The YA blog in 2020

Reading time: 4 minutes

The YA blog in 2020

2020 broke a new record in terms of the number of visitors on the blog of the AESOP Young Academics network since its inception in 2014: over 11,000 visitors for more than 16,000 views. This is despite the generalised digital overload (Zoom, Teams, e-learning portals, Slack… ) we have all suffered from!

A big thank you to all those who shared great, inspiring insight and valuable resources on the YA blog in 2021!

The blog remains here to support you and provide an outlet to share your findings, thoughts and experience about all things spatial and planning-related. As a collective effort, we need each other to grow as researchers, teachers, activists and practitioners and support the communities worldwide that need quality spatial planning more than ever.

Three stellar blog posts that stood out in 2020

Word cloud about research methods by Viktorija Priļenska 

The posts with most views in 2020

Besides the post by Viktorija cited above, these earlier blog posts also caught readers’ attention:

Thematic highlights

Below are all the excellent posts published in 2020, by theme:

Getting to know the AESOP Young Academics network

The local committee for the YA conference in Tirana (Albania) meeting digitally at the beginning of the pandemic

Disaster management, resilience, sustainability and mapping

Placemaking & architecture

A creative rendition of the historical medina in Grand Tunis by Sarah Ben Salem

Being a researcher, networking & facilitation

Artistic rendering of screenshot of the online reading group
Community does not stop with covid! Being a researcher means staying resilient while asking the questions that transcend mainstream debates and framings. A familiar experience for all of us: The Urban Transitions Hub at the University of Lisbon meeting as usual – except online.

The state of the art

Calls for blog posts – get blogging as these are still open!

  • Planning around COP25 – a call for blog posts about what spatial planning can do for the climate and the environment, to mark the UN Climate Conference that took place in December 2019 in Madrid, and other landmark climate-related events and initiatives
  • The EU Climate Pact and Green Deal – similar to the above: a call for blog posts about all things environmental

Share your work and insight

2021 can be a stellar year for spatial planning community – so do send through your work and insight in the form of blog posts, artwork, podcasts, video abstracts, and so on. This can nurture the YA community in these challenging times. Sharing on the YA blog will boost the impact and dissemination of your work, as it connects thousands of spatial planning experts and aficionados worldwide. The YA blog provides a unique space to learn from each other and help move the field of spatial planning in the most desirable direction.

Here are some basic guidelines and ideas about how and what to share.

Looking forward to publishing your work on the YA blog in 2021!

Photo by Dimitry Anikin on Pexels.com
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Welcome 2021 – a fresh new start!

Reading time: 3 minutes

Goodbye 2020, welcome 2021

Without doubt, 2020 was a challenging year for all of us. Equally, the challenges came with a silver lining. Every challenge, personal or collective, is an opportunity to become more resilient and to identify what truly matters to us as individuals and communities. Paradoxically, our hyperconnected world has reminded us how much place matters. We have seen how the covid crisis has reinforced existing spatial inequalities in the societies we live in. More than ever, spatial planning plays a tremendous role in shaping the places, spaces, communities and ecosystems that matter to us.

May 2021 be the year communities worldwide join forces to make territories more collaborative, peaceful, joyful and harmonious for both people and planet! Make this spirit of joy and collaboration touch us both individually at a deep level, and collectively at a global scale. And may you keep safe, healthy and resourceful even as social restrictions and lockdowns come and go over the coming months.

Learning to make the best of suboptimal circumstance… Impromptu balcony concert in West Leipzig, during Coronavirus pandemic (June 2020). Photo by Miikka Luotio on Unsplash

A great place to start is the recent YA webinar about ‘Early-career phase for young planning researchers‘ hosted by Rozana Darwich, with great input from Prof. Alessandro Balducci (Politecnico di Milano, Italy), Dr. Beatrix Haselsberger (Ingenieurbüro für Mensch, Raum und Umwelt, Austria), and Dr. Christopher Maidment (University of Reading, UK).

As we all look forward to a more promising year, we can respond to John Forester’s recent call to embrace an ethics of kindness in spatial planning. Kindness, as a matter of profession and concern, would enable to provide a “practical response to the suffering or vulnerability of another”. A renewed focus on kindness would therefore help go beyond a sheer focus on ‘justice’, as justice alone can be colder and, ironically, less engaged, although also necessary. The more depressed or resentful we might feel about the current state of affairs, the greater the potential for solidarity and effective transformation.

Collaboration and collective efforts will be key. As Sir David Attenborough and IPCC scientists repeatedly remind us, we don’t have much time before Mother Nature reminds us who the boss really is on this precious blue planet. Given the chance, socio-ecological systems turn out to be incredibly resilient and can recover from trauma before critical tipping points are reached. The grim, extreme case of Chernobyl provides surprising evidence that, despite all odds, wilderness and wildlife are claiming back a large territory that will long remain inhabitable to humans.

The decade is still young and provides us spatial planners with a unique window of opportunity to give the Earth our very best shot. There are already plenty of initiatives to learn from. For example, one can cite the ambition of Freetown city council (Sierra Leone) to plant and nurture 1 million trees over a four year period to help restore vital ecosystems and help fight climate change locally.

The historic Cotton Tree in Freetown, Sierre Leone. This giant grandparent will soon witness 1 million young trees come to life across the city Picture by Kenny Lynch on Flickr.

Your blog in 2021

In these challenging times, the blog of the AESOP Young Academics remains yours to sustain and feed the AESOP community with your experience, thoughts and dreams about how spatial planning contributes to shaping places and spaces (for better or worse). By sharing on the YA blog, you help ensure the community thrives and flourishes. It goes without saying that you will also increase the impact and dissemination of your work with thousands of spatial planners and activists worldwide.

Particularly, as the EU Climate Pact kicks in and the UN COP 26 climate change conference is due to meet in Glasgow in November 2021, do share much-needed insight about the pivotal role of spatial planning in making our communities more resilient, inclusive and harmonious for both people and planet.

Do share your work, reflections, and dreams in the form of blog posts, artwork, podcasts, video abstracts or other engaging formats with: blog@aesop-youngacademics.net.

Here are some basic guidelines and ideas about how and what to share.

Looking forward to publishing your work on the YA blog in 2021!

Picture by Markus on Pexels

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Adapting PhD research during the Covid-19 pandemic

5 minute read

Guest author: Caitlin Hafferty (@CaitlinHafferty), PhD researcher at the Countryside and Community Research Institute, University of Gloucestershire, UK. Please note, this post was initially published on the author’s own blog, https://caitlinhafferty.blogspot.com.

