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The complexities and urgencies posed by a plurality of crises of a rapidly changing world pose new challenges and new understandings of social reality.The problematisation of this shifting terrain is critical in how we perceive social change and seek social justice. This theme deploys the theoretical constructs of Sen’s capability approach, human wellbeing approaches and a variety of commons approaches to enquire and conceptualise debates in human development, social change and social movements. The multidimensionality of development emphasised within the capability approach and the polycentrism and community self governance in commons approach form the central pillars of research in this strand. The approaches engage in a continuous dialogue to frame a wide range of domains in both the developing and developed country contexts from livelihoods, non-government and community organizations, self-help groups, use of common-pool resources, creation of commons and collective participation to environmental and social sustainability.

Research Approach

This  theme adopts a wide framework of human centered development and welcomes all research that is situated within this. The key theories that are the central research approaches of the strand are: the capability approach put forward by Amartya Sen and developed by others since the 1990s and a range of commons approaches to problematize, understand and evaluate different actors in development, livelihoods interventions, collective participation and sustainable development debates within environmental and social sustainability.

Previous research 

Exploring good practice in urban social cohesion in India and the UK – UKIERI Grant, June 2012 - October 2013.

Meera Tiwari,  Susannah Pickering-Saqqa, and Massimo De Angelis

Indian partner institution: Tata Institute for Social Sciences in Mumbai.

There are increasing concerns regarding social inequalities, deprivation and integration in the inner cities of UK and the persistence of poverty and exclusionary practices amidst rapid growth in urban India.

Despite different socioeconomic contexts, several common dimensions of deprivation experienced by marginalised communities in the UK and India offer fertile grounds for comparative analysis of innovative practices and the policy-community interface. East London is home to one of the most diverse communities amongst the European cities and faces complex challenges regarding inclusiveness and poverty. These offer several common key dimensions between the UK and Indian case studies within the Capability and the Commons Approach framework adopted for this research.

The project explores  the good practice in marginalised and poor communities in the UK and India and, through collaboration and exchange, aims to develop a framework for dissemination and evaluation of practices to overcome deprivation.

Poverty and Social Impact analysis of Rural Livelihoods Programme in Bihar – Phase 3, funded by the University of East London, February – July 2013

Meera Tiwari and Sabina Alkire (Oxford University, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative)

The third bi-annual poverty and social impact assessment of JeeVika self-help group in rural Bihar  will measure the impact of the JeeVika Project, by capturing key ongoing changes to livelihoods, access to health and other public services, and the ability of participants to exercise agency. The purpose of this investigation is to understand how change and shifts in the human development paradigm are taking place in one of the most socio-economically deprived rural regions in India. 

Exploring the inter-generational transmission of human wellbeing amongst Latin American migrant migrants and their daughters in deprived areas of London, UK

Katie Wright

Working with the Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS), the research  examines: (i) How the inter-generational transmission (IGT) of human wellbeing is shaped by intersecting inequalities such as gender, class, ethnicity and age; (ii) How far international migration as a livelihood improvement strategy enhances the IGT of human wellbeing; (iii) Ways to move beyond material endowments (e.g. asset allocations) to explore the wider psychosocial aspects of wellbeing (such as norms, values, attitudes and behaviours) and how far are these transferred inter-generationally from mothers to daughters and (iv)The processes though which this occurs throughout the life course, for example to determine how individual outcomes are linked to families across generations.

Poverty and Social Impact analysis of Rural Livelihoods Programme in Bihar, India. -Meera Tiwari

The first phase of this longitudinal research was funded by a small ESRC-ICSSR to conduct the pilot for the Bihar component of the larger project, February – July, 2009

Poverty and Social Impact analysis of Rural Livelihoods Programme in Bihar – Phase 2

Meera Tiwari

The second phase of the project was funded by the University of East London, February – July 2011

ESRC-DFID Research Consultancy: Conceptualizing influence and impact in development research

Katie Wright

This study analysed how development research can be used to influence processes of social change. The research included participatory workshops in secondary schools located in disadvantaged areas of London and Liverpool.

Conceptualizing the Construction of Human Wellbeing across Spatial Boundaries: The case of Peruvian Migrants in London and Madrid

Katie Wright

This project examined the concept of 'living well' – exploring how human wellbeing is constructed and how it 'travels' across spatial boundaries. Drawing on empirical research, undertaken with Peruvian migrants based in London and Madrid, it investigated the needs that migrants themselves identified in their attempts to 'live well'. By next examining the perspectives of their Peru-based relatives and close friends, the research project moved beyond consideration of how wellbeing is constructed in particular locations to consider inter-subjective impacts of this migration and the global interconnectedness of human wellbeing outcomes.

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