The Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU) has been successful in a grant application to Comic Relief, and has been awarded £830,776 for the project, “Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre (SLURC): Capacities and knowledge for improving the well-being of slum dwellers.”
The DPU will be running this project with Njala University in Sierra Leone, and in particular working with DPU alumnus Joseph Macarthy from Njala University’s Institute of Geography and Development Studies. The project is set to run over 36 months and due to start in 2015.
While the current Ebola outbreak presents challenges for this project, at the same time it re-emphasises the importance of developing the knowledge needed for actions to improve living conditions in informal settlements which are particularly vulnerable to these health crises.
The project builds on a feasibility study of existing information and knowledge on Freetown informal settlements, supported by Comic Relief in 2013, which DPU’s Alexandre Apsan Frediani contributed to, and is part of a broader city initiative that Comic Relief is funding in 4 countries (Cape Town, Freetown, Kampala and Lusaka) as part of their broader work on informal settlements. The feasibility study findings revealed the fragmented and limited data on informal settlements in Sierra Leone, largely due to insufficient institutional capacity for the generation, and dissemination, of urban research.
The project will therefore focus on working with Njala University to set up an urban research centre in Freetown, and working to build the capacity of the centre and its wider research networks (including residents of informal settlements and their organisations) as a research and data dissemination hub, with a view to ensuring its sustainability beyond the frame of the project.
The proposal was put together by DPU’s Andrea Rigon and Joseph Macarthy on behalf of Njala University, with support from DPU’s Caren Levy and Julian Walker, who joined Andrea for the assessment meeting with Comic Relief, as well as Alexandre Apsan Frediani, and Michael Walls (who will be on the project steering committee).
The DPU looks forward to starting work on this proposal, which we anticipate will lead to important impacts on the lives of slum dwellers in Sierra Leone, provide an opportunity to work with current Comic Relief funded partners in Freetown (and the other cities), as well as generating interesting research and collaboration opportunities for the DPU, Njala University and their wider urban networks (including the African Centre for Cities and the African Association of Planning Schools, who will also be represented on the steering committee.)