The pandemic has had a substantial impact on the work of PhD researchers and research staff. As a UK-based PhD student (within geography/planning) who was about to start collecting data when the pandemic started, my own research has had to be almost entirely reconsidered.

In this post, I share some of my experiences from the process of adapting my PhD research. On one hand, this has been very challenging, but on the other has offered new and exciting opportunities. This post has been partly inspired by a Q&A I participated in recently during a great ‘Virtual Data Collection’ event with LiQUiD Lab (@LiQUiDLab), and follows some of the questions I was asked about how I adapted my PhD data collection from in-person to online methods. Hopefully sharing this willl be useful to others who might be in the same situation!

With regards to the impact of the pandemic on doctoral research more broadly in the UK (including the impact of lack of funded extensions on PhD researchers), you can find out more by following @PandemicPGRs on Twitter. They also have a very informative website: https://linktr.ee/PandemicPGR.

Photo by Windows on Unsplash

What issues did you encounter during the pandemic and how did you respond?

At the start of the UK lockdown in March, I was in the middle of collecting data for my PhD. 

For context, my ‘original’ project aimed to build a toolkit for planners and local authorities to engage members of the public and stakeholders in planning and environmental decisions. I’d planned fieldwork throughout Spring/Summer 2020 which consisted of in-person qualitative methods for collecting data, including interviews and focus groups. One of the main methods I’d planned to use was “mobile interviews” (based on some work I’d done for my MSc), which involved walking with participants around an area of interest and mapping the conversation using GPS-tracking, audio recordings, and photographs. 

My fieldwork also involved quite a bit of travelling for meetings and site visits, also working closely with local authorities (e.g. councils) and community groups. This was all based around Gloucestershire (a county in South West England), so I had moved from Cardiff to Cheltenham in early 2020 to get started. 

It quickly became clear that I’d be unable to continue my research as planned. Under UK lockdown restrictions, it was not possible (or ethical) to conduct face-to-face methods for data collection with potentially vulnerable community groups. Public bodies and other organisations I was working with were also focusing on tackling new challenges and emergency Covid-19 relief. 

I made the decision to adapt my PhD quite early on (around April/May), not only because my original project was no longer feasible but because I wanted to do something which had the potential to be useful to those impacted by the pandemic (e.g. the groups and communities I had worked with). I discussed my concerns with my supervisors, who were (and continue to be) incredibly supportive of me and the new research direction of my PhD. However, this was not straightforward – these were all very unexpected, significant changes and it took a considerable amount of time to re-orient my work during an unpredictable and high-pressure period!

How did you navigate adapting your PhD fieldwork, particularly moving planned in-person methods online?

Re-orienting my fieldwork involved adapting some of the core aspects of my PhD. This included making relevant changes to the central aim, objectives, research questions, methods for collecting data, research participants, and case study areas. In addition, I had to re-submit two essential forms to enable me to carry out my research. These were a ‘project approval form’ (detailing and justifying my planned research) and ethical approval (i.e. showing that my research was compliant with the ethics and GDPR requirements of my institution and funding body). 

I’ve written about some of the ethical challenges I overcame during my PhD in this blog post, particularly with regards to my use of online interviews and automated transcription software applications. 

Importantly, I decided to use only online and remote methods for data collection for the entirety of my PhD – an online survey, online interviews (via Zoom and similar), and potential online focus groups. This involved thinking about new ethical and technical considerations (including what might be lost, or gained, by conducting remote/online interviews instead of face-to-face) and reading  about new theory, methods, and approaches. In October, I published a blog post (and infographic) on the merits and considerations of online and offline methods (and the importance of a ‘blended’ approach) within a planning and public engagement setting – however this also has some relevance for research! You can hear more in this Podcast with Bang The Table, where we discuss my research and the challenges of moving in-person engagement online.

Infographic on some merits and considerations for online engagement (source: Caitlin Hafferty for Commonplace).

Other changes to my PhD included shelving work and writing I’d completed for my original project (this was very hard to do!), however I did try to retain as much as I could in my new plans.

What advice would you give to other PhD students who might encounter similar changes and adaptations?

It’s been incredibly challenging, but in hindsight I’m glad I took the plunge and adapted my project. Of course, everyone will have differerent experiences depending on the nature of their project and the context in which they are carrying it out (I’ve been in a privilaged position in many ways, for example I do not have any caring responsibilities at home).

I’d recommend to anyone exploring online research methods to read around digital ethics literature. This is vast area of research, so it’s worthwhile focusing on your discipline and/or the methods you are adapting (e.g. the ethics of moving interviews online). For example, the SAGE Handbook of Online Research Methods is a great place to start, as well as this book by Christine Hine on Virtual Methods and Doing Qualitative Research Online by Janet Salmons. If you’re a geographer or social scientist, reading up on digital geographies is really interesting – e.g. this book by James Ash and Rob Kitchin. There are also lots of journal articles on adapting specific methods, e.g. online interviews – for example these articles in Area and the International Journal of Social Research Methodology.

When shifting methods online, it’s also important to think about the context in which you are using it – remembering that technology is not always ‘used for good’ and can increase social injustices. To quote this fantastic article by Tracey Gyateng:

“And it is because these inequalities exist, [we need to] understand the context & environment in which technology will be deployed, and work with the people who are most likely to be affected…

Have an understanding of the social, historical & political environment in which you are working. This requires you to do research, and actively include groups that hold less power in society.”.

As I mentioned, adapting my work has been exciting in many ways. This has included encountering new areas of research and engaging with a variety of different groups of people. For example, like my PhD the pandemic has had a significant impact on groups and individuals working within my research field (planning, policy, and the environment). Practitioners and policy makers have had to rapidly adapt their work and project strategies, involving picking up new methods and developing technical skills. My new PhD project researches within this area and has been adapted in a similar way, so I’m excited about the potential contributions of my research to knowledge and best practice.

Impact, engagement, and outreach have become central to my PhD (you can find out more here). I’m now more aware of, and my work is more focused on, the practical benefits and utility of my research output rather than purely academic debates (however, these are still very important!). This also inspired me to start a blog, which has turned out to be a great way for me to reflect on my PhD journey and share my experiences with others. 

Thanks for reading, and I hope that this post is useful to other researchers who might be in a similar position. Perhaps most importantly, reach out and connect with others and share your experiences – we are all in this together! 🙂

About the author

Caitlin Hafferty is a PhD student in environmental planning at the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI). Her research is fully funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and looks at the use of information, communication, and collaboration technologies in the planning and environment sector. Specifically, she is interested in how organisations (including planning and public bodies) engage the public and other stakeholders with environmental, planning, and policy decisions. She is an active member of the Participatory Geographies Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), and has been involved with a variety of different events and activities. You can find out more here.

