Virtual Sandpits Follow-on Funding

The British Academy has awarded funding to 16 international and interdisciplinary research projects tackling global challenges from the perspective of the humanities and social sciences.

Funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and framed around the themes of "Just transitions", "Global (dis)order", and "What is a good city?", the projects arise from the British Academy’s international virtual sandpits, which were held in February and March 2021 and brought together researchers from across the humanities and social sciences to engender new thinking, develop interdisciplinary collaborations, and further international engagement with a particular international policy and practice focus.

The 16 projects follow on from the discussions and collaborations developed during the sandpits and span all three themes.

Funded projects

Institutions for the global governance of the just transition – Professor Raphael Heffron, University of Dundee, Professor Peter Newell, University of Sussex, Dr Olga Mikheeva, University College London, Dr Iva Pesa, University of Groningen.

  • In delivering a just transition, international institutions have an important role to play. Yet research on global energy governance (and its financing) has thus far not attended to these critical justice dimensions. This research will utilise a case study of the energy sector to highlight how these institutions can contribute to just low-carbon transition processes and outcomes. There are multiple institutions that will be explored such as the World Bank, IMF, ILO, IEA, IRENA, OPEC, UNEP. These are large, bureaucratic, knowledge-intensive, multilateral organisations that largely define epistemic and ideational discourses that guide public policy choices, directly work with national governments and enforce international regimes worldwide. Utilising mapping and interviews, we will explore the decision-making processes of these institutions (and the interrelationships between them) and examine how and why positive changes with respect to accelerating more ambitious and inclusive climate action were made.

The future of work in just transitions – Dr Jo Cutter, University of Leeds, Luisa Miranda Morel, C40 Cities, Sam Mason, Public and Commercial Services Union, Professor Raphael Heffron, University of Dundee, Professor Keri Facer, University of Bristol, Professor Neil Adger, University of Exeter, Professor Simon McGrath, University of Nottingham, Dr Treasa De Loughry, University College Dublin, Dr Melanie Levick-Parkin, Sheffield Hallam University, Dr Leah Lovett, University College London.

  • This project reimagines work and employment in just transitions (JT) to sustainable futures. It seeks to influence policy making that shapes transitions, drawing on emerging cross-disciplinary research. The project deploys design and futures methodologies to translate knowledge and co-create resources for policy making in this area, through a series of innovative themed events with partners in communities, and employment and skills policy makers, coupled with complementary interdisciplinary academic analysis. We bring expertise from sociology and employment relations, design, literature, human geography, education, legal and development studies to improve how work futures are articulated within JT narratives. We will amplify the voices of those less heard in JT debates through connecting dialogues in the Global North and South to help ensure that principles of equity, inclusiveness and decent work, as embedded in the Sustainable Development Goals and ILO 2015 Just Transition Guidelines are realised.

Just transitions in biodiversity governance – Professor Antonia Layard, University of Bristol, Dr Laura de Vito, University of West England, Professor Roger Few, University of East Anglia, Dr Sophia Hatzisavvidou, University of Bath, Dr Leslie Mabon, University of the Highlands and Islands, Hannah Moersberger, Sorbonne University, Dr Odirilwe Selomane, Stellenbosch University.

  • This project explores just transitions in biodiversity governance. While climate change, biodiversity, environmental and social justice are increasingly understood as interconnected, there is less explicit attention to the just transition concept within biodiversity protection. Given the term’s growing prominence in local, regional, and national climate action, this is a notable gap. By analysing three sites with established approaches to just transition – whether or not conceptualised in those terms - Bristol in the UK, Yubari in Japan and Cape Town in South Africa - this research aims to understand the effects for both scholarly theory and policy/practice of (1) governing biodiversity conservation and restoration through a just transitions lens; (2) considering how biodiversity governance in a locality may yield deeper insight into competing or contested visions of what a just transition is; and (3) helping to co-create pathways to achieve biodiversity and climate objectives in a just and equitable manner.

Foundations of creative environmental sensing for community-led resilience in cities – Dr Leah Lovett, University College London, Dr Pablo Suarez, Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, Professor Keri Facer, University of Bristol.

