The ESD Learning Alliance is an action-research platform that seeks to co-produce actionable knowledge for environmental justice and sustainability in the urban global South. The platform brings together a high diversity of learners, including international students from the Practice Module of the MSc in Environment and Sustainable Development (ESD) at the Bartlett Development Planning Unit, University College London, with various institutions and civil society groups working for pro-poor development.
The learning alliance builds an incremental body of knowledge over several years in different cities to understand how environmental injustices are produced and how they can be addressed. Besides seeking to influence policy making and planning through strategy development, it also aims to strengthen the local research capacity of young professionals and partner institutions.
How do we learn the city?
How can learning produce knowledge that has an impact on urban planning?
How can learning foster new ways of linking urban theory and planning praxis?
Situated Learning
We embed ourselves in the context, learning through everyday interactions during our overseas practice engagements in selected neighbourhoods.

Focusing on neighbourhoods, provides a unique lens to explore power relations and learn about wider processes of change shaping a city.

The ways in which citizens interact with state and private actors, the challenges they face in accessing secure housing, services and infrastructure, and their agency, is examined and reinterpreted at every scale, from the household to the city-level. By exploring social and environmental justice at the neighbourhood-level, we can identify scalable strategies and imagine scenarios for more equitable and sustainable urban development for the wider city.
Learning Spatially
We use mapping towards multiple ends: to grasp the spatiality of problems at various scales, to foster critical reflection and awareness, to denounce otherwise invisible processes and to provoke new framings of urban change.

Learning the city through mapping can enable actionable knowledge. It can be an impactful mode of investigation and communication; enabling learners to engage with, rather than reduce, complexity.

To learn more about our related mapping work visit the links below:
Learning With Others
Lay and expert knowledge are equally valid in urban knowledge and theory. We take a transdisciplinary approach to include a wide range of stakeholders from government institutions, civil society groups, national and international organisations, academics, civil society groups and poor and impoverished women and men, to co-produce knowledge through action-research.

Moving from individual ways of learning we approach ‘public learning’ as a means to reframe the way the city is perceived, experienced and addressed, as a relational process by which ordinary citizens make sense of cities collectively. This has the capacity not only to make the invisible visible and to raise public awareness, but also to foster spaces for collective dialogue and advocacy, to trigger imaginaries of how the city could be more just and resilient, to set precedents for transformative action and to consolidate institutional commitment towards that aim.
Reflexive Learning
Pausing to think about the consequences of where we learn from and how are fundamental to challenge and make explicit our positionality.

We instigate opportunities for critical reflection at various stops throughout the learning journey to develop reflexive, ethical and forward-looking urban practitioners.

We do this in several ways, starting with an exploration of one’s assumptions about urban socio-environmental transformation and the skills required to become active players in pursuing transformative planning.
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