Just Universities

For historical reasons many of our projects have been in Greater Manchester, building on long-standing connections and trusted relationships. When the Urban Institute at the University of Sheffield became the host of the local interaction platform in 2016, Realising Just Cities UK was born and new projects and opportunities were initiated in Sheffield. The Faculty of Social Sciences also provided substantial match funding and support for the work we have undertaken.

We developed the Localising the Sustainable Development Goals project collaboratively with Sheffield City Council. We also set up an action research team with Sheffield food stakeholders as part of the Self-organising Action for Food Equity project, and have hosted events related to projects around themes such as cultural democracy and co-producing climate urbanism.

We have made spaces for academics and students at the University to reflect on their research practice and work across boundaries, through providing modules, seminars, masterclasses and supporting new networks. This has sometimes meant modifying institutional processes, such as PhD ethical approvals, to align with the ethos and spirit of the programme. We have been fortunate to have the support of a dedicated administrator to actively intermediate across different sectoral boundaries and negotiate the set up and management of our large and distributed programme.

We want the learning and experience of Realising Just Cities UK to support transformations on the doorstep.

Many people inside and outside the University told us it was hard to access the range and diversity of engaged urban research happening across the institution. We therefore undertook a trial to map what external partners might “see” from the outside in, looking at the online representation and presence of Sheffield-based research. The results were patchy. We are now working on a prototype digital tool “Just Sheffield” to help organise and represent the diversity of Sheffield academics research in the city and wider region. We will test, learn and refine this iteratively with colleagues.

Following conversations with engaged scholars in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, we match-funded support for a new initiative in Arbourthorne, an area of Sheffield that is in the top 40% of the most socioeconomically deprived areas of the UK. We hope An Even Better Arbourthorne will provide opportunities to connect learning institutions across Sheffield to foster relationships and community capacity over the next 3 years.

We have also started sharing the knowledge and learning generated through Realising Just Cities UK with city partners, setting up meetings and workshops with Sheffield city-region stakeholders to discuss the relevance of our work now and in the future.

Finally, we have begun to feed our research and action into ongoing work at the University around the Sustainable Development Goals and the “civic university” agenda. As we systematically analyse our work to draw out the theoretical and practical implications across projects, we are committed to ensuring that the learning and experience of Realising Just Cities UK can support transformations on the doorstep.

People involved

Beth Perry

Beth is a Professor of Urban Knowledge and Governance and Co-Director of the Urban Institute. Her research focuses on urban governance, transformation and the roles of universities, with an emphasis on socio-environmental and socio-cultural transitions.

Beth Perry joined the Urban Institute in September 2016 and is now Co-director and leads the Co-producing Urbanisms theme.  Following degrees in European Studies and Modern Languages (BA Hons, University of Manchester) and European Integration (MA, University of Bradford), she joined the Centre for Sustainable Urban and Regional Futures (SURF) at the University of Salford and became its director prior to moving to Sheffield.  During this time she completed her PhD which focused on the relationship between universities and the knowledge economy in the context of multi-level and multi-actor governance. From 2010 to 2019, Beth was the UK Programme Lead for the Mistra Urban Futures Centre, a research centre headquartered in Gothenburg, Sweden and led the UK's Realising Just Cities programme. 

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Kristina Diprose

Kristina was a Research Associate at the Urban Institute and within the Sheffield-Manchester Local Interaction Platform from August 2018 to September 2019. Her work within the Realising Just Cities research programme focused on what 'just' sustainability means for Sheffield and local implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Other research and publications have focused on: urban residents' views on intergenerational justice, consumption and sustainability; media representations of sustainability; local narratives and moral geographies of climate change; and intergenerational community-based research. She has an MA and a PhD in social geography from the University of Leeds, where her research focussed on voluntary sector ethnography and youth participation. Before joining the University of Sheffield as a postdoctoral researcher in 2015, Kristina worked for The Young Foundation's 'Socially Sustainable Leeds' project, which combined ethnographic research and community organising. 

Vicky Simpson

As Research Programme Coordinator of the Sheffield-Manchester Local Interaction Platform for Mistra Urban Futures, Vicky has coordinated support across a portfolio of UK and EU research grants at the Urban Institute, drawing on her research background. Vicky obtained degrees from Manchester Metropolitan University BA (1997), MA (1998) and PhD (2004), and the University of Portsmouth (MSc, 2005). Vicky has also been awarded a Post Graduate Teaching Certificate (2009). After teaching, research and management appointments at Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Manchester and the University of Salford, Vicky joined the Urban Institute in September 2016.


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