People, Climate, and Inclusive Infrastructure : A thesis on design and planning in underserved neighbourhoods

Abstract: This thesis is concerned with the processes of design and planning of infrastructure in rapidly urbanising cities that can lead to a more just and sustainable trajectory of urban development in the context of a changing climate. The thesis draws on case studies, panel surveys, interviews, and participant-observation of both top-down and bottom-up planning processes for infrastructure development and flood risk management in the context of urban informal areas, with a particular focus on the large informal neighbourhood of Kibera in central Nairobi, Kenya. The research herein employs a transdisciplinary approach to bring together the knowledge and expertise of residents, practitioners, design professionals, and academics in research design and delivery, and in the interpretation of the data and results. The overall aim of the thesis is to generate new understanding on the involvement of citizens and technical experts in the design and planning of urban development initiatives, and in particular for building flood resilience in informal, underserved and under-resourced neighbourhoods. Outputs include: theory development for multi-stakeholder participation in infrastructure planning, the analysis of participatory tools for flood risk management in urban contexts and new evidence on the benefits and limitations of emergent practices in local infrastructure management. Results show how informal areas can be sites for innovation, transition, and integration of infrastructure systems at multiple scales. The data and cases presented show how residents in underserved and under-resourced neighbourhoods have sophisticated knowledge about local climate-threats and have clear priorities for longer term development that should be at the centre of infrastructure and upgrading. This thesis puts forward a model of inclusive infrastructure development that aims to capture the emergent and transformational properties of concerted efforts by resident and civil society groups, alongside routes to scale and replicability, and to provide more viable and responsive development pathways for underserved neighbourhoods.

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