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Inclusive Urbanism

Overview and Background

Columbia World Projects’ (CWP) research and engagement work on inclusive urbanism explores the conditions under which communities throughout cities achieve social, economic and political inclusion.

By developing a comparative understanding of the ecological, social and political forces that shape urban space, our work encourages effective problem-solving, participatory approaches, and fresh collective-thinking among experts. We work in partnership with government, civic organizations, nonprofits and academic researchers to produce reports and develop communities of practice that advocate for and, in some cases, implement recommendations that emerge from our work. To that end, we organize both working groups and initiatives (clusters of several working groups focused on a single theme). These groups  meet regularly and bring together researchers, policymakers and practitioners to address pressing issues facing municipal governments and city residents. On occasion, we organize standalone working groups to explore issues of immediate concern. Details on work underway, and plans for future activity, are below.

Beirut Recovery

This initiative examines questions about how to center the needs of local communities in the reconstruction of Beirut following the port explosion on August 4, 2020. The blast exposed and amplified already existing vulnerabilities present in the areas affected, including increased displacements of residents, uncontrolled gentrification, growing inequality, neglected infrastructure and an absence of effective public agencies and public spaces. In a series of working group meetings organized in partnership with local institutions, global experts and leaders from international organizations, the initiative outlines priorities and principles to underlie reconstruction. It then identifies and recommends concrete interventions that should be taken up by international organizations involved in reconstruction efforts, by the government of Lebanon, and by NGOs working on reconstruction efforts. Read the report, Rebuilding Beirut: A Roadmap for an Equitable Post-disaster Response. The report is available in Arabic here.

Working groups within this initiative focus on particular topics related to the recovery, including reconstruction of heritage sites, housing and land use, the port and economic priorities, the management of recovery funds and the activation of public space. These working groups, meeting throughout 2020 and 2021, are organized in partnership with the Beirut Urban Lab at the American University of Beirut. Reports detailing participants’ recommendations will be released in the coming months. 

Heritage and Reconstruction

This working group focuses on how to involve residents in historic preservation efforts, what counts as heritage and how to memorialize the disaster. Participants also explore how to unlock funding for these efforts. 

  • Participants’ listed affiliations are current as of November 23, 2020

    Amr Al-Azm, Shawnee State University/ATHAR
    Howayda Al-Harithy, American University of Beirut
    Thomas Asher, Columbia World Projects
    Erica Avrami, Columbia University
    Zainab Bahrani, Columbia University
    Hiba Bou Akar, Columbia University
    Fadlallah Dagher, Beirut Heritage Initiative; Dagher Hanna & Partners Architects
    Brian Daniels, University of Pennsylvania 
    Chiara de Cesari, University of Amsterdam
    Mona Fawaz, American University of Beirut
    McGuire Gibson, University of Chicago
    Omar Abdulaziz Hallaj, Architect and Development Consultant
    Piphal Heng, Northern Illinois University
    Khaled Hiatlih, Leiden University
    Emmanuel Kattan, Columbia University
    Premesh Lalu, University of the Western Cape
    Yasmine Makaroun, Lebanese University
    Lorraine Mangonès, FOKAL
    Lynn Meskell, University of Pennsylvania
    Ratish Nanda, Aga Khan Trust for Culture
    Rita Padawangi, Singapore University of Social Sciences
    Philippe Peycam, International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden University
    Michèle Pierre-Louis, Fondation Connaissance et Liberté, FOKAL
    Yenny Rahmayati, Prince Sultan University
    Omar Sirri, University of Toronto 
    Jad Tabet, Order of Engineers and Architects Beirut
    Bastien Varoutsikos, Turquoise Mountain
    Serge Yazigi, Yazigi Atelier

Housing and Land Use

This working group examines strategies for rebuilding and repairing damaged housing stock, increasing housing affordability and limiting the displacement of residents whose homes were affected by the blast. The working group explores these issues in the context of high vacancy rates, the financialization of housing and land and how innovative land use strategies, including land banking and land value capture, can provide increased funding for social housing and good housing stock.