Get in touch: caitlinhafferty@connect.glos.ac.uk (email); @CaitlinHafferty (Twitter); https://caitlinhafferty.blogspot.com/ (website and blog).

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Call for blog posts – EU Climate Pact & Green Deal

2 minutes read

Launching the EU Climate Pact

On December 16th, the EU will officially launch its Climate Pact.

Here is the official blurb on the EU Commission’s climate action web page, enticing you to join the online event on the said day:

“The European Climate Pact invites everyone to take action to fight climate change and work together for a climate-friendly society. Join us for the online launch event on 16 December 2020 at 09:00-11:00 CET […] The Pact’s main objectives are twofold:

  • Spreading awareness
  • Supporting action

The Pact will connect people and organisations from all walks of life to:

  • improve our understanding of climate and environmental challenges
  • develop solutions big and small
  • find ways to influence and change behaviours
  • trigger and scale-up positive change”

The EU Climate Pact is part of the EU’s Green Deal, which aims to make the European continent carbon neutral by 2050 in an inclusive way.

The Green Deal targets the following policy areas:

  • Biodiversity
  • ‘From farm to fork’ (i.e. sustainable food systems)
  • Sustainable agriculture (including the common agricultural policy – CAP)
  • Clean energy
  • Sustainable industry
  • Building and renovating
  • Sustainable mobility
  • Eliminating pollution
  • Climate action (i.e. climate neutrality)

While the Green Deal is a comprehensive package of multi-level actions, strategies, regulations and funds, the Climate Pact will aim to trigger a wide range of more granular, bottom-up initiatives. You can be part of the movement and create a Climate Pact satellite event. You can also become an ambassador with the dedicated hashtag #EUClimatePact.

The EU Climate Pact recognises climate action must happen now. Picture credit: Jasmin Sessler – https://pixabay.com/de/photos/climate-action-fridaysforfuture-4150536/, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=91785894

Call for blog posts

On this occasion, for the period from now until late January 2021, the blog of the AESOP Young Academics invites you to submit contributions, to share your research, insight, thoughts, reflections and/or ideas for how spatial planning can / does / should contribute to the EU Climate Pact, the Green Deal, and/or other relevant policies and initiatives for bold climate action.

Some key, burning questions include:

  • Does spatial planning address climate change and climate action sufficiently?
  • What agency do planning academics, educators and practitioners have to foster and amplify climate action from the level of individuals and neighbourhoods to the EU policy level, including at all intermediary spatial scales in between (e.g. local council, metropolitan, county, region, national)?
  • Is the issue of climate change really too big for spatial planning?
  • Is spatial planning all about adaptation to irreversible changes? Can / should we try to mitigate risks as well through careful design, planning, and management?
  • Any other relevant question for climate action at a wide range of spatial scales, geographies, and other types of space (e.g. digital, governance, infrastructure, temporal, built environment, public space, informal space, economic space, envisioned space, in-door space, spiritual space…) and places (including displacement).

Please send your contribution in any compelling format you would like: blog post, video abstract, podcast, artistic contribution… You can share existing research or thought pieces. You can also submit already published posts (the original publication source will of course be credited). Please send your contributions to: blog@aesop-youngacademics.net. Text contributions can be between 500-1500 words. You can find basic guidelines and more inspiration here.

Looking forward to seeing your contributions showcased on the YA blog!

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You could be… the next editor-in-chief of the blog of the AESOP YA network

On behalf of the YA coordination team and the small but growing team of YA blog editors, I would personally like to invite you to consider a small but key move in your career as academic / researcher / spatial planning officer in the making.

I will begin by enticing you to jump on board the YA blog team, and then share the formal description of what the position entails.

Do you love to blog? Share cutting-edge research from others as well as your very own? Share insight about all the great spatial planning events and collaborations out there? Are you excited to nurture and enthuse a diverse, global community of scholars, educators, planning officers, consultants and activists? Then, you are standing on the shoulders of giants!

The AESOP and YA communities feature key leaders in the field (past, present and future), and you are one of them. We all lead by example, which means plentiful opportunities to learn and gain skills. So by helping to lead the blog’s activity you can also support the YA and AESOP communities in their endeavours to support, design, leverage and evaluate quality spatial planning policies and education that can benefit both present and future generations. Sounds like a big responsibility? That is what spatial planning can do (or perhaps should do, from a normative perspective). If we all get down to it. Lest we should forget about climate change and the rest of it, and just sit idle and wait till we don’t have the opportunity to act anymore.

All ‘calls to planning arms’ set aside, I can only entice you by saying it is a great and highly rewarding experience. As with most things worth pursuing in life: the more you give, the more you get. The good news is, the larger the YA blog editing team, the more tasks can be shared and blog activity will nearly effortless to manage.

The YA blog is all about nurturing your community! A globally active community that spans all sub-fields and types of careers around spatial planning.

Below is the an updated summary of the official call that was shared by my colleagues at the YA Coordination Team, which remains open:

The YA Coordination Team (CT) is seeking to appoint a new editor starting December 15, 2020, for a duration of 2 years. Please apply soon (the deadline has been extended till the position is filled) by sending you CV and letter of motivation (and your eagerness!) to yamail@aesop-youngacademics.net. Preference will be given to candidates who have been involved in YA activities in recent years and/or have previous experience in managing and/or writing a blog.

The YA blog welcomes contributions from members of the network and people interested in planning and research in the broader sense: early-stage researchers, students, activists, practitioners. This is a ‘quasi-academic’ tool, a place for the exchange of ideas, information about events of relevance both for members and non-members; dissemination of best practices, debate on planning/urban/environmental issues of interest to the general public. For reference, you can find out more about the YA blog here, including its creation of the blog in 2014, as well as yearly overviews of the activity. The list is growing, and open to innovation and new exciting projects led by the blog editorial team.

