About UAL

Facts about UAL

  • Urban Action Lab is an initiative from UN-Habitat
  • UAL was established to respond to growing demand from cities to find transformative solutions to complex urban challenges
  • Drives innovative ideas, processes & partnerships to steer tangible and transformative urban solutions that contribute to sustainable urbanisation implementation of the NUA and achievement of the SDGs
  • UAL also facilitates collaboration between a multi-disciplinary set of partners, stakeholders and experts.
  • Integrates the necessary expertise to develop tangible, catalytic and transformative solutions to complex urban challenges in developed, developing and emerging countries.
  • UAL was founded in 2000 by Associate Professor Shuaib Lwasa
  • Based at the Department of Geography, Geo-informatics and Climatic Sciences – School of Forestry, Environment and Geographical Sciences

  • UAL works towards merging Academia and Practice

The Urban Action Innovations Lab (UAL) - a knowledge-based approach for engaging with issues of sustainable urban development challenges.The Urban Action Lab is a pro-active learning environment engaging different individuals from academia, community, private sector and policy domains to stimulate and facilitate action.The UAL is also designed to enhance university education and research on urban challenges in the region. This Lab is developed as a regional hub with Makerere University as the anchor institution expanding in the East African region.

UAL is an opportunity to engage in sustainable urban development, climate change adaptation and urban planning issues faced by the city. The UAL is a space for learning-by-doing aimed at enhancing planning education critically required to meet the challenges. The National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) is a key partner as a community-based organization that will offer entry of students and researchers to the communities.


“To be a knowledge-based, action oriented Research Lab, engaging a multi stakeholder platforms to stimulate and facilitate action towards sustainable urban development and enhance university education and research on urban challenges”

Objectives of UAL

  1. To nurture a collaborative research environment (pooling together skills, resources and intellectual labour) for urban researchers both senior scientists and early career scholars and graduate students;
  2. To bring and partner with other urban scholars (both national and international), activists, planners,, policy makers, organizations, community groups, civic leaders and communities to:
    1. make contributions to theory and practice by producing situated, critical and interdisciplinary knowledge
    2. co-generate evidence and rigorous research to design, test and scale programs (what works) and translate that evidence to unlock the power of communities and policymaking to improve lives, advance economic opportunity and advance the urban agenda.
  3. To attract new partners to the Lab and create new avenues for collaboration.

The UAL is also an anchor of the UNI Climate Change HUB – Cities are contributors to Green House Gas-GHG emissions and on the other hand climate change is increasingly causing impacts on cities. In Africa, cities are more often experiencing natural disasters. Vulnerability assessments of cities in some of the East African countries have been completed generating sufficient information to sustain the shift towards solutions-oriented research and knowledge generation in order to better equip city governments to address climate change impacts. This HUB focuses on climate change and disaster risk reduction in Africa and responds to the knowledge and practice gaps in adaptation and mitigation of climate change as well as disaster risk reduction that have been identified in the region.

It will do so through interactive processes of research-dissemination-uptake. The HUB builds on a multiplicity of methodological and analytical frameworks that enhance co-generation of knowledge among academics, students, communities and researchers in the region. It focuses on knowledge management initiatives by integrating knowledge to practice, tools, frameworks and utilizing multiple strategies for dissemination. Some of the research initiatives have generated knowledge that improves our understanding of disasters and vulnerabilities in urban Africa.The knowledge and tools developed are yet to be fully tested to gain insight into how cities can effectively respond to climate change as well as disaster risks. Disaster risk reduction is important due to increasing risks of global economic perturbations, natural hazards, political unrest, health risks adding a layer to climate change risks in Africa.

Training and research is planned at graduate level to create a repository of research results accessible by interested people, institutions and communities of practice. UAL is envisaged to advance the urban ecological planning and development that takes a territorial approach to urban challenges.The UAL provides a knowledge exchange platform between stakeholders on topical urban issues to identify solutions to urban problems but also research ideas and priorities.The knowledge exchange platform which is in form of a combination of appropriately targeted communication means that include periodic newsletters, leaflets, posters, periodic face-to-face meetings, online tools-an e-portal, phone messaging. Such a network is designed to be self propelling in terms of shared information, innovations, knowledge, good practices and opportunities.

The UAL knowledge portal is populated by research outputs from various units, actors that is also be widely accessible by stakeholders including central and local governments for evidence-informed policy. In addition to the communication channels mentioned, there is a periodic publications ranging from brochures, leaflets, policy briefs, media articles, videos to research papers for knowledge dissemination.