  • Integrating science, policy and practice for a better future in cities requires novel partnerships and actionable research. Transitions, just and otherwise, have often been tied to technological development, recently with increasing connectivity and processes of digitization. However, technologically-led approaches to changemaking rarely prioritise the agency of communities and individuals who are most vulnerable to climate change. This practice-led, actionable and policy-driven research pilot focuses on creative digital inclusion for just transitions towards community resilience. It asks, how can data be creatively integrated in participatory processes that support just transitions through communicating and addressing the risks of extreme heat events in cities? Through a unique partnership between Connected Environments at The Bartlett, University College London, the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, and The Network for Educational Futures, University of Bristol, it will explore the use of arts-led methods and integrated data for empowering community-organising for just transitions towards participatory futures.

"The cracks are where the light gets in": creating conditions for new climate coalitions – Professor Keri Facer, University of Bristol, Professor Peter Newell, University of Sussex, Dr Pablo Suarez, Red Cross Red Crescent, Dr Maria Estrada Fuentes, Royal Holloway, University of London, Dr Jeremy Brice, Oxford University, Professor Antonia Layard, University of Bristol.

  • This project explores just transitions in biodiversity governance. While climate change, biodiversity, environmental and social justice are increasingly understood as interconnected, there is less explicit attention to the just transition concept within biodiversity protection. Given the term’s growing prominence in local, regional, and national climate action, this is a notable gap. By analysing three sites with established approaches to just transition – whether or not conceptualised in those terms - Bristol in the UK, Yubari in Japan and Cape Town in South Africa - this research aims to understand the effects for both scholarly theory and policy/practice of (1) governing biodiversity conservation and restoration through a just transitions lens; (2) considering how biodiversity governance in a locality may yield deeper insight into competing or contested visions of what a just transition is; and (3) helping to co-create pathways to achieve biodiversity and climate objectives in a just and equitable manner.

Just food? Mutual exchange network on just food System transition Dr Gearoid Millar, University of Aberdeen, Dr Lídia Cabral, Institute of Development Studies, Dr Iva Pesa, University of Groningen, Dr Melanie Levick-Parkin, Sheffield Hallam University.

  • This action-research project will establish a mutual exchange network that will examine and compare conceptions of, approaches to, and strategies for, achieving the just transition of food systems in four contexts (Brazil, Zambia, Sierra Leone, and the UK). The network will engage critical food system actors in each context in a series of participatory workshops organised by local civil society organisations (CSOs) concerned with food systems and food security, who will then share and contrast the collected data in a series of online interregional engagement meetings with a selection of international food system advocacy organisations and the interdisciplinary research team. Outcomes from the project will include academic articles, policy briefs, an online portal presenting the multimedia data collected and all published outputs, and the new interregional network itself, which will continue to grow and connect further food system actors, national and international CSOs, and scholars beyond the period of funding.

Bodies and performance: exploring the institutionalisation of loss in just and unjust transitions Dr Deval Desal, University of Edinburgh, Dr Maria Estrada Fuentes, Royal Holloway, University of London, Professor Keri Facer, University of Bristol, Dr Leah Lovett, University College London, Dr Pablo Suarez, Red Cross Red Crescent.

  • How can a just transition be institutionalised? Many have focused on institutionalising “justice” globally and nationally. This project is novel in four ways. First, it focuses on loss - how to attend to and institutionalise the loss of ways of life that inhere in any transition. Second, it approaches this as a practice both social and embodied. Third, it focuses on micro spaces of participation, rather than large public domains. Fourth, it brings the humanities - particularly performance - into conversation with the social sciences and policymaking. The project will deliver three policy workshops, which draw on performance and improvisation, to incorporate that loss into narratives of the present and imaginations for a better future. The team will synthesize thinking from across its disciplines to design the workshops, capture knowledge relevant to policymakers designing transitional processes, and reflect that knowledge in policy briefs and an academic article or funding proposal.

Bridging the local and global: women’s collectives and the ‘spaces of action/reflection’ - Dr Jane Rooney, Durham University, Dr Ruth Houghton, Newcastle University, Dr Aliya Khalid, University of Cambridge.

  • While globalisation aims to connect the world equitably, global perspectives are often privileged over the local. Often the voices of women from the South (metaphor for marginalised) are least heard. This project acknowledges that any "Global" ideology of (Dis)order needs to include local women’s voices by studying how they have generated order/disorder to create "spaces of action"/reflection (defined as collectives). We propose a multi-phase, multi-method study of women’s "collective spaces". We first explore how ‘collectives’ have been understood. We will learn from women themselves by conducting two interview-based case studies on (i) access to reproductive healthcare (Northern Ireland/Ireland) and (ii) mothers’ collective experiences of educating their children during a pandemic (ethnic minority families in England). In bringing together law and education, archives and interviews, reproductive healthcare and education, this project offers a novel way of understanding - and recording - collective responses to local/global challenges.

