which do not. Longer term, a better understanding of mobility will be key to achieving more sustainable urban forms.

Capturing mobility using conventional research methods is challenging. Big data from sensors and apps offers great potential but also many challenges. There are technical challenges in managing and analysing the volumes of data involved. At least as important, however, are the socio-legal challenges of securing access to data and the privacy issues raised by high precision locational information. And there are important ethical issues about the representativeness of different sources – whose activities, demands or perspectives are captured or amplified, and whose are omitted or marginalized. A number of private firms have provided public access to data and analyses, with Google and Apple offering near-global coverage for example, but we are unable to scrutinise or validate their methods and there is no guarantee of continuity. Valuable as these sources may be in the short term, they are not a substitute for a more public data infrastructure.

This seminar therefore looks at a number of alternative approaches which have been employed over the last year to capture different aspects of mobility using big data. It reports on several strands of work conducted by the Urban Big Data Centre (UBDC) as well as work in the US using large-scale access to mobile phone data.

  • Introduction (5 mins)
  • New forms of data for urban mobility (30 mins)
    • Presentations from UBDC colleagues on a range of areas of work to capture urban mobility using new forms of data
  • Professor Meipo Kwan: Spatiotemporal Big Data Analysis for Human Mobility Research during the COVID-19 Pandemic (30 mins)
    • Professor Kwan is the Choh-Ming Li Professor of Geography and Resource Management and Director of the Institute of Space and Earth Information Science at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
  • Discussion (25 mins)

WATCH SOON - 3 June - Uneven Impact of Covid-19: Neighbourhood Experiences in South Africa, India, and the Philippines

THURSDAY 3 JUNE, 3–4.30pm 

Uneven Impact of Covid-19: Neighbourhood Experiences in South Africa, India, and the Philippines

Seminar organised by the Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC)


Professor Ivan Turok, Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa

Professor Debolina Kundu, National Institute for Urban Affairs, India

Professor Mario-Delos Reyes, Centre for Neighbourhood Studies, Philippines


Almost no corner of the globe has escaped the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, but these impacts have not been felt equally. Research has shown that our ability to respond to Covid-19 is influenced by social and economic status, suggesting that where and how we live matters. Nowhere is this more acute than cities and towns in the developing countries.

Researchers at the GCRF Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC) are studying cities from the inside out examining the sustainability of different neighbourhoods right across the city.

In this webinar, three SHLC researchers (in-country Co-PIs) from Africa, South Asia and East Asia will present their work investigating how Covid-19 impacted different neighbourhoods and communities across the city. They will address the following questions: What are the defining characteristics of neighbourhood distribution in the city? How has Covid-19 impacted different neighbourhoods and have these impacts aggravated pre-existing spatial disparities? What actions can we take  to address the different needs of urban residents in different neighbourhoods?

The presentation will be followed by question and answers.

The seminar will be chaired and introduced by Professor Keith Kintrea, Deputy Director of SHLC, University of Glasgow.



The asymmetrical impacts of Covid-19 across South African cities

Ivan Turok

I present original evidence that the pandemic and lockdown reflex have magnified pre-existing divisions within cities. Although COVID-19 has severely impacted the whole country, townships and informal settlements have proved more vulnerable than suburbs. This is apparent in terms of employment and hunger. The effect has been to magnify territorial divisions and exacerbate social discontent. Premature withdrawal of government relief is bound to aggravate the hardships facing poor communities that rely on these resources disproportionately.


Uneven Impact of COVID-19: Neighbourhood Experiences from India

Debolina Kunda

The present study aims to understand the differential experiences and response measures associated with the COVID-19 outbreak in different types of neighbourhoods in cities and towns of India, with a special reference to the National Capital Territory of Delhi. Delhi has been chosen as a case study as it has been hard hit by the outbreak and has seen a large number of casualties mostly affecting middle-income and high-income neighbourhoods due to the complete collapse of its public healthcare system. Based on an overview of existing academic literature, reports, blogs, and newspaper articles, the study brings varied experiences faced by residents in different types of neighbourhoods. The study also delves into various official websites to understand the response measures taken by the governing bodies.

