Picture a public sector official in Canada, an academic in Greece, a head of planning in Dubai, and the director of an airport in Malaysia. All four are working in separate corners of the globe, individually grappling with how to tackle some of the biggest transport issues on the planet. Geography dictates that they might struggle to ever help each other – until the launch of the Global Challenges in Transport Leadership Programme.
The initiative, launched in 2012 by the University of Oxford’s Transport Studies Unit (TSU), comprises four residential courses, which are bringing together the world’s leading experts from academia, policy and practice to address complex transport challenges. The programme offers an inclusive and critical space to discuss responses to pressing transport-related issues such as air pollution, climate change, increasing urbanisation, and the delivery of large-scale infrastructure projects. Participants can pool expert knowledge, share ideas, build new professional networks, and increase understanding of ways to optimise transport to support public wellbeing, equity, and accessibility. The programme has been designed to be fully inclusive. This is demonstrated through its commitment to engaging with gender inequalities within Transport Leadership and under-represented groups working in transport in the Global South.
The programme comprises four courses aimed at encouraging participants to share knowledge, think critically, and generate ideas within the transport policy/planning arena to address the complex challenges of sustainable transport futures. Specifically, they focus on 4 core challenges:
- Smart Technologies – What do the current rapid changes in technology mean for the future of people’s mobilities and everyday lives?
- Climate Change – How can transport policy and planning support the technological, behavioural and institutional transformation necessary to adapt and tackle climate change?
- Infrastructure – What role can transport infrastructure play in supporting a transition to more sustainable transport solutions?
- Health and Wellbeing – What are the current and potential impacts of transport on health, wellbeing and social equity
The courses have attracted influential decision makers, public sector officials, NGOs, practitioners, and early career researchers, from across the globe, who have applied learnings to shape sustainable transport:
- Global – Alumni have set up a new think tank enabling them to continue exchange knowledge, ideas and best practice in sustainable transport when back in their home countries.
- Public Sector Leader, Canada – One expert re-designed a campaign to encourage walking and cycling in the city of Victoria, applying behavioural insights gained on the programme
- Head planner, Dubai – This participant recruited two additional members of staff, who are experts in public health, after attending the Health, Wellbeing and Transport course
- Director of an airport in Malaysia – This attendee delivered lectures for a Government Ministry of Finance and multiple universities based on what he had learned
Further, the two-way dialogue in sessions also enables contributing speakers to gain invaluable feedback from potential end users of their work.
Feedback has been exemplary, with many participants citing their attendance as being ‘transformative':
It’s super awesome that I was able to learn about a theory and a practice, go back to my city, connect with a new group of professionals and build up our own capacity within our local government, and design and hopefully execute a project in 2019. - Canadian participant
We never thought of studying the impact of transportation on health, and on different types of diseases. - Dubai-based participant
After learning from the course, this idea came into my mind, that I should start working from the most vulnerable (people) and then try to go back. - UK and Pakistan-based participant
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