CHS's Mission and Vision


The Centre for Human Settlements (CHS), a unit within SCARP, takes as its mission to advance knowledge of the dynamics and effective methods for democratically planning the sustainable development of settlements. The interdisciplinary research and capacity-building programs at the Centre address a multiplicity of complex community development issues. In collaboration with academic, governmental and NGO partners CHS advances knowledge through participatory action research, field tests of proposed planning methods, institutional capacity building, and mutual learning.


CHS has an established record of research in planning for sustainable development that explores local and global paths toward achieving it. In the last ten years, since CHS was designated an International Centre of Excellence in community and regional planning by the Canadian International Development Agency to carry out a program on mega-urban planning and governance in Asia, we have been awarded four other major CIDA grants: participatory planning and poverty alleviation in Vietnam; sustainable watershed management in Sao Paulo, Brazil; sustainable water management in the Beijing-Tianjin region in China, and education for democratic planning in Sri Lanka. The Centre has also carried out a UNDP funded project on planning for sustainability in Hanoi, Vietnam and a SSHRC-funded project to initiate an international gender and development network.


The other research units under the umbrella of CHS, the Eco-Risk Research Unit (ERRU) and the Disaster Preparedness Resource Centre (DPRC), have been successful, as well, in obtaining funding for a variety of research and training projects. Faculty Research Associates of the Centre have also been active in individual research projects funded by a broad spectrum of national and international funding agencies.




The following key strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for the Centre for Human Settlements have been identified through ongoing discussions of the CHS Management Committee regarding the future direction of the centre and accreditation reviews in 1999 by the US Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) and the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP) of CHS's relationship to SCARP.



The experience, talent and commitment of its faculty associates, project coordinators, staff and students.

Its established international reputation and recognition for research and capacity building focused on democratically planning the sustainable development of settlements.

Fund raising and proposal development capabilities of its faculty, project coordinators and staff.

Its practiced interdisciplinarity and ability to deliver high quality projects.

Its well-established partnerships, locally and globally, with governments, civil society and business.

Its ongoing research and capacity building activities around the world, in particular, Canada, Vietnam, China, Sri Lanka and Brazil.



Shortage of faculty time and resources to actively develop and work on projects.

Inadequate GPOF budgets for staff, supplies and expenses.

Project proposals underestimate total costs and personnel time demands.

Limited IT capacity.

Physical separation of SCARP and CHS leading to duplication of resources and barriers to involvement of planning students.

Lack of strategic planning to develop and guide implementation of vision, themes and project selection priorities.

Management Committee model does not facilitate strong overall leadership for Centre.

Underexploited opportunities to integrate SCARP and CHS teaching, research and capacity building activities.

Strengths of programs in developing world are not balanced by comparable strengths in B.C., Canada and the rest of the developed world.



Hiring of two new faculty in 2001 providing expertise in urban planning and social policy, and urban design.

Creation of a chair in sustainable transportation planning to be taken up in 2001.

Designation of one Canada Research Chair in 2001 (Chair in Sustainable Urbanization in Asia) to be shared with IAR and directly working at the Centre and the possibility of collaborative work with a second Chair (Chair in Decision Research?) appointed in SDRI and the Liu Centre.

Further endowment funding in prospect.

High levels of demand for CHS research and capacity building.

Major and diverse funding opportunities for research and capacity building.

CHS exemplifies new priorities for interdisciplinarity, internationalization and community involvement in UBC and FOGS Academic Plans



Further decline in GPOF for support of staff, supplies and expenses.

Burnout of faculty associates and staff from unrelenting pressures.

Lack of appreciation of the role and value of capacity building by the University.

Several of the major projects at the Centre will be finishing in the next few years.

Reallocation of overheads that have supported ongoing activities and provide resources for investing in development of new programs and projects.



Research Themes


CHS sees its mandate as congruent with the goals of Trek 2000 and has already been actively working to develop the Centre in this direction. Our past project development and future plans reflect a commitment to interdisciplinary research, internationalization and community outreach. The overarching research theme that guides CHS is developing and testing theories and effective methods for democratically planning the sustainable development of settlements. This theme directly links to issues of the global/ local, public policy analysis and public involvement. The focus is on refining methods that are participatory (i.e., provide an opportunity for people to be involved in more aspects of planning). In order to carry out this theme we recognize the need for collaboration with academic, government and non-governmental organizations, and an interdisciplinary approach to projects where the intersections between cultural, economic, political and institutional forces in the human system dynamics need to be understood. We also recognize the importance of a variety of methods of analysis including social impact assessment and gender analysis (among others).


Subsets of this overarching research theme link directly to ongoing research projects and the 21st Century Chair that we successfully obtained. These are: 1) the human, environmental and institutional aspects of Asian urbanization (a geographical strength we have had for a number of years); 2) human settlements implications of globalization in all its dimensions, including populations flows, and how this shapes interactions between Vancouver and the Pacific Basin and, beyond that, the rest of the globe; and 3) social policy development.


Current Projects


The current projects at CHS are focused on capacity-building and academic research. The capacity building projects are mainly large (over $100,000 per year) and funded by aid agencies (primarily CIDA). The academic research projects are funded by small grants from academic funding agencies such as SSHRC.


The themes that the projects can be organized under are:


1) Academic Programming and Research for Poverty Reduction


We are currently working on several major capacity building projects that are assisting universities in developing countries (i.e., presently in Vietnam and Sri Lanka) to build capacity in their curriculum for planning and community development for poverty reduction.


2) Environmental Management/ Sustainable Development


The projects grouped under this theme (i.e., the projects in Brazil and China) aim to address environmental issues through a participatory approach to sustainable development.


3) First Nation Issues


The Centre has been active in the past in training and research on First Nation Issues.


4) Gender and Development


CHS has been active in Gender and Development training and research and is currently doing work in this area through the various Capacity Development projects (i.e., Vietnam, Brazil, Sri Lanka).


5) Background Research for International Conferences


Associates of CHS have prepared background papers for international conferences such as Habitat II and have acted as advisors to these conferences.


6) Housing


CHS has been active in the past in housing research especially for low income and disadvantaged populations.


7) Metropolitan Restructuring


This academic research encompasses an investigation of the transformation of Asia-Pacific City Regions.


8) Socio/Economic Issues


Encompassed in this academic research is a wide variety of projects focusing on marginalized communities and new forms of work organization that impact community life.


9) Urban Management and Planning


This theme encompasses both academic research and training projects focused on the management of large metropolitan regions.


10) Disaster Preparedness Resource Centre


Research, training and conference preparation have been done under the theme of disaster preparedness at the Centre which is part of CHS.


11) Eco-Risk Research Unit


Extensive academic research has been conducted in the Eco-Risk Research Unit, part of CHS, on decision-making for environmental risk management.


12) Project Development Grants


Project development grants have been awarded to CHS to develop proposals for large projects.



Indicators of Existing Strengths


At present, CHS has a Management Committee who are furthering its mission made up of 10 Faculty Research Associates, who are also maintaining full teaching and graduate advising loads. In the last ten years we have been awarded close to $14.5 million in research grants. We have had a number of avenues for research output (in the last ten years): 1) individual faculty research associates papers published or accepted for publication in major refereed journals (over 200); 2) CHS working paper series publications (over 50); 3) books published or accepted for publication (4); 5) technical reports for clients or research agencies (over 50); and (4); new media publications (1 CD-ROM and development of an interactive Web Site for two of the CIDA projects). CHS faculty research associates have also been called upon to act as expert advisors for a number of CIDA and other granting agency initiatives, workshops, and conferences.


As an additional strength, the School and the Centre for Human Settlements have excellent research and teaching relationships with other interdisciplinary units at UBC including the Institute for Resources and Environment, the Sustainable Development Research Institute, the Institute for Asian Research, the Centre for Research in Women Studies and Gender Relations, the Liu Centre for the Study of Global Issues, the School of Social Work, and the School of Architecture. These linkages facilitate both the sharing of new resources widely across campus and enhance the interdisciplinary character and strengths of both SCARP/ CHS and the Faculty of Graduate Studies.


Goals for Next Five Years


CHS has begun a strategic planning process to identify its strengths and provide a direction for future initiatives. Our three main goals for the immediate future are to: 1) create a strong academic presence for CHS on campus and beyond; 2) more effectively link our research at CHS with the SCARP teaching program; and 3) maintain our existing role as a centre for excellence in international capacity building projects. In addition we want to reinforce the role of CHS in community outreach and make effective use of information technologies and new media in teaching and research.


In the process of strategic planning we have developed five criteria to evaluate whether a project should be developed for CHS. These include: 1) Opportunity to generate new knowledge; 2) Opportunity to disseminate new knowledge; 3) Capacity to be financially viable; 4) Necessity for an interested faculty person to lead and participate in the project; and 5) Ability to meet CHS mission statement requirements.


Hiring Plans


While it is recognized that our strengths are in managing large international research and capacity building projects this comes at the cost in resources of faculty time that implementing these projects entail. Due to the recent retirements and resignations of SCARP/ CHS faculty we are down to a small core of faculty who are committed to these types of projects. Therefore, we recognize the need to recruit faculty who can become active participants in the work of CHS. For example, we need immediately a new faculty member with expertise in international planning that can develop and direct new projects. The successful designation of a 21st Century Chair in Sustainable Urbanization in Asia fit into our immediate need for a senior person with international recognition who can guide the vision of CHS but we also recognize the need to be able to recruit junior scholars. Therefore, we will be proposing another 21st Century Chair to be designated for a promising junior scholar that could lead participatory action research and studies on community-based planning in the context of globalization.


Future Directions of CHS


In considering future directions for CHS it is recognized that it is necessary to build on the existing strengths of CHS and capitalize on the opportunities before it while remedying some of the past weaknesses and looming threats. As a starting point the current mission and vision statements for SCARP were taken as given.


A possible structure for CHS that is being considered is one based on a series of linked programs. The conceptual framework emphasizes flexibility, inclusivity, effectiveness, efficiency and clarity for people outside CHS. The organizational structure has a "Director" instead of a "Chair." There is an explicit emphasis on the "Programs" which are now loosely defined at CHS through our projects. There is also the possibility of component "Sub-Programs" and "Projects" and cross-cutting "Programs." There is also an identification of specific research themes and questions which could be the basis for a funding and development strategy for CHS. The structure also provides a clear and explicit identity for CHS.


This structure emphasizes:


o The function of CHS would be to serve as "the research and capacity building arm of SCARP." It would have mission and vision statements reflecting this.

CHS would have a "director", who would be responsible for providing leadership to the Centre and its overall activities, who would have a multi-year appointment (e.g. 3 years) and a director's honorarium.

CHS would have a number of explicit "programs"; some might be large, others small; some might be short-term, others longer-term; some may have one project, others might have a variety of projects and sub-projects.

Programs might include different emphases on research and capacity building.

Other programs might be conceived as cutting across or drawing on several programs.

CHS would have a core administrative staff that would provide support services to all programs.


If organized in the above way, a number of operating principles or guidelines would need to be developed and agreed to including;

Terms of reference for the CHS director and procedure for selection.

Mission and vision statements for CHS that relate to those for the School and that guide the CHS programs for research and capacity building.

Policies for funding the shared administrative staff and support services.

Minimum criteria to be met before formal recognition as a CHS program (e.g. existence of a program leader and at least adequate resources for initiation).

Terms of reference for a committee of the director and faculty associates that makes decisions on the management of the Centre and its activities.