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Across the universe, Making Cities Work

During the World Urban Forum in 2014, I attended an IHS Alumni gathering. Back then I was not an Alumnus yet, I was accepted to start my Master program later that year. I was so excited to meet the people, who before me, had follow that path of enlightenment, hear their stories and solve questions that were in my mind at the time. Today, after finishing my studies and closing this howling year, I get to reflect on all the experiences lived at IHS, and above all, on the wonderful people I met during our studies. The staff, the teachers and my fellow UMDers (participants in the Urban Management and Development MSc. programme), who enriched my life, while sharing their experiences on how cities work all around the world.


I have thought on starting a new blog ever since graduation day, to share knowledge about cities, discuss new ideas and especially, to stay close to all those friends who currently are spread all over the world, making it happen. So I reached out to them and asked what were they doing a few moths after the graduation day. I thought it would be interesting to share what happens after finishing studies, what are the perspectives and prospectives of IHS Alumni, where have those brilliant minds been put to use and what has happened after we all said... "Tot ziens!"



Most of my UGPP (Urban Governance and Public Policies) colleagues went back to their previous jobs, continuing their work on local policy and governance, as Fitri Novitasari working with the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry, or Rio Joko who also reported from Indonesia. Some of us were sponsored by our local organizations or the Dutch organization for internationalization in education Nuffic, therefore, part of the commitment was to give back to our countries what we learned. I believe this kind of support, focused on fostering people, is one of the key values of current city trends, and a way to improve the quality of life and promote healthy citizenship.


Some others followed the path of the RMT (Research Methods and Theories). Research has captivated their minds and decided to work in education and research institutions, like Noel Korukire, teaching at the University of Rwanda or Christina Thanner, in Berlin. Some even continued inside IHS as research assistants, is the case of Marina Salimgareeva, Donia Tawakol and Dorcas Nthoki, who started working as part of the staff in the Woudestein campus after their successful theses researches.


The relation between Academia and the city sometimes grows apart and sometimes is very close. I personally prefer applied science academia, I am not referring to the natural science kind, I mean the type of research that is shared and pushes city decision-making processes in a technical field, rather than a political will. In this sense, IHS has a great potential, which we do not get to see very close as students.


There is work for urban game changers all around the world. However, Africa is the ultimate destination, which I discovered as I started looking for new horizons, places where I would like to work, topics I would like to explore and I found a common denominator there. For those fellows who are still searching, maybe Africa is calling for you too. Among those who answered that call is Vittoria Gemelli. Long before starting her new fellowship in the UN program in Nairobi, Vittoria decided to head South, discovering in Hargeisa, Somaliland a niche for her thesis and a place to fulfill her dreams. I guess if we all came from Africa, someday, somehow, we all have to make our way back and it appears to be a good time to do so, epecially if we have so many good friends and experienced colleagues around.

I guess we are all still a bit hungover, as Forbes would say, after the Hype and High of our life in the vibrant city of Rotterdam. Nevertheless, now is the time for the hindsight to start, as we get hands on and start working to improve quality of life in cities across the universe. Where we end up is uncertain, however, the path feels right when you know you are not alone.

Ricardo Daza is an Urban Land Development Specialist with a MSc in Urban Management and Development from IHS, Institute for Housing & Urban Development Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam and licensed Architect from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Colombia. With more than 10 years of professional expertise, conducting and managing projects for both non-profit and private sector. Extensive knowledge on Planning, Design and Construction Management processes in projects at different scales. Long experience in Strategic and Action Planning methodologies as well as Place Making and Participatory Design technics. Passionate problem solver and creative solution finder.