Knowledge in action for urban equality

Growing inequality is a key challenge to advance inclusive and sustainable urban development in the global South. IIED was a partner in the ‘Knowledge in Action for Urban Equality’ (KNOW) programme, which aimed to address urban inequalities through knowledge co-production, transformative research and capacity-building activities.  

January 2018 - March 2022
Alexandre Apsan Frediani

Principal researcher, Human Settlements

Housing justice
A programme of work producing knowledge and methodologies for housing policy and initiatives that promote wellbeing and sustainability in cities of the global South
Table with coloured papers and someone writing on a notebook

Mapping exercise in Cockle Bay, part of the development of the Community Action Area Planning methodology in Freetown (Photo: Alexandre Apsan Frediani, IIED) 

Three quarters of cities are now more unequal than in 1996, despite unprecedented growth in wealth over the last 20 years (PDF). This growing inequality in cities undermines the efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals as well as the ‘New Urban Agenda’. 

The 'Knowledge in Action for Urban Equality’ (KNOW) programme was led by The Bartlett Development Planning Unit of UCL and brought together 14 partners in the UK, Africa, Asia, Latin America and Australia to develop long-term programmes of knowledge co-production for urban equality among governments, communities, business and academia. 

What is IIED doing? 

IIED was a project partner leading the work package focused on translating research into practice. IIED’s role was to support and research the processes of translating learning generated by KNOW activities into policy and planning practices at different scales, strengthening pathways to urban equality.  

By investigating the challenges of knowledge translation processes with KNOW city partners, IIED engagement explored and supported the various ways in which these take place to strengthen the impact of the project.

IIED worked with three KNOW partners to exchange and translate knowledge at different scales. In Freetown, the Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre (SLURC) helped to investigate the role of learning platforms at the city and community level, and explored ways to advance participatory informal settlement upgrading.  

In Havana, we worked with the Technological University of Havana (CUJAE) to explore the potentials of university-led initiatives in brokering more equitable relationships between neighbourhoods and the state at different levels.

And our research with the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) explored mechanisms used by this translocal network in Southeast Asia to facilitate and strengthen the impact of community-led processes.

At an international scale, we worked with United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) to co-produce the next Global Observatory on Local Democracy and Decentralisation Report (GOLD VI) on ‘Pathways for Urban and Territorial Equality’. The report sought to identify current policy and planning actions and co-produced interventions that recognise the agency of local and regional governments and civil society groups in advancing urban equality.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed and widened inequalities, making the findings of the KNOW programme even more relevant for responses and recovery from this global crisis. The project demonstrated that co-produced knowledge and practices are critical to build transformational pathways of urban development, helping to leave no one and no place behind.

Additional resources

Pathways to urban and territorial equality: addressing inequalities through local transformation strategies, GOLD IV (Global Observatory on Local Democracy and Decentralization) report (October 2022)

Localising the Sustainable Development Goals: an urban equality perspective, Stephanie Butcher, Camila Cociña, Christopher Yap, Caren Levy (2021), KNOW International egagement brief

Blog: Co-producing an urban equality agenda for local action: KNOW involvement in the next United Cities and Local Governments GOLD report, by Camila Cociña (2021)

Institutional Capabilities towards urban equality: reflections from the KNOW programme in Bangalore, Kampala and Havana, Alexandre Apsan Frediani, Camila Cociña, Gautam Bhan, Shuaib Lwasa, Jorge Peña Díaz, Caren Levy (2020), KNOW Working Paper No. 4

Partnerships for urban equality, Knowledge in Action for Urban Equality (2020), KNOW International engagement brief

Community livelihoods opportunities, Freetown City Learning Platform (2020), practitioner brief

Urban health: from local community action to a healthy Freetown, Freetown City Learning Platform (2020), practitioner brief

Translating knowledge for urban equality: alternative geographies for encounters between planning research and practice, Alexandre Apsan Frediani, Camila Cociña, Michele Acuto (2019), KNOW Working Paper No. 2 

Participation as planning: strategies from the South to challenge the limits of planning, Alexandre Apsan Frediani, Camila Cociña (2019), Built Environment journal article 

Knowledge translation in global urban agendas: a history of research-practice encounters in the Habitat conferences, Camila Cociña, Alexandre Apsan Frediani, Michele Acuto, Caren Levy (2019), World Development journal article

Principles of engagement for the city learning platform, Freetown City Learning Platform (2019), practitioner brief