Workshopping Urban Governance: Take Aways from Under Reform Summer School

The group, ready to present their final projects (photo: Ashish Verma)

The world is, at present, a much different place since the UK Under Reform team left Bengaluru earlier this March. We remain grateful that our Transport Governance Summer School was able to go ahead successfully. In this post we highlight aspects of the three-day programme including who was involved, the focus, and some of the tremendous outputs that were a product of three days of intense learning and collaboration.

Designed by the study team, the purpose of the Summer School was to advance participant awareness and expertise on the theoretical, methodological and analytical approaches available for understanding the role that governance plays in influencing transport and mobility.

An application call was circulated across Indian research and academic networks and on social media and after careful deliberation 19 participants were selected. We were thrilled to find a diversity in geography, discipline, age and gender across our participants. Attendees came from as far north as Ahmedabad and Delhi and as far south as Chennai and Kozhikode. Some participants worked directly within the government, usually as planners, while others were students, researchers or activists working on issues such as air quality or bus accessibility. All expressed interest in understanding the utility of a governance lens for understanding transport and city planning more broadly.

Taking place at the Indian Institute of Science, the three days were structured around thematic presentations, discussions, group dissemination, guest speakers, and of course wonderful food and conversation. The summer school was supported through the tremendous logistical coordination of Ambika Keshav and visiting researcher Nate Keltch. Under Reform investigator and Summer School host Ashish Verma provided additional support throughout.


Day one

The first day was largely focused on coming together to understand commonalities across interests and research, followed by a more general discussion of what transport governance means in the Indian context. Louise Reardon gave participants a broad overview of What is Transport Governance.

We broke into groups to discuss two academic papers on the subject. Guest speaker Mathew Idiculla spoke of urban governance in the Bengaluru context and this was followed by a lively discussion exploring several questions including those of capacity, constitutional rights of local authorities, and the future of urban governance broadly.


Participants showcase their current research and understandings of governance (Photos: Monika Singh)
Evening dinner (Photos: Aditya Verma)

Day two

The second day began with a presentation from Greg Marsden on the question: Is Decision Making Rational? This was followed by a case study of transport decision making and implementation in Bengaluru led by Shaheen Shaw of BBPV. The idea was to take a problem led approach and focus on who makes transport decisions for the city and at what level of government. The afternoon sessions were focused on different methodological approaches to engaging in transport research as well as a presentation about the Under Reform project from the team and how qualitative methods were used throughout the project.

Late afternoon was turned over to participants who were placed into small teams and tasked with the challenge of choosing a transport problem and coming up with a research design to investigate the governance and policy issues behind it. Each group needed to clearly explain the nature of the problem, the research questions, the design and methodological approach taken to understand and address these questions and, finally, to identify any challenges that may arise.

Shaheen Shaw of BBPV speaks about buses in Bengaluru (Photo: Morgan Campbell)

Groups brainstorm about key messages and information needed to investigate the transport governance problem.

Day three

The last day was given to the teams to present their projects. Projects ranged from questions of why walkability falls to the wayside of the policy agenda, the decision making behind area-based urban beautification projects, the future of Bengaluru’s intraurban rail, and how institutional arrangements help foster barriers to universal accessibility. All groups showed tremendous engagement and collaboration with one another with many inspiring ideas for how to take transport governance research forward.

Overall the Summer School allowed for tremendous synergy across the organisers and participants. We look forward to keeping in touch with everyone who was involved and sharing future ideas about how to research and understand transport governance in India.

Greg and Ashish present an overview of research findings from Under Reform to IISc faculty and students (Photo: Nate Keltch)