  • Participants’ listed affiliations are current as of December 8, 2020

    Hitoshi Abe, University of California, Los Angeles; Atelier Hitoshi Abe
    Howayda Al-Harithy, American University of Beirut
    Amale Andraos, Columbia University
    Alejandro Aravena, ELEMENTAL
    Thomas Asher, Columbia World Projects
    Bernadette Baird-Zars, Columbia University
    Karima Ben Bih, World Bank Group
    Clarisa Bencomo, Columbia University
    Hiba Bou Akar, Columbia University
    Diane Davis, Harvard University
    Leilani Farha, The Shift
    Mona Fawaz, American University of Beirut
    Rony Lahoud, Public Corporation for Housing, Beirut
    Deepak Lamba-Nieves, Center for a New Economy
    Zhi Liu, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
    Lorraine Mangonès, FOKAL
    Josie McVitty, Actis 
    Michèle Pierre-Louis, FOKAL
    Maysa Sabah, AECOM Middle East
    Abir Saksouk, Public Works Studio
    Saskia Sassen, Columbia University
    Seteney Shami, The Arab Council for Social Sciences
    Enrique Silva, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
    Diane Singerman, American University
    Omar Sirri, University of Toronto 
    Delia Wendel , Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Weiping Wu, Columbia University
    Serge Yazigi, Yazigi Atelier
    Dima Zogheib, Arup

The Port and Economic Priorities

This working group explores the reconstruction of the Port of Beirut, modes of financing the rebuilding, and long-term management strategies that might govern the operation of the port in the future. Participants highlight possible scenarios including total or partial reconstruction of the port, and take into account existing geopolitical and economic challenges. They outline methods of reconstruction that would make the port competitive and support the public good while also enhancing environmental and economic sustainability for communities. 

  • Participants’ listed affiliations are current as of December 1, 2020

    Thomas Asher, Columbia World Projects
    Hiba Bou Akar, Columbia University
    Vince Beiser, Journalist and Author
    Debjani Bhattacharya, Drexel University
    Sachin Bhoite, Arup
    Taina Christiansen, UN-Habitat Lebanon
    Dilip Da Cunha, Columbia University
    Jatin Dua, University of Michigan
    Mona Fawaz, American University Beirut
    Rania Ghosn, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Hercules Haralambides, Erasmus University Rotterdam
    Hafeez Ahmed Jamali, Government of Balochistan
    Laleh Khalili, Queen Mary University of London
    Zelda Liang, Columbia World Projects
    Mami Mizutori, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
    Henk Ovink, Kingdom of the Netherlands
    Yenny Rahmayati , Prince Sultan University
    Jean-Paul Rodrigue, Hofstra University
    Nisreen Salti, American University of Beirut
    Nisrine Samara, Embassy of the Netherlands
    Rami Semaan, TMS Consult
    Omar Sirri, University of Toronto 
    Satya Tripathi, United Nations Environment Programme
    Serge Yazigi, Yazigi Atelier

Management of Recovery Funds

This working group asks how recovery funds can be distributed effectively, while minimizing corruption and maximizing accountability. Because of the absence of robust leadership from the state, distrust in government is rampant, and international and local non-governmental organizations have assumed responsibility for much of the provision of social and urban services in the wake of the explosion. Participants seek to understand to whom resources should be distributed, and how they should be coordinated and evaluated to best serve those affected by the blast, rather than sectarian agendas or regional and global interests not in line with the most pressing needs of local residents. 

  • Participants’ listed affiliations are current as of January 14, 2021

    Lisa Anderson, Columbia University 
    Bernise Ang, Columbia World Projects
    Thomas Asher, Columbia World Projects
    Sami Atallah, Lebanese Center for Policy Studies
    Henk-Jan Brinkman, United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs
    Ishac Diwan, Paris Sciences et Lettres, École normale supérieure in Paris
    Roula El-Rifai, International Development Research Centre
    Mohamad Faour, University College Dublin
    Mona Fawaz, American University of Beirut
    Florence Gaub, European Union Institute for Security Studies
    Mona Harb, American University of Beirut
    Steven Heydemann, Smith College; the Brookings Institution
    Nino Karamaoun, United Nations Development Programme
    Jonathan M. Katz, Journalist and Author
    Mona Khechen, American University of Beirut
    Rami G. Khouri, American University in Beirut
    Dima Krayem, University of Cambridge
    Marc Lynch, The George Washington University
    Stephan Massing, World Bank Group
    Scott Morris, Center for Global Development
    Lamia Moubayed Bissat, Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan 
    Dipali Mukhopadhyay, Columbia University 
    Jonathan Papoulidis, Columbia World Projects; World Vision
    Michèle Pierre-Louis, FOKAL
    Tamer Qarmout, Doha Institute for Graduate Studies
    Sibylle Rizk, Kulluna Irada
    Pallavi Roy, SOAS University of London
    Nisreen Salti, American University of Beirut
    Natacha Sarkis, United Nations Development Programme
    Halim Shebaya, Arab Association of Constitutional Law, Beirut
    Omar Sirri, University of Toronto 
    Shoshana Stewart, Turquoise Mountain
    Sameh Wahba, World Bank Group
    Heiko Wimmen, International Crisis Group
    Serge Yazigi, Yazigi Atelier
    Marie-Joëlle Zahar, Université de Montréal