As the majority of the megacities have been hard hit by the outbreak, the study first discusses how different types of neighbourhoods, viz, slums, high-density middle-income neighbourhoods, high-rise apartments, and gated communities have been affected by the virus outbreak and what are the different response measures taken at different neighbourhood levels. It also discusses the differential availability of healthcare facilities and vaccination drives across neighbourhoods and examples of good practices in this regard. It explores how different neighbourhoods in Delhi have experienced the pandemic and how different response measures have been adopted at various neighbourhood levels. It also discusses how the digital divide has led to the inaccessibility of adequate healthcare facilities and vaccination in slums of Delhi.


Uneven Impact of Covid-19: Neighbourhood Experiences and Lessons from the Philippines

Mario R. Delos Reyes

The study covers six (6) neighbourhoods and barangays in both the City of Manila (Capital City) and Batangas City (Regional City) which were selected based on neighbourhood income levels. Their perceptions and experiences during the lockdown were explored primarily focusing on the barangay’s healthcare systems, administration management, barangay norms and barangay-led initiatives. These were determined using photo elicitations, online focus group discussions with barangay officials, content analysis on the 2 cities public information Facebook accounts, and document analysis of the national government community quarantine guidelines. Results showed that barangays both in the high and middle income levels both generally felt sad, fearful and worried on how the virus will affect their lives particularly their daily routine, work and businesses. On the otherhand, barangays in the low income level have different general reactions toward the lockdown such as shocked, confused, fearful and worried to the situation brought about by the quarantine with some residents having hard time to adjust to the changes. The barangays are considered as game changers of the lockdown as they are implementers of support on the ground from national government, civil society organizations, private sectors and local government units, as mandated by law in providing services for their constituents. They exerted extra effort to alleviate the current conditions of their area thru initiating barangay-led initiatives.

Autumn 2020 seminar series catch-up - 'Heritage and the Urban Environment'

Seminar One: Why Old Places Matter: Heritage, Emotion, and Place

Why Old Places Matter: Heritage, Emotion, and Place

Rebecca Madgin (Professor of Urban Studies, University of Glasgow)

Tom Mayes (Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel, National Trust for Historic Preservation)

Watch a live recording of this event > Passcode: 6.teFh2d

Over the last few years, evidence that captures the economic, social and increasingly the environmental value of the past has demonstrated the outcomes and outputs of investment in urban heritage. What is less understood are the inputs into this process. Why do people want to live, work and play in historic urban places? Why are historic places seen as special by a range of people? Why can we not countenance the loss of certain historic places? To address these questions this session focuses on the emotional dimensions of historic urban places. 

Rebecca and Tom will first present their own short introductions to the material based on their recent work, in Rebecca’s case the findings from her AHRC Leaders Fellowship project which examined emotional attachments to historic urban places and Tom will build on the ideas found with his 2018 publication ‘Why Old Places Matter: How Historic Places Affect Our Identity and Well-Being’. Both will argue that understanding why historic places matter emotionally to a range of different people is crucial to understanding the importance of heritage.  

Rebecca and Tom will then join the audience in conversation to discuss why and how heritage matters emotionally and the opportunities and challenges this presents for heritage theories and practices. 

Seminar Two: Heritage in Changing Cities - Whose Heritage is it Anyway?

Heritage in Changing Cities: Whose Heritage is it Anyway?

Barbara Cummings (Historic Environment Scotland)

Watch a live recording of this event > Passcode: *Bb3M*#c

Historic Environment Scotland is the lead public body for the historic environment in Scotland but what does that actually mean in practice? What does HES do and how does that reflect how a 21st century population views heritage?

HES has been undertaking ground breaking research both in Scotland and internationally and opening up the conversation about heritage to different audiences. There has been controversy in the press around contested heritage through the Black Lives Matter campaigns; how does this fit with HES role and what does it mean for how we tell Scotland’s story in future? Who gets a say in what gets recognised in Scotland?

HES has also been at the forefront of climate research and its impact on the historic environment, what will this mean for sites and monuments around Scotland in the future and how might that affect all of us?

Seminar Three: Empire and Cityscapes

Empire and Cityscapes

Dr Stephen Mullen (University of Glasgow)

- Glasgow’s Merchant City and the Public Memory of Transatlantic Slavery

Dr Sarah Longair (University of Lincoln)

- Scottish Architects and the Colonial Built Environment

Watch a live recording of this event > Passcode: %5g9Lwa$

Glasgow’s Merchant City and the development of the Public Memory of Transatlantic Slavery

Dr Stephen Mullen, University of Glasgow

Dr Mullen assesses how Glasgow’s memory of slavery has developed. He opens with a couple of simple questions. Why was there so little criticism when in 1990 the local administration named a historic quarter the ‘Merchant City’? And what has underpinned the route to acknowledging Glasgow’s connections to slavery in the thirty years since?

