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“I thought you had retired!” Life after IHS

author: Forbes Davidson


More time for the family is a nice concept, but difficult if you retire from the institution but not from practice. That is how it is for me having decided that life “behind the geraniums” as they say in Holland, is not so interesting. So, what is it like? Well, I am still often to be seen in IHS, teaching, meeting colleagues and occasionally managing to get a gameof table football, but I also travel a lot – Mongolia, Kosovo, Egypt, India, Colombia and soon to Vietnam. Recent highlights at IHS? Working with the special Brazilian groups – highly motivated, very bright and enjoying life (also very good at table football), and also making some inputs into the ever expanding Masters programme.


I spend more time now on consultancy, sometimes linked to IHS work and sometimes quite separate. Typically work combines field visits with work from the home office. I am currently finishing work in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia for the city government and World Bank. The city has very special problems with 60% of the population living in informallydeveloped “Ger” areas. Plenty of land, but very poor infrastructure, winters of extreme cold and severe air pollution. Asian, but with strongreminders of the Soviet Union past.



Ger areas, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (photo- Forbes Davidson)

Another recent assignment was to evaluate the work done by UN-Habitat in Kosovo supporting the development of urban planning capacity at municipal level.  A blended approach to capacity development was used linking on-job support to indirect means such as the use of manuals.  A particularly interesting approach was the use of small “capital investment projects” as a stepping stone to more ambitious interventions.  Towns worked on creating improved public spaces such as walking routes, parks and playgrounds. One example was a school playing ground redesigned by students with support from teachers, parents and the municipality to be a multifunctional community space.  This allows early action, helps build credibility and demonstrates the potential of participative approaches.  Towns must contribute half the cost which requires local government commitment.  Practical achievement helps to motivate the staff involved, which is necessary if more ambitious work is to be undertaken. For more information see UN-Habitat Kosovo website.



Pupil-led planning, Kosovo (photo- Forbes Davidson)

Riverbank footpath and public space, Kosovo (photo- Forbes Davidson)

If you are interested in other activities and lessons-learned, you can find more on my website my website.