Your responsibility as Editor-in-chief includes

  • ensuring regular activity on the blog (~ 2-3 posts per month) by recruiting new authors and encouraging previous authors to continue sharing regularly, and seeking contributions from occasional authors,
  • developing and scheduling calls for blog posts and publication series around various themes, in collaboration with the other editors of the YA blog
  • managing the review and publication process of the blog posts and making sure contributions do not violate international standards of law, scientific practice and ethics, and observe as much as possible best practice in research dissemination
  • coordinating activity between the YA blog editorial board and the YA Coordination Team
  • overseeing the administration of the YA blog wordpress website: https://aesopyoungacademics.wordpress.com/
  • thinking creatively and co-developing original and innovative ways of sharing research, insight and experience from YA members and non-members in various communicative and interactive formats (e.g. podcasts, infographics, video abstracts…)
  • showing enthusiasm for communicating about all the exciting activities which the YA community organises, in collaboration with the YA Coordination Team and other members of the YA community
  • a self-starter, proactive attitude whereby you will be able to test ideas for the blog, such as different types of resources to share and host permanently on the website (e.g. list of planning-related blogs, planning-related conferences, useful resources and practical information about research, lecturing and practice-based careers, activism in the field etc.)

Your work will be supported by additional supporting editors (currently Caitlin Hafferty, Nina Vidou and Ian Babelon). Future supporting members of the editorial board will be appointed by the Editor-in-chief in collaboration with the YA Coordination Team.

—-


In closing, and to highlight there is a ‘leader’ in each and everyone of us, I will cite a quote attributed to novelist Henry Miller:

The real leader has no need to lead – he is content to point the way.

And if, like our brand new member Caitlin Hafferty, you would rather like to join as supporting editor, we would also be delighted to receive your expression of interest at yamail@aesop-youngacademics.net.

The more, the stronger – and merrier!

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Extract of an artist's graffiti displaying a woman's gaze looking into some distant space. painted with bright captivating colours.
Join the YA blog and help us continuously open our eyes to the many insights and outputs of the AESOP YA community and beyond. Photo by Vlad Kutepov on Unsplash. Graffiti on a building in Gleneigh South, Adelaide, (Australia).

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Public and stakeholder engagement, covid-19 and the ‘digital explosion’ – are we heading towards a more ‘blended’ approach?

4 minute read

Guest author: Caitlin Hafferty (Countryside and Community Research Institute, University of Gloucestershire, UK)

Note: this post was initially published on communications and consultation consultancy Grasshopper’s Insight blog on 27 July 2020. Republished with the kind permission of Grasshopper.

Our work and home lives have changed significantly over the last few months – across the board, we’ve witnessed an explosion in the use of digital technology. For many of us, this has had a significant impact on the way that we conduct public and stakeholder engagement.

Engagement and participation can mean different things to different people.  Here, engagement is considered as a process where individuals, groups, and organisations are actively involved in making decisions that affect them.

This may involve engaging with specific interest groups, and/or the wider public. Extensive and inclusive community and stakeholder engagement are fundamental to project delivery in many key areas of work; including planning, development, implementation, decision-making, research, consultation, information provision, and policy.

COVID-19 AND THE DIGITAL ‘EXPLOSION’

Lockdown has resulted in planned and ongoing engagement activities being cancelled, postponed, and/or moved online. While using digital and online tools for engagement is not new, there has certainly been a noticeable increase in the use of these approaches as face-to-face contact has been restricted.

Over lockdown, different groups and organisations have been using a variety of virtual tools such as webinars (e.g. Zoom), online surveys, social media, and virtual exhibitions. The use of specialist online consultation platforms (such as Commonplace, which uses a holistic, inclusive, and innovative map-based approach to online engagement) have become more widely used. Other interactive web-based platforms for place-making and community engagement include Participatr and The Future Fox. A multitude of tools are often used (and combined) at different stages of the engagement process, and selected based on their appropriate use for different audiences and/or project outcomes.

There’s been a lively discussion around which tools are available; what works well, what doesn’t work, and areas for future innovation. Grasshopper Communications have reflected on this since lockdown began on their insight blog (also see their digital community engagement group on LinkedIn, which was set up to connect engagement professionals and share resources). A great way to stay up-to-date with digital engagement events and resources is Twitter, by following others and using relevant hashtags.

ENGAGEMENT DURING LOCKDOWN: WHAT CAN WE LEARN TO INFORM FUTURE PRACTICE?

COVID-19 has resulted in a huge shift in the way we use digital communication and offers extensive scope to drive forward change to community engagement around placemaking at a pace not seen before.

My PhD research aims to explore how digital tools help to improve engagement in planning and decision-making processes. By asking important questions about how we can engage with people in the most effective, fair, and inclusive ways possible, we can help keep important conversations going to inform strategies for the future.

My infographic “Considerations for digital engagement” summarises some key themes and important questions we can ask when developing engagement strategies in the future.  We need to think about:

Practical considerations for digital engagement; e.g. understanding what’s changed during the lockdown, what barriers exist to uptake, and important concerns such as privacy, security, and GDPR.

Ethical implications of using digital tools, and how this impacts the quality of the engagement process. This includes digital inclusions and exclusions, equality and power relations, and the ease of connecting and engaging with quiet, under-represented, or ‘hard-to-reach’ groups.

Future innovations and exploring whether there’s an optimum ‘blend’ of face-to-face and digital techniques. This includes considering how we can make well-informed choices regarding the most effective and inclusive approaches for different projects and audiences.

The lockdown provides a unique opportunity to understand the value and appropriate use of different digital engagement tools. We can consider people’s responses and attitudes towards different engagement approaches – do those involved (e.g. communities and key stakeholders) feel that engagement is a higher quality when online, or in-person? It’s useful to think about how we use different tools, their impact on the engagement process, and how these choices affect the knowledge produced.

Biography

Caitlin Hafferty is a PhD student in environmental planning at the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI). Her research is fully funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and looks at the use of digital technology for public and stakeholder engagement in the environment sector. Impact, engagement, and outreach are key to Caitlin’s approach to research, and she is enthusiastic to collaborate with organisations in planning, decision-making, and public engagement. Caitlin recently published a blog post with communications consultancy Grasshopper UK (who specialise in planning, consultation and community engagement). This blog post was written for an audience of local authorities and planners and included the production of an infographic on some ‘considerations for digital engagement’. You can read the original blog post and infographic right here!

Get in touch with the author:

Email: caitlinhafferty@connect.glos.ac.uk

Twitter: @CaitlinHafferty

Website and blog: https://caitlinhafferty.blogspot.com/

Posted in Beyond planning, Community engagement, Methodology and ethics, Placemaking, Planning, city, and society, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Governing the Unknown: Adaptive Spatial Planning in the age of uncertainty

5 minutes read

This is a short contribution by the Local Organizing Committee (LOC), from POLIS University, Tirana, unfolding the inspirations and underlying events that led to the theme for the 2021 AESOP YA Conference. At the beginning of September 2019, we decided to apply as organizers of the next YA Conference. We were strongly encouraged by the engagement of AESOP to bring the next YA Conferences (2021, 2022) towards South-East Europe. POLIS is a relatively young university that has been operating since 2007, and a vast majority of the academic staff are also young practitioners specializing in the field of spatial planning. This is a rather new discipline in Albania, given that the urban planning milieu has been dominated by a technocratic, urbanist tradition in the last century. Therefore, this was a golden opportunity not to be missed: (1) hosting a conference dedicated to young academics in spatial planning and (2) launching Albania as an open laboratory to analyze and think critically about political, social, economic transformations going on in South-East Europe. At that point, we needed to find a smart conference topic to encompass the complexity of these transformations. 

