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MSc Global Urban Development and Planning / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Citizen-Led Development

Unit code MGDI60561
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by School of Environment, Education and Development
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Part 1. Introductory concepts, theories and practices
1. The challenge of urban development and urban poverty reduction
2. Urban social movements: theories and conceptual frameworks
3. The SDI model: history, organisation, finances

Part 2. Engagment with Shack/Slum Dwellers International affiliates, methodologies of citizen-led development
4. Savings, federating and gaining visibility
5. Pilots and precedents: mapping, enumeration and profiling
6. Engaging the state: contestation, collaboration or cooption?
7. Financing: urban poor funds and state subsidies

Part 3. Implications
8. Panel on implications for professionals


The aim of this course unit is to understand and analyse the contribution of citizen or grassroots-led development to achieving inclusive and pro-poor development, and to educate professionals about the contribution of urban poor groups to development.

Learning outcomes

Students should be able to:

Knowledge and understanding :

- Understand the significance of citizen and grassroots-led development in terms of social justice, participation, rights and empowerment approaches to development.
- Engage critically with relevant theories and conceptual frameworks to understand community and citizen-led development.
- Demonstrate knowledge of the tools, methods, practices and rituals used by SDI affiliates and understand their significance to citizen, grassroots and community-led development.

Intellectual skills:

- Critical thinking and reflection
- Evaluation and different kinds of evidence
- An ability to apply theories and frameworks to practical development experiences
- An ability to assess the merits of contrasting theories, explanations and their policy implications.

Practical skills:

- An ability to apply and assess development theory against development practice.
- An inability to develop, articulate and sustain logical, structured and reasoned arguments in written and oral contexts.
- To learn first-hand about development in context.

Transferable skills and personal qualities:

- Self awareness and an ability to take responsibility for your own learning
- Time management
- Confidence in justifying your arguments in front of others.

Teaching and learning methods

The course unit will be delivered through four themed 120 minute lectures, four interactive learning sessions (180 minutes), one panel discussion (120 minutes) and two seminars (90 minutes).

Lectures one, two and nine will broadly outline key theoretical and conceptual issues related to citizen, grassroots and community-led development.

Lecture three introduces the network, its history, methodologies and experiences

Interactive sessions (four, five, six, seven) involve both lectures and question and answer sessions. These three hour sessions will enable students to learn about the tools and methods designed and used by community activists, and discuss their effectiveness.

A themed panel discussion at the end allows students to engage with the implications for professionals of the ideas that they have been introduced to and relate academic staff research interests to the ideas explored in the course unit.

The seminar style un-assessed sessions have been structured and designed to allow for a deepening of critical thinking and argument based on key readings, lectures and interactive sessions.

Through guided reading students are expected to develop knowledge of theories, experiences and discourses of civil society and the nature of public actions spurred by them.

Assessment methods

One essay of 3,000 words (100%)

Recommended reading

Environment and Urbanization special issue on City Inequality (8:2, 1996)

Appadurai, A., 2001, Deep Democracy: Urban governmentality and the Horizon of Politics, Environment and Urbanization 13(2): 23-43.
Bolnick, J., 2007, Development as Reform and Counter-reform: Paths travelled by Shack/Slum Dwellers International in, Can NGOs make a Difference? The Challenge of Development Alternatives, edited by A. J. Bebbington, S. Hickey and D. Mitlin, London and New York, Zed Books.
Mitlin, D., 2008, Urban Poor Funds: Development by the People, for the People, IIED Poverty Reduction in Urban Areas Working Paper No 18, London: International Institute for Environment and Development.

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 0

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Diana Mitlin Unit coordinator

Additional notes

GDI programmes on which this course is offered:


Lectures: Friday 15:00-17:00 weeks 1-4 & 7
Community Workshops:
Friday 15:00-18:00 week 5
Monday 13:00-17:00 and Tuesday 09:00-12:00 week 6
Tutorials will be scheduled later

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