Child-led participatory mapping of urban life in Delhi

This case study profiles a project funded via the Follow-on Fund; an opportunity to extend existing research to pursue an innovative form of knowledge exchange, outside of the scope of the initial grant. The IAA supported a collaboration between academics at the University of Birmingham and Humara Bachpan Campaign (HBC), an NGO in India committed to young people’s participation in advocating for safe, child-friendly urban environments in Indian cities. The overarching aim of the project was to ‘co-adapt the Map my Community research app as an innovative tool for children and young people’s participation in the planning of child-friendly urban spaces in informal settlements in Delhi.’ The existing research through which this opportunity arose (New Urbanisms in India, ESRC) developed an innovative research tool as part of its methodology, essentially to map young people’s use and experiences of a new urban development. During a dissemination event in Delhi, the PI was approached by staff from HBC and asked to visit young people living in informal settlements.  What emerged was a need, identified by staff and young people, to use the app in their own communities as part of the ongoing participatory mapping work in their communities.  Thus, this Follow-on Fund supported researchers from the University of Birmingham to work in partnership with HBC to co-adapt the app for their local context and collate evidence about the lived experience of children and young people living in informal settlements.  A wider goal of the project was to support HBC in their work and contribute to the evidence which is needed in changing policy and practice, regarding the living conditions in informal settlements.

The project supported a series of participatory app-development workshops with young people living in informal settlements to ensure that the tool was appropriate for their local context (in terms of data collection, visualisation and language).  A University of Birmingham researcher spent five weeks in Delhi, working with young people and their parents, training on the use of participatory digital mapping tools.  In total, 105 young people from 21 informal settlements were part of the design, implementation and data collection process.  

Impact engagement focused at the local, regional and national scale.  Meetings and events were led by HBC as part of their ongoing work with local communities, regional authorities and advocating for change with key policy makers.  Project briefing presentations were conducted to local communities and key stakeholders, using the results of the app based work to inform and advocate for change.  At a national level, young people from the project participated in the Cities4Kids conference, an international event on Child Friendly Cities, presenting their views on inclusiveness and sustainability.  At an international forum, term members from HBC and child participants in the project attended the Habitat III United Nations Conference in Ecuador.  Their advocacy work was presented to an international audience of high-level stakeholders.  The app received widespread attention, internationally, as a tool which has the potential for citizen participation in diverse contexts and communities.  The adaptation of the app, beyond the initial ESRC funded project demonstrates good value for money.  The research and subsequent Follow-on Fund has opened up a significant network of collaborative partnerships with NGOs, local governments, private corporations and international agencies working on inclusive, participatory, urban development processes and practices. 

There have been several notable impacts to infrastructure provision in some of the communities which we have worked.  Through using the app and participatory working, young people identified infrastructure need in their communities.  The data was used to campaign for change on the ground, advocating the local council to provide the facilities needed.  The successful campaigning of a sewage system was one such impact.  Work has begun on the implementation of the sewage system, a major success for those who will benefit from this infrastructure, leading to improved quality of life, health, wellbeing and social impact.  Further infrastructure changes as a result of this work include a children’s playground and implementation of a toilet block.  Through this work, government stakeholders and local authorities have reported that they have been encouraged to see young people as active social agents in their communities.  At an international scale, it is through the PI’s direct involvement with the UN-Habitat Global Expert Group in developing metadata for Sustainable Development Goal 11.3.2 that the project can have international reach and influence.