Activating Public Space

This working group, composed primarily of artists and urbanists, considers bottom-up strategies that could be deployed to generate vibrant public spaces given the erosion of such spaces in Beirut, a condition exacerbated by the explosion. The group explores how to create places that are accessible and livable through the design of urban forms, landscaping and the establishment of public art spaces in order to involve communities in the improvement of their built environment.

  • Participants’ listed affiliations are current as of January 27, 2020

    Amanda Abi Khalil, Temporary Art Platform
    Howayda Al-Harithy, American University of Beirut
    Amale Andraos, Columbia University
    Thomas Asher, Columbia World Projects
    Mia Atoui, Embrace
    Mohammad Ayoub, NAHNOO
    Aude Azzi, Columbia University
    Carol Becker, Columbia University
    Minouche Besters, STIPO
    Joana Dabaj, Catalytic Action
    Habib Debs, American University Beirut
    Vishakha N. Desai, Columbia University
    Mohamad Hafeda, Leeds Beckett Univesity
    Mona El Hallak, American University of Beirut
    Ola El Hariri,
    Saida's Observatory for Social Impact
    Makram El Kadi, LEFT
    Anastasia Elrouss, Anastasia Elrouss Architects
    Sergi Fajardo, Compromiso Ciudadano
    Mona Fawaz, American University of Beirut
    Rana Haddad, American University of Beirut
    Mona Harb, American University of Beirut
    Nathalie Harb, Nathalie Harb Studio
    Alfredo Jaar, Artist, Architect, and Filmmaker
    Basil Jones, Handspring Puppet Company
    Adrian Kohler, Handspring Puppet Company
    Premesh Lalu, University of the Western Cape,
    Maud Le Floc’h, POLAU-Pôle Arts et Urbanisme
    Joy Mboya, The GoDown Arts Centre
    Kamal Mouzawak, Souk El Tayeb
    Phloeun Prim, Cambodian Living Arts
    Abir Saksouk, Public Works Studio
    Rana Samara Jubayli, Rana Samara Jubayli Architects + Design; Nusaned
    Richard Sennett, United Nations Committee on Urban Initiatives
    Omar Sirri, University of Toronto 
    Nadine Touma, Dar Onboz
    Michael Uwemedimo, CMAP (Collaborative Media Advocacy Platform)
    Serge Yazigi, Yazigi Atelier
    Maya Zbib, Zoukak Theatre Company

Civic Technology

This initiative explores the role that technology platforms that connect citizens to government — civic technology — can play in deepening civic life, increasing trust in government and building social infrastructure. The initiative works to map the field of civic technology and explore both gaps and opportunities for adoption, advise New York City's newly-created Civic Engagement Commission and contribute to a series of reports that detail how government agencies can increase civic trust and leverage digital tools to enliven civic engagement.

An initial working group within this initiative met in April 2020 and brought together leading researchers in digital platforms and civic engagement alongside donors, practitioners and policymakers. In summer 2020, the research and engagement team assembled two additional working groups, one that brought together participants from across Europe to discuss local experiments with digital civic engagement efforts, and another that focused specifically on the use of Decidim, a platform adopted by New York’s Civic Engagement Commission in December 2020. Read the report on these conversations

