GREAT Closing Conference

Gridding Equitable Urban Futures in Areas of Transition A n opening

September 21-22, 2023

In what ways should we rethink the relationship between socio-technical transitions and the making of more equitable urban futures? What capacities, requirements and imaginaries do communities have in contexts of informality; contexts that are often perceived as marginal, precarious, and incomplete? How should we contextualise policies bent on targets, notably decarbonising and net zero energy, so that the knowledge, creativity, resilience, and regenerative resourcefulness of citizens are integrated into visions and the making of just, equitable futures for the specific places they call their home?

This conference seeks to engage with these and related questions through a range of contributions charting and reflecting on the experience of communities from cities in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. Together, the contributions show how the making of equitable urban futures is intertwined with questions that are at once political, environmental, socio-economic, and cultural. This is a process riddled with significant challenges concerning ethnicity, gender, class, age, the presence of violence, and the barriers that these challenges pose to voice and representation. Our aim is to reflect on the specific conditions and variations of such challenges in areas of transition, namely, areas undergoing change from one condition to another whether it involves: climate change and changes to particular ways of life; shifts in the use of specific technologies; shifts in understandings of political regimes, local and national economies; the transformation of institutions related to, for example, transitional justice following periods of armed conflict, violence, and war; the transformation of legal frameworks and practices concerning the legacy of extractive industries; urban transitions and transformations research as defined by Torrens et al (2021); and more.

The conference fosters a critical debate about what it means to ‘grid’ equitable urban futures. Focusing on gridding as a verb allows us to recognise, map, and develop the strong human, material, and natural ‘infrastructures of relational practices’ that are central to the making of futures (Simone 2015, 2004, Amin and Thrift 2017, Escobar 2018). How people ‘grid’ together these relations intersects with efforts that counter technical fixes designed with little concern for how they might be used by residents of, for example, informal settlements or popular neighbourhoods. We wish to explore the multiple ways in which gridding practices come together, clash, and complement each other; and to learn from contributions that tell us about the politics, the challenges and the opportunities
of gridding in particular places, with specific groups of people at a particular time in their history.

The conference draws from and includes reports by members of the UKRI-GCRF project (2020-2024) Gridding Equitable Urban Futures in Areas of Transition in Cali, Colombia and Havana, Cuba – GREAT, which brings together Lancaster University, University College London, Universidad del Valle in Cali and the Technological University of Havana “José Antonio Echavarría” CUJAE. As the programme below shows, the array of papers, contributors, and institutional affiliations provides us with a fitting starting point to debate how equitable urban and other futures can be conceptualised and acted upon in several contexts. We see this debate as an opening. A full list of delegates is included at the end of this book of abstracts so that conversations may continue in their own ways in future.

We hope you enjoy the conference and thank you once again for joining us for this timely and important discussion.
With all best wishes, The GREAT team

Date: September 21st  and 22nd, 2023

Place: University of Lancaster, UK