Geopolitical narratives as a process of global (dis)ordering Dr Aurel Sari, University of Exeter, Dr Andre Barrinha, University of Bath, Dr Andrew Glencross, Aston University, Professor Holger Hestermeyer, Kings’s College London, Dr Nora Jansen, Cardiff University, Professor Ursula Ott, Nottingham Trent University, Professor Philippa Webb, King’s College London.

  • The purpose of this research project is to explore the role that geopolitical narratives play in the process of global ordering and disordering. The project builds on a shared recognition among the participants that competing geopolitical narratives are a critical, but insufficiently understood, dimension of global ordering. Geopolitical narratives can be defined as a means through which actors construct and impose meaning on international relations and articulate strategic goals. They are, in short, stories about strategic values, identity and motivations (e.g. "Global Britain"). By adopting an interdisciplinary approach, the project aims to both sharpen and deepen our understanding of the ways in which geopolitical narratives sustain and contest global order. It will do so with the help of three thematic case-studies on the subject of Migration, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and Global Health, and by developing actionable research findings with the help of a policy-oriented symposium.

The interplay between (international) law and mis-/disinformation – Dr Nora Jansen, Cardiff University, Dr Ruth Houghton, Newcastle University.

  • This project seeks solutions to the threat posed to the global order by mis- and disinformation through understanding the role of international law. International law promises to address disorders in global governance, but the disruption caused by mis- and disinformation raises questions about international law’s potential to fulfil its promise. Combining our expert knowledge from international law, including the skills of doctrinal legal analysis, and our expertise in social sciences, comprising qualitative and quantitative data analysis techniques, we aim to understand the causes and consequences of mis- and disinformation and the scope and limitations of international law, and explore how these two disciplines can together provide solutions to mis- and disinformation. The upcoming German election is a local and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic represents a global case study for the analysis. The project culminates in an academic article and an open-access report for use by policy-makers and in practice.

Mapping values – Dr David Hitchcock, Canterbury Christ Church University, Dr Duncan Hay, University College London, Dr Elmé Vivier, Nottingham Trent University, Dr Mirian Calvo, Lancaster University, Professor Jeremy Crampton, Newcastle University, Dr Carina O'Reilly, Anglia Ruskin University, Professor James Sloam, Royal Holloway, University London.

  • Current thinking suggests that once vaccinations successfully roll out, "post-pandemic" cities will come back to life. By contrast, our proposition is that the resilient city is pandemic-ready, not simply post-pandemic. We will combine citizen science mapping and participatory design methods to gather and explore the values people ascribe to being in urban public space. We will focus on two value indexes: health and inclusivity. By combining "public participatory GIS", phone mapping apps, facilitated walks, and oral histories, we will produce a rounded dataset for one case study area. We will analyse these findings with cross-tabs for gender, age, and material circumstances. Workshops will be held throughout, with a final policy translation event, aiming to produce new knowledge that impacts local co-governance policies. This project will explore whether better urban governance is achievable with a better understanding of how people perceive ‘good’ places within their immediate urban tissue.

Youth, democracy and sustainable citizenship: reimagining the city and empowering young people through engagement with policymakers – Professor James Sloam, Royal Holloway, University London, Dr Carina O’Reilly, Anglia Ruskin University, Dr Mirian Calvo, Lancaster University.

  • Cities have been hit by successive waves of crises, from the Great Recession to COVID-19, which have exacerbated inequalities. They have had a particularly negative impact on the everyday lives of marginalised groups (often neglected by policy-makers) with huge repercussions for areas including mental health, housing, crime and the environment. In this project, we examine the views and solutions of one of the most affected groups, young people, in the UK capital. Drawing upon a variety of inter-disciplinary perspectives and using participatory methods to research "with" young people, the project: investigates the views of young Londoners on the issues that affect them and youth civic engagement; and, provides spaces for youth and policy-makers to co-create "sustainable public policy". In the context of COP26 and the UN sustainability agenda, we show how sustainable solutions can work against inequality and exclusion and create good governance: two key ingredients of a "good city".