  • Participants’ listed affiliations are current as of July 22, 2020

    Victòria Alsina, New York University
    Julien Antelin, City of Los Angeles
    Melissa Appleton, Participatory Budgeting Project
    Pablo Aragón, Eurecat; Universitat Pompeu Fabra
    Thomas Asher, Columbia World Projects
    Alice Barbe, SINGA Global; Columbia World Projects
    Joseph Bateman, Luminate
    Kirsten Brosbøl, Columbia World Projects
    Leslie Brown, NYC Civic Engagement Commission
    Judit Carrera, Centre for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona
    Lilian Coral, Knight Foundation
    Marian Cramers, The Democratic Society
    Michaël V. Dandrieux, Eranos; Sciences Po Paris
    Shari Davis, Participatory Budgeting Project
    Daniella Eras, NYC Civic Engagement Commission
    Ester Fuchs, Columbia University
    Justin Garrett Moore, Columbia University; New York City Public Design Commission
    Keesha Gaskins-Nathan, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund
    Alejandra González, Digital Agency for Public Innovation, Mexico City
    Anne Vest Hansen, ITK Lab; Center Innovation in Aarhus
    Noel Hidalgo, BetaNYC
    Ekrem İmamoğlu, Mayor of Istanbul
    Edna Ishayik, Obama Foundation
    Merit Janow, Columbia University
    Gayatri Kawlra, Columbia University
    Ariel Kennan, Sidewalk Labs
    Eric Klinenberg, New York University
    Maya Kornberg, InterParliamentary Union
    Miguel Lago, Columbia University
    Thomas Landrain, Just One Giant Lab
    Panthea Lee, Reboot
    Bruce Lincoln, Silicon Harlem
    Pier Luca Marzo, Università di Messina 
    Maggie Ollove, Center for Civic Design
    Kathryn Ott Lovell, City of Philadelphia
    David Park, Columbia University
    Desmond U. Patton, Columbia University
    Tiago C. Peixoto, World Bank Group
    Clémence Pène, Direction Interministérielle de la Transformation Publique, Government of France
    Eve Plenel, Vers Paris sans sida
    Whitney Quesenbery, Center for Civic Design
    Jason Rhody, Social Science Research Council
    Oscar J. Romero Jr., New York City Mayor's Office of the Chief Technology Officer
    Hollie Russon Gilman, Columbia World Projects
    Neelam Sakaria, Civic Signals
    Sarah Sayeed, New York City Civic Engagement Commission
    Adrienne Schmoeker, New York City Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics
    Jose Serrano-McClain, HR&A Advisors 
    Micah Sifry, Civic Hall
    Matt Stempeck, Civic Hall
    Alistair Stoddart, Committee Engagement Unit, The Scottish Parliament
    Wendy Trull, New York City Civic Engagement Commission
    Christian Vanizette,; Columbia World Projects
    Kitty Von Bertele, Luminate
    Stephanie Wade, Bloomberg Philanthropies 
    Clarence Wardell, Results for America
    Maia Woluchem, Ford Foundation
    Laura Wood, Office of the Mayor of New York City

Southern Urbanisms

This initiative brings together leading practitioners, policymakers and researchers from across the world - particularly urbanists located in the Global South, to arrive at a more adequate understanding of urban governance, social cooperation and economic strategies visible in cities in Africa, Asia and the Americas. The initiative also examines how the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped cities, giving rise to new coalitions related to housing and infrastructure, service provision and advocacy. Members of the initiative first met in July 2020 and gather on a recurring basis.

  • Participants’ listed affiliations are current as of November 16, 2020

    Steve Akoth, Kenyatta University; Pamoja Trust
    Amale Andraos, Columbia University
    Nausheen H. Anwar, Institute of Business Administration, Karachi
    Thomas Asher, Columbia World Projects
    Gautam Bhan, Indian Institute for Human Settlements
    Hiba Bou Akar, Columbia University
    Teresa Caldeira, University of California, Berkeley 
    Mariana Cavalcanti, State University of Rio de Janeiro
    Amy Chazkel, Columbia University
    Mamadou Diouf, Columbia University
    Mona Fawaz, American University of Beirut
    Kelly Gillespie, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town
    Rupali Gupte, School of Environment and Architecture, Mumbai
    Alcinda Honwana, London School of Economics
    Malo Hutson, Columbia University 
    Caroline Wanjiku Kihato, Wits University
    Marco Kusumawijaya, Rujak Center for Urban Studies
    Premesh Lalu, University of the Western Cape
    Deepak Lamba-Nieves, Center for a New Economy
    Loren Landau, Oxford University; Wits University
    Brian Larkin, Barnard College
    Anant Maringanti, Hyderabad Urban Lab Foundation
    Winnie Mitullah, University of Nairobi
    Rohit Negi, Ambedkar University Delhi
    Flávia Neves Maia, Agenda Teresina 2030; Columbia World Projects
    Edgar Pieterse, African Centre for Cities; University of Cape Town
    Anupama Rao, Columbia University
    Vyjayanthi Rao, Public Culture; New York University
    Prasad Shetty, School of Environment and Architecture, Mumbai
    AbdouMaliq Simone, University of Sheffield
    Elisa Sutanudjaja, Rujak Center for Urban Studies


