Since 2012, the Transport Studies Unit (TSU) has been running the Global Challenges in Transport (GCT) Leadership Programme. This series of short courses is a central feature of TSU’s outward-facing activities that facilitate the discussion of research beyond the University. The GCT programme is designed as a thinking space of cross-fertilisation for practitioners and researchers, with a specific global and international focus, contributing to creating critical and decolonised transport knowledge and practices.
The high cost of running the courses and associated course fees, however, frequently results in limited attendance by participants from the Global South. This has had significant impacts on the diversity of participants and has sometimes posed a risk of reproducing the traditional transport planning context dominated by ‘white males’, and associated issues relating to epistemic justice and involuntarily reproducing colonial relationships and gender-biased transport knowledges.
In an attempt to redress these concerns, we have worked hard over the years to implement highly reflective/reflexive practices and conducted a research project called “Decolonising knowledge within the neoliberal university: the challenge of teaching sustainable transport”. The study, through auto-ethnography and in-depth interviews with past course participants, has investigated in more detail the contradictions and challenges that the courses created and at the same time helped us reflect on possible strategies to the tension between our ethical commitments and external demands.
The Inspiration Fund has allowed us to complete the research project, funding course attendance for more participants from the Global South who self-identified as women and who had specifically stressed the challenge that a highly gendered working environment constituted for them. Thanks to the Fund, we have been able to set up a special scholarship that has received over 40 applications from across the Global South. As a result, we have been able to fully fund attendance (travels and fees) of four exceptional candidates from Nigeria, Pakistan, Ecuador and India.
They have been a great addition to the programme, bringing unique views and experiences to the interactions and exchanges that constitute the core of the courses. A few months later, we interviewed these participants, getting important insights on the ways in which the courses influenced their work as well as on the challenges they faced and possible ways in which we could improve our courses to support people in similar situations in the future. Examining their experiences also enabled us to further consider the politics and ethics of our potential role in influencing transport policy making.
Further than that, the availability of a scholarship for the programme attracted an extraordinary number of participants and our September 2018 course has been the most diverse, engaged and inspiring course we have run so far. The attendees even launched a think tank to continue developing the connections and dialogue between them!
We are in the process of publishing a paper based on the research project and continue to learn from the reflections we made by developing and evolving the programme.