We aimed for something future-oriented and linked to the topics of “resilience and adaptivity.  However,  considering the vast amount of conferences in recent years focusing on this topic, we were not fully convinced at the beginning. Nevertheless, our dilemma was shaken soon after our first meeting, with a seismic event of magnitude 5.8 happening on September 21 2019 in the coastal part of Albania. Not long after this event, on November 26, an even larger earthquake of 6.4 magnitude hit the Tirane-Durres metropolitan area. This time the aftermath was tragic (Image 1). The earthquake resulted in thousands of buildings being damaged and ten-thousands more declared uninhabitable. Moreover, there were thousands of people that got injured and 51 casualties were recorded. This event brought to light many of the planning and construction failures in Albania, highlighting the need to rethink  the overall approach in terms of spatial planning and urban development. Suddenly the terms ‘resilience’ and ‘adaptivity’ didn’t sound like buzzwords anymore. Hence, we decided to focus our conference on two main aspects of resilience and adaptivity such as (1) Uncertainty and (2) The Unknown.

Image 1: Emergency workers clearing debris after a building collapsed in Thumane, during the Earthquake of 26 November
Source: The New York Times, Valdrin Xhemaj/EPA

The current global context is facing dynamic development and changes. These new conditions of uncertainty have  created the need for socio-economic systems, people and institutions, as well as our urban and ecological system to become more resilient. Having the ability to cope with crises, but also to adapt to change and situations of  uncertainty, has created the necessity to change our planning paradigms. This has become more apparent in our current and ongoing experience with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

On the other hand, Donald Rumsfeld’s famous saying (2002) “there are known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns” holds truth also for planning. The complexity of our system is increasing, and besides dealing with the growing uncertainty, planning and governance need to deal with the complexity of the unknown. In Europe, for instance, increasing inequalities between people and places, as well as unsustainable development have reached a critical level. This will be challenged further by the pandemic in  the mid-term recovery period, as well as by the long-term climate change impacts. Climate change, as a comprehensive challenge, is not to be seen merely from an environmental perspective. Its socio-economic impacts are extremely important and are played out across territories and spaces. One could simply think of the increased frequency of extreme weather events and their impacts on society and the economy, to understand the magnitude of the challenge, let alone other less visible impacts. Additionally, the high uncertainty in planning and resilience are related and affecting economic, political, social as well as environmental aspects, which all require a degree of adaptation. While uncertainty, on one hand, requires improving prediction mechanisms and management of big data in order to reduce it, the governance of “unknowns” requires perhaps a paradigmatic shift in the way we deal with knowledge in planning altogether. Capitalizing on this, Davoudi (2015) argues that planning can be conceptualized as a practice of knowing situated in a complex interrelationship (Figure 1):

Figure 1: Planning as Practice of Knowing, Planning Theory
Source: Davoudi (2015, p. 327)

Davoudi puts an emphasis that planners need to increase knowledge on what their “does do”. As such, also in the framework of this conference, when talking about the unknown, we refer to this aspect of unknown unknowns in planning. Additionally, an important discussion we would like to open as part of the conference is the question of “what constitutes knowledge in planning and how can this knowledge be acquired?”. 

Spatial Planning as one of the main mediums for achieving territorial governance and resilience of the socio-ecological system, is a domain in constant evolution and need for reinvention as a response to the challenges ahead. The discipline has always been subject to various pressures and concerns trying to adapt to the dynamics of the world. While in its early days, planning was trying to control the future, now the growing recognition that it needs to work with uncertainty is becoming one of the main drivers of change. Today planning as a disciple has a more complex mission to face, and it needs to move away from the initial paradigms that created it.

Nevertheless, the biggest challenge that planning as a profession and research domain is and will be facing in the coming decades, is its ability to adapt and work with climate change, shrinking resources, and high demand for energy, all positioned in a highly uncertain framework. These challenges are known and accepted by planners, and are quite common in planning policy discourses. However, planning has shown little capacity to develop tools and instruments able to respond to the challenge. 

Albania over the last decade has initiated a process of changing its planning system. Since 2007, continuous changes have been introduced to manage the shift from a rigid and inflexible planning system. This is done based on a controlled future paradigm and with a strong urban planning/design focus, in addition to a more comprehensive and integrated approach. This is a similar situation in most Western Balkan countries, stuck in the middle of the complex conundrum between European Integration and internal challenges. On the other hand, the seismic events of 2019 uncovered a very obvious fragility of both the planning system, as well as planning practitioners in Albania. These tragic events now offer the opportunity and the prospect of building a more resilient territory and system. Albania is now an open laboratory, where one can study the failures of the planning system and the prospects of the resilience-based rebuilding process. Organizing the YA conference in Albania with the proposed topic would serve to open an interesting discussion contributing to current debates in the country/region, while at the same time Young Academics could experience firsthand the recovery process from a major earthquake. 

In this regard, the main aim of the conference is to open a debate among young planning academics regarding the question of ‘adaptivity’ in planning and for planning in the face of uncertainty and unknowns. The conference will create a platform for knowledge sharing, from both planning theory and planning practice perspectives. Some of the important questions we would like to answer are linked to issues of dealing with uncertainty in planning, dealing with the known unknowns and to more philosophical issues of dealing with the unknown unknowns in planning and governance. 

We too, as a LOC, are learning to adapt now. Organizing this conference is associated with many uncertainties due to the situation with COVID-19 that has restricted travel in many parts of the world. However, one certain thing is that the conference will occur between the 29th of March and the 2nd of April 2021. Together with the Young Academics Coordination Team we are working closely to prepare for the conference in a multiple-scenario perspective. As much as we would like everyone to come to Albania, the conference still remains a great opportunity, a space to network and collaborate with fellow young planners, which could turn to occur in the form of a  hybrid event: a combination of in person attendance combined with online interaction. We are monitoring the situation and in January 2021 – two months before the conference, we will make a decision that does not influence the quality of the conference and, most importantly, does not impact our health and well-being. 

