I once wrote
“I like to explore cities and find those hidden corners of human activity and spark. I would like to know what makes people move and feel a part of their city. I would like to know why these hidden corners flourish and how we can work to preserve them. So this blog is to observe, dialogue and reflect on what makes a city flourish.”
Urban Dialogues (this blogs’ previous name) was created as a space for exploring different ideas about the cities I encountered. This included dialogues on public and private spaces in the city; accessibility and inclusivity; creativity and ownership over the city; and identity in the city. There was the intention that it could become a space for online dialogue between city-dwellers that were involved in re-creating and transforming city spaces. More importantly, it was initiated to meet a drive and specific interest at the time, which has now become more defined. Its purpose from the beginning was not meant to be set in stone as a blog is understood here, to be by definition, a flexible space.
With more experience, it becomes clearer that the way knowledge about the city is produced/ reproduced/ disseminated/ understood and applied shapes how the city is transformed by the multiple individuals that inhabit it. Knowledge and understanding about the city is inherently politicised and powerful and can be used for or against the common good, depending on who produces, shares, manages and claims it. What has been observed is that the actions that were discussed in Urban Dialogues in relation to creativity, ownership, inclusivity and accessibility, are often the result of a reaction to knowledge and understanding about the city (see Revamping Urban Dialogues). Linking back to Urban Dialogues, many of these reactions lead to the consolidation and / or re-distribution of power, justice and ownership in the city.
So, Engaging Urban is the product of a more defined drive and interest, I hope to be writing about the cities I visit. Particularly initiatives that I encounter, which can help me answer an intentionally broad, guiding question:
How knowledge from different actors in the city – about the city – is produced/supports/ limits /transforms the actions that take place in the city?
The terminology in Engaging Urban
Information: Information is used here in relation to the statistics and statements that people have access to without having meaningfully participated in generating the information. For example: information that is collected from national surveys, from satellite imagery or from secondary sources.
Knowledge: Here knowledge refers to the collective production and use of information to give meaning to a problem and/or a solution. It is not produced from a single source but through interaction, mediation, debate and collective re-signification. For example: community hazard mapping, participatory planning proposals and budgeting, common feedback or experimental collective interventions in the city.
Knowledge engagement: This refers to a deeper form of communication that moves beyond exchanging information toward using that information to develop knowledge and solutions together.
Informing choice: Ensuring that those that are making choices about their actions in the city have access to the best information and knowledge available and understand on how to apply it to make those decisions.
Engaging urban: A combination of understanding urban contexts, with a specific focus on knowledge engagement. The term aims to inspire the concept of a city that is actively catalysing knowledge production, engagement and transformation through collective action. Where all forms of knowledge contribution are valued based on merit rather than socio-economic or political positioning.
I am an independent consultant working in the fields of urban development and humanitarian response. I specialise in qualitative research on the socio-spatial complexities of urban environments. Through my work, I am passionate about identifying and developing mechanisms that enable greater accountability and inclusiveness in the design and implementation of urban planning and policy making.
I have research – and work – experience from Nepal, Philippines, Colombia and the UK.
Key themes of interest: qualitative and quantitative research, urban planning, urban sociology, social justice, community engagement, knowledge building, resilience, environmental policy, inclusive programming, adaptive management and impact evaluation.
Personal strengths: teamwork, trans-disciplinary and cross-cultural thinking and dialogue, adaptation, taking initiative, independence, organisation, creativity, approachability, striving for challenges and continuous learning and self-improvement.