Footprints of urban activism: mapping narratives of success and failure in post-industrial development – Dr Cristina Cerulli, Sheffield Hallam University, Dr Lauren England, University of Dundee, Dr Ed Charlton, London School of Economics and Political Science, Dr Chandra Morrison, London School of Economics and Political Science, Dr Duncan Hay, University College London.

  • The pathway to a good city is rarely ever direct, but success is often prioritised over and above valuable lessons of failure. Memories of urban activism often disappear amid this evaluative framework and diverse voices go unheard. Through a deep-dive case study of Sheffield’s post-industrial city centre, we will capture the footprint of two key activist campaigns around contested heritage sites - Castle Market and Portland Works - through the recording and digitisation of diverse community narratives using multimodal, participatory mapping activities. The project engages policymakers through workshops and creates an innovative, interactive digital map as a co-produced tool for visualising community narratives and legacies of activist initiatives from multivariate perspectives. These methodological innovations will prototype means of preserving, shaping and imagining the city, drawing out lessons and insights from success and failure within urban activist projects, and supporting their translation into effective policy.

Caring – with cities; enacting more careful urban approaches with community-led developments and policymakers – Dr Mara Ferreri, Northumbria University, Dr Claire McAndrew, University College London, Dr Cristina Cerulli, Sheffield Hallam University, Dr Eleanor Ratcliffe, University of Surrey, Dr Marianna Cavada, Lancaster University.

  • Achieving a caring city needs to emerge and be sustained through care-full interfaces between city dwellers and policy-makers. The idea to care—with rather than —about or —for, moves beyond understandings of care as a provision from institutions to individuals, or from individual to individual, which positions the cared—for as passive recipients. This project aims to understand how care is embedded into community-led and policy-led urban development; the interface between the two; and the potential for designing care—with into future urban policy at a systemic level. ‘Participant-researchers’ across 3-5 UK case studies, will undertake organisational and community archival research; in-depth interviews and facilitated group conversations; and a preliminary system mapping of the interface with policy to identify soft infrastructures of care. A more advanced mapping will aid understanding of opportunities for care—with, where these dynamics are already present, suggesting directions for policy design with links to national and international urban policies.

Socially engaged art and policy: supporting inclusive and sustainable creative urbanism – Dr Chandra Morrison, London School of Economics and Political Science, Dr Ed Charlton, London School of Economics and Political Science, Dr Lauren England, University of Dundee.

  • This project will establish new connections between policymakers and socially engaged art practice in London. Examining three small-scale, embedded community art groups, we plan to investigate both the potential impact of their work on local urban policy and the support that policy provides in their efforts to help develop an inclusive and sustainable urban environment. We will pursue an ethnographic analysis of these groups and their practice, before launching a series of workshops designed to bring together the arts practitioners, formal policymakers, and community actors working in these local networks. Our objective is to draw out examples of successful engagement, while also examining the barriers that inhibit reciprocal exchange between local arts groups and policymakers. The project will deliver policy recommendations to address these challenges, piloting new two-way relationships that allow urban policymaking to better support the contributions generated by socially engaged art practice in making a good city.

My city (in)visible – Dr Ranald Lawrence, University of Liverpool, Dr Ipshita Basu, University of Westminster, Professor Iain Jackson, University of Liverpool, Dr Lakshmi Rajendran, Anglia Ruskin University, Dr Hanna Ruszcyk, Durham University, Dr Ricardo Safra De Campos, University of Exeter.

  • MY CITY (IN)VISIBLE maps diverse everyday narratives of city perception and experience beyond dominant ‘western’ framings of ‘what is a good city’. Conceived as a global visual collaboratorium, the project will record how participants imagine inclusive Global South city futures, and support planners, policy makers and practitioners to enable those futures. Drawing on existing networks, community narratives of a good city will be captured in six case studies (Accra, Ghana; Cape Town, South Africa; Chennai, India; Colombo, Sri Lanka; and Chattogram and Mongla, Bangladesh). Photographs and observations will be recorded on a GIS-based digimap and interpretive maps commissioned for an online exhibition, documenting community voices and the overlooked everyday life experiences that connect people positively with the places where they live. These will inform production of storybooks for each city, representing the diversity of voices and communities that constitute a good city, for dissemination to relevant partners ahead of COP26.

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