Urban Ecology

This working group, held in November 2019, probed how we understand urban landscapes at water’s edge, especially along rivers and deltas. Participants included a range of academics and professionals from around the world whose work centers on the particular challenges facing delta and river cities in the era of climate change. They explored prospects for restoring resiliency to both the natural and built environment in places of dense habitation, enormous inequality and extreme fragility.

Participants drew from both the physical and social sciences, as well as from areas of professional specialization, including law, urban design and planning. They thought creatively about how to shape more just landscapes, green infrastructure and inclusive societies.

The convening included discussions about the common challenges that delta cities need to overcome in order to build resilience and adapt in an era of rapid environmental and climate change. 

  • Participants’ listed affiliations are current as of November 23, 2019

    Thomas Asher, Columbia World Projects
    Grga Basic, Columbia University
    Vince Beiser, Journalist & Author 
    Debjani Bhattacharyya, Drexel University
    Lindsay Bremner, University of Westminster
    Kirsten Brosbøl, Columbia World Projects
    Patricia J. Culligan, Columbia University
    Shannon Cunniff, Shannon Cunniff Consulting
    Dilip da Cunha, Columbia University
    Harry den Hartog, Tongji University
    Marc Goichot, World Wildlife Fund
    Carrie Grassi, New York City Mayor’s Office of Resiliency
    Ania Grobicki, Green Climate Fund
    Hoàng Hoài Thanh, 100 Resilient Cities
    Hong Hoang, CHANGE; Columbia World Projects
    Ira Katznelson, Columbia World Projects
    Annet Kempenaar, University of Groningen
    Andrew S. Lewis, Author
    Johanna Lovecchio, Columbia University
    Philip Minderhoud, Utrecht University; Deltares Research Institute
    Alastair Morrison, Independent Consultant on Water & Climate
    Henk Nieboer, EcoShape
    Tomoyuki Okada, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan
    Kate Orff, Columbia University; SCAPE
    Henk Ovink, Kingdom of The Netherlands
    Thaddeus Pawlowski, Columbia University
    Sandra Schoof, Netherlands Enterprise and Development Agency
    Adam Sobel, Columbia University
    Terry van Dijk, University of Groningen
    Kim van Nieuwaal, Delta Alliance International
    Geoffrey von Zastrow, Columbia University
    James L. Wescoat, Jr., Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Urban Ethics

This working group, held in November 2019, probes what an ethics of the city might mean. An ethics of the city aims to draw together disparate communities to encourage exchange and prompt recognition of the fundamental fault lines that emerge among communities of strangers. Participants studied how the most vulnerable city residents live as citizens making claims, asserting rights and seeking dignity in the face of structures of wealth, power and hardened inequalities.

  • Participants’ listed affiliations are current as of November 8, 2019

    Amale Andraos, Columbia University
    Kwame Anthony Appiah, New York University 
    Thomas Asher, Columbia World Projects
    Barry Bergdoll, Columbia University
    Homi K. Bhabha, Harvard University
    Tatiana Bilbao, Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO
    Akeel Bilgrami, Columbia University
    Benjamin Bradlow, Brown University
    Patricia Fernandez-Kelly, Princeton University
    Ana Maria Gonzalez Forero, FEM; Columbia World Projects
    Toni L. Griffin, Harvard University
    Malo Hutson, Columbia University 
    Ira Katznelson, Columbia World Projects
    Caroline Wanjiku Kihato, University of Johannesburg
    Laura Kurgan, Columbia University
    Reinhold Martin, Columbia University
    Ceasar L. McDowell, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Saskia Sassen, Columbia University
    Elaine Scarry, Harvard University 
    Richard Sennett, United Nations Committee on Urban Initiatives
    Van C. Tran, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
    Lawrence Vale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology