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TTPod 2.2 - "It’s all Academic"

Reflections on City Transformation and Knowledge Exchange in 2022 with Dr S. Verdis & Dr P. Rode

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Peter Ahmad

19 April 2022


Peter Ahmad


Talking Transformation Podcast

United Kingdom, South Africa

If you’ve listened to the first couple of productions in Series 2 you’ll know this period of 2022 has been very much a period of personal transformation for me. Just over a month prior to leaving the public service I concluded studies with the London School of Economics in February. I had chosen the Executive Masters In Cities, as much for the content as the ringing endorsements from South Africans who had studied in the first few years of the course’s inception. You’ll already have heard from a couple if you are a regular listener. 

It was arguably the biggest career interruption since starting work in 1996. It challenged conventions and my own limitations whilst also reinforcing some of the positives we as South Africa have to offer. For all of our challenges and frustrations, we still have some of the most progressive thinking and personalities pushing the decision makers and it’s important we don’t forget that. I was constantly reminded of that as we shared experiences from fellow course participants from around the globe: from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Kyiv in the Ukraine, Chicago and LA in the States, Sydney, Australia and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – these were just some of the home bases for my fellow students.

Like countless students around the globe, we had COVID – or at least, the fallout from COVID - and all of its challenges, as a constant companion throughout our studies. The idea of travelling back and forth to the UK five times was always going to be a financial stretch but COVID and the global travel bans made sure the medium for learning and tuition was online. COVID also informed some of the course content and certainly shaped the rhythm and conversations we had between the diverse participants. Was this the end of Cities as we knew them? What were the implications for socio-economic, spatial and transport planning? And, just how responsive and adaptive were city governance models across the world to this latest disruption on an epic scale? What could COVID "do" to accelerate the climate change behaviours and responses? You’ve heard a number of these debates on the podcast: it was another thing to look at these issues through an academic lens.

I wanted to sign-off my studies with an appreciative nod to the course leadership – Dr Savvas Verdis and Dr Philipp Rode who co-direct the course. I wanted as much to give them the opportunity to reflect on the course – why a course on cities, the adaption of content and their own stories – as much as to give me closure on this personal learning and transformation journey.

I hope you enjoy the episode and find your own inspiration for your own next chapter :-)

Recorded April 1st, 2022


Website References

Built environment

Circular economy


Cities and towns

Climate Change/Resilience

Development policy


Economics and development


Educational institutions

Human settlements

Inclusive cities


South Africa

United Kingdom

Urban and Regional Dynamics

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