With this in mind, we would like to warmly invite you to join the 2021 AESOP YA Conference in Polis University, Tirana. Some important dates that you need to take into consideration for the conference are: 

– 2nd week of September opening of call of Abstracts
– 14th of November deadline for abstracts
– 1st of February 2021 deadline for full papers.

See you soon, live or virtually, in Tirana 😊

Image 2: Virtual meeting of the Local Organizing Committee, during the quarantine time April 2020 in Tirana
Source: Local Organizing Committee, personal library
From top-left to right: Fiona, Zenel, Kejt, Rudina, Amanda, Besjana, Rodi, Ledio and Eranda

Guest authors: Local Organizing Committee team: Amanda, Besjana, Eranda, Fiona, Kejt, Ledio, Rodi and Zenel (Image 2). For more information, feel free to contact the Local Organizing Committee at aesopya2021@universitetipolis.edu.al

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Cognitive mapping to understand neighbourhoods – Kenya

3 min read

Editor’s note: This post is the concluding post in a series of entitled ‘Mapping – a tool to build urban resilience’ (see post 1 about community-led heritage mapping, and post 2 about environmental resources mapping for sustainable agriculture). This post highlights the value of cognitive mapping to grow our collective understanding of neighbourhoods, looking at an early example of its use in Boston (MA) and how it has also been used in a neighbourhood located close to Nairobi, Kenya. It concludes with key take-aways about the value of mapping for urban resilience across the world. 

Rapid urbanization has largely impacted the quality of life in cities. This is specifically true for informal urban settlements, which are often unplanned and lack basic infrastructure such as lighting, sewage, drainage, and electricity. According to the International Growth Centre, 86% of dwelling units in Delhi’s slums do not have a water connection. Such settlements are usually side-lined in top down planning processes.

Public engagement into the planning process can help include such settlements into the urban development discussion. Here, cognitive mapping can be an effective tool.  A cognitive map is a roughly sketched map anyone can do to visualise their city or neighbourhood. This opens several opportunities: citizens can bring in very specific information only they can collect, they feel empowered and such mapping unveils a very personal perception of the area. Kevin Lynch introduced the concept in the Image of the City in 1960 stating that as people interact with their surroundings, they interpret and encode them into mental maps.

Here is an example to understand cognitive mapping better. In 1970, Florence C. Ladd asked a number of black children living in the Mission Hill area of Boston, Massachusetts, to sketch maps of their area, and interviewed them about their maps. The map drawn by one child, Dave (below), shows his neighbourhood at the top. The Mission Project area, where the white children live, is represented at the bottom of the map. For Dave, the significance of the Mission Project area is highlighted by rendering it as relatively larger, more prominent and more central than his own neighbourhood (Ladd, 1970). This demonstrates how differently Dave perceives the two neighbourhoods.

Hand-drawn cognitive map of a neighbourhood in Boston, Massachussets, showing streets and blocks

Cognitive map of a Dave’s neighbourhood
Source: Cognitive Mapping and Social Change

Communities can greatly help city planning through cognitive mapping. It is an informal and engaging tool of public participation through which planners can understand how communities perceive their urban surroundings. This establishes a ground for joint discussion to plan better urban areas. The approach can provide practical information about roads, streetlights, stormwater drains, or footpaths to urban practitioners, city planners and decision-makers. Cognitive mapping can also help understand the identity of cities and neighbourhoods. This information can then be used to make inclusive spaces which meet the needs of the city.

Community representatives discussing planning needs with official representatives Source: Kiandutu Settlement profiling and mapping begins

Kiandutu settlement, Kenya, is located on a 94 sqkm land. Its residents face a lack of sewage infrastructure, poor housing quality and poor water access. So the University of Nairobi and Muungano Support Trust Redevelopment supported the community with cognitive mapping.  This initiative understood that locals can gather data about their neighborhood efficiently, which can greatly influence the planning of their settlement.

As a result, the community itself collected data through the Kiandutu’ Participatory Settlement Profile and Mapping Project.  This data helped the settlers understand their infrastructural needs.  They realized that a lack of community gathering spaces, poor housing conditions and lack of sewage infrastructure needed to be addressed in priority. This understanding led the community to act and reach a major change by building a new community hall, improving housing and sanitation facilities.

Links for further reading
https://www.muungano.net/browseblogs/2014/05/22/regularisation-of-informal-settlements-a-tale-of-kiandutu-slums
https://www.muungano.net/browseblogs/2015/08/06/kiandutu-settlement-profiling-and-mapping-begins
https://www.witpress.com/Secure/elibrary/papers/SC17/SC17037FU1.pdf

Take-aways

Clearly, mapping can bring our resilience actions to a whole different level. The next step is to fully integrate it into our resilience strategies. This has already been successfully done in selected cities. In 2013, the Minneapolis Climate Action Plan recommended strategies to increase energy efficiency, the number of bike lanes and active transport, recycling and composting after mapping vulnerability factors such as urban heat island effect, lack of access to public transport and neighbourhoods prone to flooding. Melbourne enhanced its urban resilience by mapping its metropolitan area’s biodiversity in 2017. This baseline map helped draw up urban forest precinct plans to protect and expand green cover in the city. As a result, today 25% of the city’s public land has a forest canopy cover, and this share continues to increase. UNICITI works with mapping experts to address issues discussed here. Reach out to us if we can help.

Biography

Olga_profile_pic_200xOlga Chepelianskaia is principal consultant and founder at UNICITI. Olga has international technical field experience in over 20 Asian cities and 40 Asian countries, conducted in the frame of programs and projects implemented for a number of international development institutions such as the ADB, CDIA, UNECE, UNEP, UN ESCAP or UNDP.

Posted in Community engagement, Impact, Resilience, Sustainability and resilience, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Desassossego [disquiet]: reflecting on being academics during the Covid-19 pandemic

8 min read

Guest authors: Urban Transitions Hub (UTH) (Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon)

Editor’s note: This post is an engaging contribution by the members of UTH, including the founder and former editor-in-chief of the YA blog. 

With this collective post, the Urban Transitions Hub wants to contribute to the debate about what it means to be a social scientist today, and what it might mean in the medium term. Perhaps aptly, we began this reflection on April Fools day (April 1st) during our first online meeting amid Covid-19 lockdown measures. We came together somewhat unsure of how and what to share between us, realising that ‘business as usual’ was not an option, and soon finding that we were searching for a space where we could discuss our collective desasossego (Fernando Pessoa’s disquiet) and unease triggered by the way the pandemic was affecting our personal and professional lives; we also needed to make renewed sense of our work in the ‘now’, and into the uncertain future. This is an open, ongoing exercise in self-reflection, which may hopefully resonate with others out there. The post is (un)structured with the view of sharing our tentative steps from facing, coping and reacting to this situation, toward organising ourselves to better act, together.

Artistic rendering of screenshot of the online reading group

Literally, a picture of UTH members in the video call – 1st April. Credit: the authors.

FACING

We started this conversation roughly two weeks after the state of emergency had been declared in Portugal (on 18th March). We began by sharing what we felt about the ongoing situation, which, at the time, seemed like a perfect storm: one that generates unease, confusion, and struggle, while hitting on already fragile structures and systems. For many of us, this latest crisis represents an acceleration of existing patterns, trends and weathered crises – weathered, for having been defined as such for much too long. We witness problems and contradictions that have been building up over decades, to which the pandemic seems to offer a tragic new stage. And we feel that new patterns, or ‘rising monsters’ as some have been calling them, appear to creep over the horizon of a Covid-19 dawn: the techno-dystopias, the authoritarian backlashes, the glaring inequality of suffering…. the excluded choices, the unrevealed (unexplored?) assumptions about what is life, and what is being made ‘safe’.

This ‘state of affairs’ can generate a sort of cognitive (and existential?) dissonance, which is likely to be a new norm for most of us as we feel social proximity and social distance; digital connection and physical separation; affirmation and denial of previous values; future and past trends and processes; micro- and macro-politics; wish for safety (overly understood as top-down control) and for individual freedom (which resembles bottom-up agency). Perhaps even more poignant, a sense of confusion mixed with struggle as much of our work appeared to be too distant from the here-and-now of the crisis, suggesting that a certain dissonance may be spreading across our to-do lists.

As we shared and compared our individual ways of dealing with the situation, we found out that they inevitably differed depending on our context and life situation. For example, it matters whether your relatives and friends are healthy, you are alone or with someone, and whether you have children demanding most of your time and attention. It also matters whether you are in a secure job situation, or not: as it happens, none of us has a permanent contract, but we can position ourselves along a ‘spectrum of precariousness’. These, and many other feelings, colour our interpretation and sense-making of current affairs as well as of our academic work.

In this regard, our point of departure was to observe the extraordinary barrage of opinions and suggestions arising from this new horizon; and taking note of themes cropping up, as a potential ‘to-research’ list. We mentioned many, very diverse, themes, as if to prove to ourselves our struggle to make-sense. For example: the politics and economics driving un-responsiveness, the health science ‘suddenly’ gripping decision-makers where biodiversity and climate change science had failed for decades, new demands for human-nature connectedness (omitting to mention the ‘over-connectedness’ that probably drove us into this mess), new possibilities and critiques of the ‘life vs tech’ agendas, bold unilateral steps towards colonised futures where apps may legitimize our mobility, renewed questions about what and how we teach and learn etc.

The exercise was useful nonetheless. It convinced us that it is too early to build a research agenda – unless you build it for a specific purpose (e.g., helping the state manage this crisis), or to jump aboard the latest Covid-themed funding opportunity. But our immediate goal is to try and connect the pieces of the puzzle arising from this crisis, and thus we realised we needed to take a step back.

Picture of narrow street with staircase and graffiti in Lisbon, looking up

A street in Lisbon. Photo by Aaron Thomas on Unsplash

COPING

For starters, it seems odd that we needed a pandemic to start discussing our family lives among ourselves – something we tend to put aside as if honouring an idea of ‘scholars’ that could have been relevant in the 18th century? Reflecting on the separation between personal and professional life, especially at a time when they are physically inextricable, and how to reconcile these seems to be a starting point. A bit like (re)discovering our own humanity.

We are all struggling with our existential space and knowing that this is a shared struggle helps feeling less alone. We are worried about how to maintain some kind of balance in order to keep home a safe, and healthy, space. Some of us have decided to stop watching the news, since they tend to (re)produce panic; and we try to keep ourselves informed using different means. The goal is to try and identify the anchors that can keep us afloat and to learn how to better deal with those very monsters we mentioned above. Having a ‘to do list’ to organise our daily job routine seems to help. Time matters, some are using the time liberated from meetings and daily bureaucracies to spend more time thinking and reading; others have been privileging spending more time to being in contact with family and friends – digitally, it goes without saying. From these reflections, we wonder whether more space for ‘care’ in academia (among peers and in our academic practice) may emerge.

Granted, some of us feel privileged because, in the face of our shared precarity, a part of UTH has a relatively secure job and thus a steady income in spite of the looming economic debacle. And yet, all of us felt like having a conversation on how this is affecting our human condition – who we are, what we are doing – in spite of academic pressures that urge us to think and talk about research agendas.

And precisely because of the need for a reintegration of ‘minds and bodies’, the researcher and the human being, it seems to us that the starting point is engaging in discussion aiming at reframing our questions, much more than providing answers (and certainly before attempting to do so). Some of us have reacted with a sense of rejection of their current work, as if it suddenly felt ‘meaningless’; others have been trying to resist to what they perceive as an attempted instrumentalisation of our job for this or that agenda: what we do still does matter – it may matter even more – and it should not matter only for its direct, visible, or ‘measurable’ impact. Part of what we do, especially in the humanities, is giving space to reflection. Our job is above all about exploring intellectually the realm of possibilities.

REACTING

A question for which we have no definitive answer is: is it (already) time to articulate a comment on what is happening? We are trying to reflect on what (and how) we should write, be out there as critical social scientists, and think in the long term, beyond technical and pragmatic contributions. Social sciences have long been put under pressure to continuously prove their relevance and impact: will pressure further increase after this? More cuts to social sciences will be done to fund bio-sciences? The signals made by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology do not seem promising in this respect, as some emergency funds have been allocated for medical research and AI during the pandemic.

We can try to gather the energy to focus on the greater meaning of this situation and the proper ways to contribute, as individuals, as scholars, as a group. We feel that business as usual work and schedules are not a priority, and should not be for the wider academic community. We feel that individualised agendas, egos, careers are not so relevant now (and should never have been so dominant): against a Covid-19 horizon, they appear even more dispiriting and disruptive than ever. It is not so much about the number of working hours that you put in a day, but the sense therein.

Looking to what can be unbuilt, removed and demolished… getting rid of all that noise, paying more attention to the (social and academic) relevance of the kind of inputs that are less valued in and through academia. Outreach work, work as activists, action/engaged research and similar practices that are less valued in our CVs. We need to increase our social productivity within society and politics. We should focus on the real world, doing some kind of real job. Our work has to have a community dimension. Giving help, rather than being helpful as academics. We should raise our voice out there, on citizens’ platforms – who may not read long academic papers but possibly watch videos, or interviews. Try to cooperate on concrete processes and practical tips, help in our local community.

We need to increase our social productivity within society and politics. We should focus on the real world, doing some kind of real job. Our work has to have a community dimension.

Picture over orange-tiled rooftops in Lisbon, with the sea in the backdrop

Sea of orange tiles. Photo by Tom Byrom on Unsplash

ORGANISING

 As you will have gathered then, we do not yet have an answer, or even a question, let alone a clear list of priority themes to offer. For all the above reasons, we do not really feel in the position to give much advice, but hope this brief account of the steps we took so far, and of how we are organising to cope, react and act, may be useful to other groups out there.

Following the March declaration of the state of emergency, our Institute closed and we cancelled our monthly meeting and reading group. Soon however, one of our members who was driven by the challenge of suddenly being locked out of the office and having to work at home, suggested we could try holding the reading group online. We were a bit sceptical at first: can you really do an engaging reading group discussion online? The answer turned out to be yes! Although the level of interaction we had during that session was definitely lower than usual, the need of a stricter organisation of the conversation also forced us to a fairer distribution of talking time. To our collective surprise, we enjoyed it! This encouraged us to hold our first online meeting soon after, and – perhaps inevitably given all the above – it served first and foremost as a much welcomed self-help group. Several of us took notes, and came up with the idea of putting a text together, which we then discussed in our following meeting as a way to explore ways of moving from coping to (re)acting. For one, we decided to change the topic of the following reading group, dedicating it to the urban and social implications of epidemics:[i] with a view to advance our thinking towards a revised research agenda for our Hub.

But we are not in a rush.

Reflection of buildings in a very small pool of water on a cobbled street

Cais do Sodré, Lisbon, Portugal. Photo by Alex Paganelli on Unsplash

NOTES

[i] In case you were wondering, we read: Connolly, Keil and Ali’s review of extended urbanisation and infectious diseases; Social Contagion, a long post by China-based collective Chuang on the capitalism/epidemics nexus – indeed, one of the best, if indirect, responses to the (in)famous Sopa de Wuhan; and Bratton’s 18 lessons from quarantine urbanism.

Biography

UTH logo The Urban Transitions Hub (https://urbantransitionshub.org/) is a group of researchers interested in exploring the urban dimension of the Anthropocene and its crises: theorising and shaping more equitable and sustainable urbanisation. The UTH is based at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon, within the research group Environment, Territory and Society. Get in touch at: simone.tulumello@ics.ulisboa.pt

Posted in Academia, research quality and assessment, Beyond planning, Dissemination, outreach, communication, Planning, city, and society, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Environmental resource mapping

3 min read

Guest author: Olga Chepelianskaia (UNICITI)

Editor’s note: This post reviews the importance of mapping local environmental resources using diverse data to support agricultural practices in the state of Karnataka (India). The post is the second one in the three-part series entitled ‘Mapping: a tool to build urban resilience’. The premise for this post is that agricultural resilience in a rural setting is fundamental for wider urban and societal resilience. See here for the first post about community-led heritage mapping in Kathmandu, Nepal. 

Rain-fed agriculture plays an important role in Asia’s economy. More than 60% of agricultural land in South Asia is rainfed (FAO, 2005). Rain-fed agriculture is vital in India too. The country has nearly 180 million ha of cultivable land (The World Bank, 2016), which employs 50% of the country’s workforce.

However, this resource is vulnerable to climate change. Over 40% of this land lies in drought prone areas, while 54% of India’s net sown areas are dependent on rain. Over 150 million ha of the country’s cultivable land are eroded because of floods (Suhas P Wani, 2009).

Map displaying Distribution of rain and crops across India

Left: Major rain-fed districts in India and their major crops.
Right: India’s drought proneness
Source: Rao et al. 2015 and Resource Research

The State of Karnataka, India, illustrates the situation well. Nearly 80% of Karnataka’s land falls in drought prone areas while they heavily rely on groundwater. Since 1990, this resource faced an excessive pressure, which led to a sharp decline in water levels and deteriorated the water quality. These conditions directly affect the livelihoods of farmers across the State. In such a context, efficient water management becomes a question of survival for them.

Picture of five people holding a large printed map of local environmental resources in Karnataka, India

Field verification by TERI in Kalaburgi’s Dotikola village. Source: TERI.

pic2b

Right: A thematic map in LRI atlas. Source: TERI

Realizing this, the Watershed Development Department of Government of Karnataka (WDD) and the State Department of Horticulture (DoH) joined forces to start Karnataka Watershed Development Project-II. Locally known as SUJALA3, the project brings effective watershed management through science-based approaches. One of them is mapping the local resources in 3 steps:

  1. Resource Mapping: Information on soil and land use was mapped at a farmer field scale by the National Bureau of Soil Survey, Land Use Planning (NBSSLUP) and the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore. Information about local watersheds, ground water content and crop cycles were documented in detail.
  2. Data Atlas: Based on this in-depth mapping, a Land Resource Inventory (LRI) atlas was developed for each local watershed area. The LRIs are a comprehensive assimilation of the mapped local resources. They detail site-specific information on the soil texture, moisture availability, suitable crops, nutrients and site-specific farming techniques.
  3. Accessible Knowledge: Lastly, the LRIs were made in the local language.

This mapping exercise at the field level helped farmers select best suited crops based on the amount of water and the type of soil they had. As a result, farmers reported an average increase of 100 kg per harvest. Resource mapping can also help incorporate climate change projections and help farmers climate proof their activities.

Picture of outdoor covered meeting with experts sharing information with local farmers

LRI training given to farmers in Davangere, Karnataka. Source: TERI

pic4

Farmers have reported an average increase in produce of 100 kgs per harvest. Source: TERI

Links for further reading

https://www.oav.de/fileadmin/user_upload/5_Publikationen/5_Studien/170118_Study_Water_Agriculture_India.pdf
https://www.teriin.org/article/karnataka-adopts-new-approach-enhance-impact-watershed-programme

Biography

Olga_profile_pic_200x

Olga Chepelianskaia is principal consultant and founder at UNICITI. Olga has international technical field experience in over 20 Asian cities and 40 Asian countries, conducted in the frame of programs and projects implemented for a number of international development institutions such as the ADB, CDIA, UNECE, UNEP, UN ESCAP or UNDP.

Posted in Climate change, Development, Ecology, Sustainability and resilience, Territory, landscape, land, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments