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School of Geography

Cities & Social Justice Projects

Transformational routemapping for urban environments (TRUE)

PI: Paul Chatterton

Co-I: Mark Birkin, Phil Purnell, Nancy Madter, Janet Watson, Fiona Fylan (LBU)

UK Cities face wide-ranging challenges including: inequality, crime, housing shortages, infrastructure congestion, carbon dependency, environmental degradation, and low skills. Local governments are working to address these against a background of prolonged financial austerity, electoral disengagement, misalignments in priorities between central and other tiers of government, rigid funding cycles, organisational silos and low levels of information, all of which contribute to sub-optimal decisions that can intensify persistent problems and degrade public confidence. Given this context, this project is committed to transformation based on enhancing capacity to better manage urban complexity in ways that promote co-production and collaborative working practices, civic enterprise, retain local value and develop new types of institutions.

This project mobilises a multi-sector consortium called TRUE (Transformational Routemapping for Urban Environments) to collaboratively diagnose interrelated urban challenges. TRUE represents meaningful commitment from the university, public, private and civil society sectors to collaborative working in Leeds. TRUE recognises that a step-change is required in the ways that current urban systems are arranged, and that producing this change entails first understanding the integrated nature of the complexities in current and future urban living systems and the factors (including capacity/capability) that anchor the effective delivery of city-wide solutions.  Once this understanding is gained, it is then necessary to establish the capabilities required to deliver them.  Finally, steps can be taken to achieve effective outcomes. Key to this is the ability to align stakeholder capability to the complexity of the undertaking at city scales. Failure to do so can result in cost and time overruns, political damage, undelivered objectives and outcomes and other unintended consequences.

The aim of TRUE is to adopt a socio-technical systems approach to diagnosing complexity and aligning capability embodied in a tested approach called Project Initiation Routemap (Routemap). By drawing on Routemap and adapting it, TRUE is positioned to rethink how local authorities deliver integrated city-wide solutions. The Routemap brings together learning from the public and private sector ranging from Crossrail to NHS England into a framework that allows users to better align complexity with the capabilities required to manage a complex environments, thus increasing the likelihood of successful outcomes. By first applying and then radically adapting the Routemap, TRUE creates a diagnostic cycle in which transferrable guidance can be developed in a collaborative manner. TRUE has joined up with Routemap consultants to ensure that urban pilot developments will incorporate the full learning of the existing Routemap portfolio and have traction at a national government level.

For this urban pilot, TRUE will apply this approach to a selection of priority outcome areas (called Breakthrough Projects) identified by Leeds City Council (LCC). Each of these Breakthrough Projects encompasses a multitude of interrelated challenges and these projects will be used to collaboratively develop TRUE as a novel, highly applicable and transferable holistic diagnostic tool.  This tool will have direct potential benefits in terms of assessing systemic complexity and integrated challenges to enhance capacity amongst city actors to support the delivery of citywide solutions that can meet future challenges. It will be presented through an open license digital platform and training guidance delivered by quality assured TRUE partners available to city officials across the UK and internationally. TRUE will be launched at a major city based Launch conference. Through these, TRUE will be uniquely placed to enhance capacity of city teams to support the delivery of integrated city-wide solutions that meet identified objectives.

Start date: 1/9/2016

End date: 31/1/2018

Funder: EPSRC (

Project website: To follow