There have been seminal events over that period: the bicentennial of the abolition of the slave trade act in 2007, the Commonwealth Games in 2014, and the change in political administration in Glasgow City Council in 2017.

During this time, the city of Glasgow’s colonial myopia in urban space has been replaced with a ‘public memory’ of slavery which has initiated a political commitment to acknowledge and commemorate slavery past.

There are multiple factors underpinning these developments. The activist organisation, Glasgow Anti-Racist Alliance (now Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights), has highlighted a municipal hypocrisy in their creative outputs. The archival research of historians has percolated into the popular consciousness. We have heard the voice of Scottish-Jamaican campaigner Graham Campbell and the Flag-Up Scotland Jamaica group. And Glasgow’s museums, university administrators and political leaders have been willing to listen to such conversations.

Pioneering strategies in Glasgow have influenced approaches across Scotland, contributing to the development of a public conscience around the nation’s historic connections with transatlantic slavery.

Dr Stephen Mullen is Research Associate in History, School of Humanities, University of Glasgow. He is co-author of the report, ‘Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow’, the first report of its type in British history, allowing Glasgow to be the first university to acknowledge financial income from slavery on a large scale. He is the author of numerous articles and essays, as well as the book, It Wisnae Us: The Truth about Glasgow and Slavery (Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland: Edinburgh, 2009).

Scottish Architects and the Colonial Built Environment: John Begg and George Wittet in early twentieth-century India

Sarah Longair, University of Lincoln

Two Scottish architects, John Begg and George Wittet, created several notable landmarks in Mumbai and elsewhere in British India in the early twentieth century. Begg was responsible for numerous buildings in his twenty-year career in India, such as the Post Office in Mumbai. Wittet’s major works included the Prince of Wales Museum (now the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya museum) and the Gateway to India. They were also instrumental in architectural education in India through their involvement in the development of the architecture curriculum at the Sir Jamshetji Jeejeebhoy School of Art. Both men therefore made major contributions to the colonial built environment as well as the future of the architectural profession in India.

Throughout the rich history of Scotland and empire is an emphasis upon the contributions of Scots in professional fields, with particular attention being given to medicine and education. Scottish architects and their role in shaping imperial cities around the world have remained notably absent from these studies. This paper will investigate the careers of these two men, their architectural designs, and professional networks in Scotland and India to analyse the significance of Scottish, British and colonial identities in their development as architects in the empire.

Dr Sarah Longair is a Senior Lecturer in the History of Empire at the University of Lincoln, having previously worked at the British Museum for eleven years. Her research explores British colonial history in East Africa, South Asia and the Indian Ocean world through material and visual culture. Her first monograph, Cracks in the Dome: Fractured Histories of Empire in the Zanzibar Museum (Farnham, 2015), examined the history of the Zanzibar Museum, which included a study of the museum building and colonial architecture in East Africa.

Seminar Four: Urban Heritage and Close-Quarters Living

Urban Heritage and Close-Quarters Living

(Organised with ArtsLab Cross-College Theme, Heritage, Urban Studies, and Development)

Dr Michael Rapport (University of Glasgow)

- Close-quarters Living, Tuberculosis and Urban Renewal in Belle Époque Paris

Dr Bishnupriya Basak (University of Calcutta)

- Kumartuli – the Making of Heritage, Art and Public in an Indian Cityscape

Professor Samir Kumar Das (University of Calcutta)

- Pandemic and Pratimashilpa: Negotiating Heritage in Times of Crisis

Watch a live recording of this event > Passcode: nR^9ALr7


Close-quarters living, tuberculosis and urban renewal in Belle Époque Paris

Dr Michael Rapport, University of Glasgow

Public authorities in Paris around 1900 sought to control the spread of tuberculosis through urban renewal in the îlots insalubres, ‘unsanitary blocks’, areas characterised by crowded and deteriorating environments. Dr Rapport’s paper looks at the different influences at work among policymakers, especially medical theories, urbanist ideas and political culture, investigating public responses to the proposals, which struck at long-standing communities, social ties and economic livelihoods. He reconstructs a historical model of the dilemma posed between urban renewal on grounds of public health and the survival of neighbourhoods that were inextricably enmeshed with the urban fabric of Paris.

