Urban Livelihoods in Freetown’s Informal Settlements: With Braima Koroma, Austina Sudie Sellu, Julian Walker, I am conducting research to develop a more detailed understanding of the existing livelihood strategies of women and men living in informal settlements, by focusing on a number of typical livelihood sectors in which informal settlement residents engage. This has been undertaken with the overall aim of informing policy interventions.
My research work focuses on how power relations affect the participation of different people and social groups in decision making processes that have an impact on their lives. My research involves micro-analysis of power relations and diversity issues, including how social identities play out in such decision making processes. My work analyses social and political conflicts and explores tensions between the individual and the collective.
I have been looking at self-organised, spontaneous collective action processes of ‘organic’ participation as well as ‘externally’ designed processes in which participation of certain people is sought and managed by external agents (e.g. NGO, local government, etc.). I am particularly interested in how residents’ participation is managed within urban development projects, particularly in informal settlements, and what are the effects on in/equality and social exclusion. I am also interested in processes of citizen participation at various scales from neighbourhood to global levels. A related theme in my work is the tension between policy and practice, between ideologies of participation, inclusivity, horizontality, etc. and practices that contradict them. I explore these tensions through the ethnographic study of the practices of development organisations and social movements, with a focus on internal power relations and knowledge production.
I have analysed these issues in the internal governance of social movements such as the World Social Forum, and in the participation of citizens in several policymaking spaces, and in government-led participatory slum-upgrading projects.
Participation and conflict in the implementation of slum-upgrading projects: I am particularly interested in the upgrading of informal settlements in the context of pre-existing conflict, particularly around land.
Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre: With Alexandre Apsan Frediani, I am implementing a £930,000 project to establish an urban research centre in Freetown in partnership with Njala University.
Refugee self-reliance and Humanitarian Action in Urban Markets: With colleagues, I am currently coordinating a research partnership between the DPU and the Humanitarian Advisory Team at Save the Children UK. The partnership focuses on the linkages between urban, humanitarian and forced migration scholarships. More information and outputs available on project website.
RELIEF: I am a collaborator of the RELIEF project which aims to change the way we understand and manage mass displacement of people, and Co-I on the related British Academy project: “Public services and vulnerability in the Lebanese context of large-scale displacement”.