Lancaster University leads GREAT new overseas project

A £1 million project to give residents of informal settlements in Latin America and the Caribbean a real voice in their future and their developing communities is announced today.

Led by Lancaster University, an international team of researchers in the UK, Colombia and Cuba will seek to transform our understanding of how life in informal settlements is conducted with or without connections to formal utility, sanitation, transport and telecommunications networks.

The project is funded by UK Research and Innovation through the Global Challenges Research Fund and is one of 141 new international development research projects tackling an array of global challenges .

The awards, which form UKRI’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Collective Programme bring together a wide range of researchers and experts from across the UK and developing countries to generate innovative solutions to intractable development issues and contribute to enabling healthier and safer lives, sustainable development and prosperity for all.

The three-year, Lancaster-led project is entitled ‘Gridding Equitable Futures in Areas of Transition (GREAT) in Cali, Colombia and Havana, Cuba’.

Research, public engagement, and dissemination activities will be structured around three main themes, namely, policy and urban planning, mobility and transport, and zero-waste innovation.

This work will combine: immersive fieldwork, GIS mapping, community workshops, seed-funded projects, and work with local policy and planning authorities as well as charitable organisations.

The partner academic institutions are: the Bartlett/Development Planning Unit at University College London in the UK, the Universidad del Valle in Colombia and the Universidad Tecnológica de La Habana, CUJAE in Cuba.

Several local partners including Directorates of Transport and Environmental Management, Secretariats of Health, Housing, and Citizenship Participation, the Cali Mayor’s Office and NGOs will take part in and help shape the main outcomes of the project.

The GREAT project brings together the expertise of environmental scientists, transport and geomatics engineers, architects, urban planners, sociologists to address key UN sustainable development goals. GREAT’s main goal is to embed the voice of residents of two informal settlements into ongoing initiatives related to the social futures of Cali and Havana.

Co-lead and Co-Investigator of the project Dr Carlos López Galviz says: “The contrast between Colombia and Cuba provides a unique opportunity to understand the additional challenges that areas in transition – to peace, in the former, and to a new constitution, in the latter – pose to informality and will contribute to developing new approaches through which these challenges could be addressed more effectively.’

Co-lead and Principal Investigator Professor Monika Büscher says: “This is an exciting opportunity for global collaboration for transformation. Equitable urban futures are a shared responsibility.

“Working with researchers and inhabitants of informal settlements in Cali and Havana promises a new collaborative way of learning in conditions of precarity, facilitating collaborative making of better mobility, urban planning, and zero waste futures. Learning points from this project will be relevant across Latin America and the Caribbean.’

The project will run until September 2023.

Visit the project website at:

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