Dr Michael Rapport is Reader in Modern European History, University of Glasgow. He is currently completing a book on Europe from the fall of Napoleon in 1815 to the Revolutions of 1848 (for Palgrave) and editing the Oxford Handbook to Europe in the Long Nineteenth Century.

Pandemic and Pratimashilpa: Negotiating Heritage in Times of Crisis

Professor Samir Kumar Das, University of Calcutta

This presentation seeks to understand the nature of the crisis faced by the Dugapuja heritage of Kolkata at the time of the present pandemic. It also focuses on the idol-makers of Kumartuli – the world’s largest potters’ hub, how they negotiate the crisis and are called upon to reconcile diverse, if not rivalling, imperatives of iconography, of aesthetics and public tastes, of finance, life and livelihood and finally of the public safety acts, rules, verdicts and advisories legislated and issued from time to time by different layers of court and government.

Dr Samir Kumar DAS is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Institute of Foreign Policy Studies, University of Calcutta. He is also the Honorary Director of Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group (CRG) – one of India’s leading think tanks. His jointly edited book The Making of Durga: Art, Heritage and the Public is going to be published soon from Springer.       

Kumartuli: the making of heritage, art and public in an Indian cityscape

Dr Bishnupriya Basak, University of Calcutta

Kumartuli is a unique idol-makers’ colony located in the urban cosmopolis of Kolkata dedicated to the making of clay idols of deities, predominantly that of the goddess Durga. The goddess becomes the pivot of an autumnal religious festival which engages and engulfs Bengali communities across the world, transcending to a social and cultural event of a grand scale. Our book (ed. Samir Kumar Das and Bishnupriya Basak), due to be published by Springer Nature, has its principal focus on the idol-makers (pratimasilpi) and seeks to situate them at the interface of Heritage, Art and Public. Informed by Critical Heritage Studies we argue for a notion of Heritage as a contingent process in the present that aims to dislodge the Heritage-in-crisis model which treats Heritage as a sum total of inert, static traits. We are intent on showing how the idol-makers, embodying an age-old tradition, navigate through the changing conditions, at times also contributing to the making of these conditions. Thus, we challenge any frame of analysis that views them as hapless victims caught in a crisis. This central argument runs through the collection of nine chapters written by experts from diverse fields of Art History, Archaeology, History, Political Science and Sociology. My presentation will be centred on this work.

Dr Bishnupriya Basak is an Associate Professor in the Department of Archaeology, University of Calcutta, Kolkata, India. Her specialisation is in Bengal prehistory but she also researches extensively on archaeological theory, historiographical issues in Indian archaeology and heritage studies, with many papers in nationally and internationally peer-reviewed journals.

Challenges in Changing Cities to me...

Muhammad Imran >


Challenges in Changing Cities to me...

Simon Joss >


Challenges in Changing Cities to me...

John Reuben Davies >


Blog: Investing in interventions to break the psychological poverty trap – Evidence from Kolkata Brothels

Prof Sayantan Ghosal

Adam Smith Business School

Poverty is not only a social and economic condition, it also affects individual psyche, self-esteem and self-confidence. Despite the importance of this psychological dimension its implications are less discussed in development debates and policies. Innovative research in the field of behaviour economics from the University of Glasgow shows how self-image distorted by stigma can lead to behaviours that reinforce poverty i.e. a psychological poverty trap. Importantly, it demonstrates that specific interventions to address low self-esteem can have a positive impact on wellbeing indicators such as agency, happiness, aspiration, savings and health.

How does the experience of stigma affect self-image and attainment? Being poor or marginalised is often accompanied by stigma. Negative perceptions and attitudes affect how people see themselves distorting their self-image. Those experiencing poverty can develop significantly lower levels of confidence in their own ability to succeed. They thus limit their choices and aspirations and focus on short term goals. This mind set can generate negative physical and psychological health consequences, along with reduced educational and professional achievement.

However, the research findings demonstrate that an exclusively psychological intervention with no material incentives, can lead to significant and sustained positive behaviour changes, by restoring a damaged self-image. The research conducted a randomised control trial to evaluate the impact of the psychological training programme Dream Building which aimed to improve the self-image of sex workers in Kolkata. The program consisted of eight group sessions run over eight weeks during which experienced trainers attempted to reshape sex workers’ impaired self-image through interactive discussion, verbal persuasion and role-playing. The training was developed and conducted by Durbar, a Kolkata-based non governmental organisation that has been providing support sex workers for over 25 years.

The evaluation results show not only that the training programme generated positive effects in the short term, but that these effects persisted in the medium term as well.  The programme improved women’s sense of self-worth and ability to face challenges. Regarding health and savings, programme beneficiaries were 53 percentage points more likely to continue to use their savings account 15 months after participating in the training. They also had bank balances four times larger than those in the control group. Furthermore, beneficiaries were 15 percentage points more likely to continue attending health check ups 21 months after the end of the programme.  

In the next stage the research will further expand the understanding of the link between poverty, marginalisation and stigma and economic and health outcomes. It will construct a unique data panel set of over 10,000 sex workers in Kolkata containing financial, health and socioeconomic information as well as participation in the Dream Building programme. This data set will be used to examine how financial and health behaviour correlate with each other and how initial conditions such as age, socio-economic characteristics, family background and exposure to coercion matters for the financial and health outcomes of sex workers. It will also enable an analysis of how the contracts used by sex workers also impact on their welfare. Researchers will work in close partnership with the Usha Cooperative a multipurpose organisation formed by sex workers in Kolkata. 

The study will provide systematic evidence on how and why marginalisation and stigma impact behaviour and wellbeing.  It will make a significant contribution to debates around the role of empowerment in poverty reduction strategies and the importance of interventions that seek to improve people’s self-esteem and aspirations. The insights can also inform policies and programmes targeted at other groups of vulnerable women working in the informal sector, contributing to achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 5 Gender Equality. Research findings will be disseminated on a dedicated website and presented in a policy report aimed at government agencies and non-government organisations working with marginalised groups.

This research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council

Follow this link to find out more about the Usha Cooperative

To find out more about Durbar and the Dream Building programme go to

Related articles:

Poverty and Aspirations Failure

Sex workers, Stigma and Self-Image: Evidence from Kolkata Brothels

Blog: Strengthening Urban Engagement of Universities in Asia and Africa

Prof Michael Osborne

School of Education

Climate change impacts cities all across the globe. Cities are not only dealing with increased risk of flood from rising sea levels, to give just one example. More than half of the world’s population live in urban areas so urban energy use means our cities are also one of the main contributors to climate change. To address sustainable development and climate change challenges it is vital for universities to actively engage with their cities and respond to the issues facing urban communities.

The Strengthening Urban Engagement of Universities in Asia and Africa (SUEUAA) project enhanced the contribution of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Dar es Salaam, Harare, Duhok, Sanandaj, Manila and Johannesburg to help develop and support more sustainable cities. This international and collaborative research project assessed the extent to which universities can respond to city level demands and identified ways to build and strengthen partnerships with a wider range of urban stakeholders.

Research found that universities generally respond to a variety of different Sustainable Development Goals including zero hunger, no poverty, gender equality and climate action. However, many of these activities have been historically undertaken in isolation, that is, without close collaboration with industry, local government or civil society partners. In most cases researchers identified a lack of appropriate structures and platforms to facilitate dialogue between universities and urban development actors in the search for sustainable solutions for their cities.

Given the positive impact that all universities can have in their cities and diverse communities, SUEUAA devised a set of recommendations to improve university engagement policies and promote urban development partnerships, including:

  • HEIs and city-level actors should work closely to identify, prioritise and target local challenges. A focus on city-level challenges will provide clear guidelines and strategic actions that are relevant to urban communities.
  • Policy documents need to develop crises protocols to support emergency responses. While humanitarian and/or environmental crises cannot be anticipated, universities can contribute to the level of preparedness in cities.
  • University policies should define and operationalise engagement at different scales. Engagement at the level of cities, neighbourhoods, specific communities will be critical for a flexible and effective positioning of universities within their immediate context.
  • Policies that support the engagement role of universities should contribute to building a culture of trust and social commitment.
  • University engagement policies must provide flexibility and allow strategic actions to be updated and revised regularly in light of new demands and needs.

The SUEUAA project also made major contributions towards increased awareness of the importance of better university engagement as well as the establishment of new partnerships with city stakeholders. For example, in Zimbabwe, the exchanges facilitated by the project, led to renewed Memoranda of Agreement between the university and the City of Harare.  In Iraq, the University of Duhok established an innovative research collaboration on the environmental impact of conflict and landmine clearance with the Duhok City Landmine Department. The University of the Philippines began to tailor their extension activities to the needs of vulnerable communities in Manila. In Tanzania SUEUAA was instrumental in promoting closer dialogue between Dar-es Salaam University and the city council which generated a series of new collaboration proposals. Partnerships promoted by the project however were not limited to local government. For example, the University of Kurdistan formed closer links to relief and rescue organisations such as the Iranian Red Crescent and took on an active role in the post-earthquake reconstruction process.

SUEUAA was funded by the British Academy under the Cities and Infrastructure Programme of its Global Challenges Research Fund. Research findings and outputs have been summarised in the SUEUAA publication series available at

Blog: Promoting Educational Peacebuilding in Latin American Cities

Prof Evelyn Arizpe, Dr Alejandro Bahena-Rivera, Dr Sinead Gormally, Mr Sergio Hernández

School of Education

Conflict and violence in Latin American cities have had a devastating impact on the welfare of their residents. According to the Inter-American Development Bank Latin America is the most violent region in the world, with a homicide rate of 22 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2017 (approximately 4 higher than the global average). It is the only region where homicide is the main cause of death. Violence is highest in poor urban neighbourhoods and on the outskirts of large cities. Fighting crime diverts precious resources from key areas such as health, education and infrastructure and is estimated to cost countries an average of 3.5% of GDP.

There are many drivers behind persistent high levels of crime in the region such as rapid urbanisation and unequal access to employment, education, health and basic infrastructure. Institutional weakness, human rights violations and authoritarian government policy is not helping to put a stop to violent crime. Most Latin American governments have adopted hard line and repressive responses, but these have had little effect in reducing urban violence. A portfolio of different interventions is therefore needed in order to make cities safer and more secure places to live, work and play.

Today, more and more cities are implementing innovative crime and violence prevention programmes. Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city, has been recognised as a successful hub for alternative approaches that combine education, culture and youth programmes as well as participatory urban planning. Under the new “Medellin Model” infrastructure and urban architecture projects were built in the poorest areas of the city which included a library park and a cable car and escalator system to vertically integrate neighbourhoods. New programmes to provide affordable internet access and free extracurricular activities to young people were also created as well as alternative conflict resolution mechanisms.   This multi-level strategy has been linked to a significant decline in crime and murder rates. In 2007 for example the homicide rate in the city fell from 93 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants to 28 homicides per 100,000 people. In 2017 Medellin was named a UNESCO Learning City and in 2019 gained a Learning Cities Award.

The research project, coordinated by the University of Glasgow, Educational Peacebuilding in Medellin and Acapulco: Understanding the role of education, culture and learning in responding to crises examines Medellin’s life-long learning strategy that aims to promote peacebuilding and violence reduction. The project uses participatory methods to help share and transfer learning from Medellin to Acapulco (Mexico). In the 1950s, Acapulco was considered a top tourist destination and refuge for celebrities, but in the past 20 years, the resort has changed dramatically becoming one of the most violent cities in the world, struggling day to day to cope under the strain of gang warfare. Responding to key issues identified during the research, the project team will plan to make practical recommendations for responding to the current crisis of violence in the city.

The first insights from analysis exploring Medellin have highlighted five main public policy dimensions in which education, culture and the arts have played a significant role in the reduction of violence and the promotion of peace:

  • Education and culture as a vehicle for social inclusion. Fostering education and art-based activities through a strategic partnership of cultural and educational institutions to reduce local socio-educational disadvantages.
  • Implementing policies specifically targeted at young people. This includes both the equipment and the development of educational hubs, subsidising full or partial scholarships for young people, combating discrimination and poverty through educational and art-based activities at the community level.
  • Promoting citizen coexistence through a civic culture. These programs and training activities have been offered by local government and institutions and aim to generate trust and confidence to improve family and community integration.
  • Using culture and learning to promote the city. Encouraging art and cultural activities that alter the perceptions of a city to encourage tourism, enable business relocation and attract inward migration of residents to improve the city's identity.
  • Peace and reconciliation programs. This includes the disarmament, demobilisation and social reintegration of members of armed groups to prevent recidivism in armed groups and long-term social integration.

In the next stages of the research project, the team will conduct interviews with key community stakeholders in Acapulco and develop a remote approach for mapping local community infrastructure using participatory methods. Despite the challenges of Covid-19, the research will continue to engage and work alongside politicians, community members, young people and stakeholders in both cities, in order to move forward in the creation of the vision for 'the Acapulco we want'.

This project is funded by the British Academy through the Education and Learning in Crises Programme.