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UCL International Development Hub (ID Hub)



The Good Life Euston

By ID Hub, on 9 June 2021

UCL International Development Hub Director, Dr Michael Woodrow, discusses his involvement in the “truly eye-opening” Good Life Euston collaborative research project.

Good Life Euston is an 18-month collaborative research project, which will develop a set of indicators to measure wellbeing in Euston and across the whole of Camden. The Euston prosperity and wellbeing index will measure the impacts of regeneration on local communities over the long term to support decision making and investment based on priorities for local residents.

The background

As any Londoner will be aware, there have been countless new building developments across the city in the past few years, with many developers either failing to understand the local community, or deliberately ignoring them. Local communities – for many reasons – struggle to make their voices heard.

The disconnect between largely profit-driven real estate developers and local community residents seeking a good life has created a significant source of tension, with the local Council often finding themselves caught between the two sides. Researchers from the Institute for Global Prosperity at UCL (IGP) ultimately identified this disconnect and created an initiative that has the potential to create common understanding that could bring all parties together.

For those of you who are unaware of the initiative, its aim is to listen to, understand and document the voices of the local community. It is intended that the results will be used by both public and private decision makers in the London Borough of Camden to influence local development in a way that will benefit the local community.

The study that I was involved with focused specifically on changes that are planned for Euston over the coming twenty to thirty years. Euston Young Voices is a participatory partnership with Camden Giving, the London Borough of Camden, Lendlease, UCL (IGP and UCL Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering (CEGE)) and of course, Euston’s residents.

A street in Camden showing closed shop fronts, rubbish waiting to be collected, and people walking in the distance.

The study

I met with the researchers from IGP and a group of community member participants in central London, near UCL. The plan was to walk through their neighbourhood – the streets surrounding Euston station – taking pictures of anything that was associated with either helping or hindering ‘the good life’. It could be a play area, a pub, a mosque or a café. Every image captured had a story attached to it.

This data gathering process is called a ‘walking ethnography’; it paints a vivid picture of life within these streets. I cannot begin to describe how much I learned from listening to the three Citizen Social Scientists as they regaled stories of the good, the bad and the ugly in their neighbourhood.

Citizen Social Scientists are people who live and work in the neighbourhoods where research is taking place and are trained and employed to work as members of the research team. They are trained in research ethics, qualitative and quantitative methods, and data analysis.

The best part is that the aim of the exercise was to teach the Citizen Social Scientists how to gather from everyone within their community. The idea is that their stories could be compiled and analysed, and the main points distilled and presented to those in a position to be able to use that information to benefit that same community.


An example of a walking ethnography conducted by one of the “Euston Young Voices” Citizen Social Scientists, Suraya Miah.

The future

The leadership team of Camden Council is very impressed with the approach and is calling to implement this initiative across all of the boroughs in London. It is my opinion that a community engagement initiative such as this should be incorporated into any national or international development project. I am proud to announce that the UCL International Development Hub is part-funding the Good Life Euston initiative, and we look forward to working more closely with the team in future.

Dr Michael Woodrow.

With thanks to Mala Mohindru and the UCL Institute for Global Prosperity.

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