CR&DALL was delighted to co-host a joint seminar and workshop at the School of Education in the University of Glasgow on May 28th and the 29th funded by the Scottish Funding Council from its contribution to the University of Glasgow’s efforts to develop activities concerned with the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). The two events were organised as part of the project The role of universities in developing skills for Smart Cities, led by Dr Srabani Maitra (School of Education), Professor Mike Osborne (School of Education), Professor Muhammad Imran (School of Engineering) and Dr Seth Agbo (University of Lakehead, Canada).
A team of academics from leading universities and research centres in India, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan presented at the event, exploring how Universities as centres of learning and social responsibility can contribute to an equitable learning ecosystem for the sustainable development and productive integration of marginalised populations living and working in the smart cities.
On the first day of the event, the India team (Dr Ellina Samantroy, Professor Seema Singh, Dr Saikat Maitra, Dr Ajith Kaliyath) raised several challenges that Indian cities are experiencing in terms of unemployment, declining female labour force participation, informal labour and lack of access to technology that need to be addressed before smart cities can be envisioned. Colleagues from Central Asia (Professor Asylbek Aidaraliev, Professor Muratbek Baihodjoev, Professor Zina Karaeva, Dr Natalya Pak) while welcoming the idea of a smart city shared several challenges that require immediate attention such as lack of technological literacy, low communication with technological institutions in Higher Education, lack of focus on inclusive learning and lack of participation of marginalised communities in the planning and implementation of smart cities. Overall, the presentations stressed the need for Universities to be more proactive in addressing issues around gender, class, caste in Higher Education and to make smart city initiatives more participatory and inclusive.
On the second day of the event a day long workshop was organised that explored challenges around conducting participatory research with marginalised communities. Professor Sayantan Ghosal, Dean of Interdisciplinarity and Impact at the College of Social Sciences, University of Glasgow shared his work with the community of sex workers in Kolkata, India and the challenges of conducting quantitative research projects that aim to be inclusive of the marginalised populations in cities. This was followed by a practical workshop on Participatory Research Methodology led by Dr Rajesh Tandon, UNESCO Chair on Community-based Research & Social Responsibility of Higher Education since 2012 and the founder-President of PRIA (Participatory Research in Asia) since 1982. Dr Tandon’s workshop focussed on how to conduct community-based participatory research, building on respect for local, indigenous and practitioner knowledge as a founding principle.
Both events were well attended and followed by open discussions that addressed several challenges faced by universities in providing learning opportunities that are inclusive as well as participatory and would take into consideration the needs and experiences of marginalised communities living in smart cities. We are very grateful to all participants for sharing such thoughtful insights at both events.