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December 2020 Newsletter

Firstly, we sincerely hope that you and your families are coping with the challenging environment we find ourselves in today wherever you are in the world. 
While challenging, the disruptions have offered an opportunity to prove the value of our decentralised network-based way of working. Many of us were already working from home and while it’s clear that some international travel and face-to-face client and stakeholder interaction is necessary, remote and geographically dispersed team working, supported by strong communications and file sharing solutions, is here to stay. 

We sincerely wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and all the best for 2021. 
Please scroll down for a quick update on the latest developments at UrbanEmerge.

UrbanEmerge is contributing to the Circular Economy

We can no longer continue to live and do business, as usual, exponentially plundering our planet for finite natural resources and disposing of waste as if it simply disappears into thin air, a linear model of production and consumption we can call the Take-Make-Waste model. The fact is these materials are not abundant and they don’t disappear when we’ve finished with them; they accumulate in our cities and on our land, rivers and oceans, and even the air we breathe.  
Recycling and reusing waste materials can help to some extent. Finding alternatives to plastic and designing out waste in industrial and construction processes is another important pathway. We need to re-invent our industries and transform the Take-Make-Waste model they are all based on, into Circular Economies. This is nothing short of systemic change across industries, whereby resources are managed sustainably and regenerated, products and business models are re-designed for circularity and sustainability and materials become inputs back into the production process or bio-degradable upon disposal.

However, things are not getting better but worse, as highlighted by The Circularity Gap Report 2020, which makes work in this growing field even more urgent. Such a revolution in how we live and do business requires coordinated action across public, private and civic spheres, and above all, awareness and innovation. 
Digital technologies can play an enabling role for such a transformative transition to circularity across all sectors of the economy, including construction, packaging, food, energy and apparel. However, technology alone lacks the direction needed to avoid exclusion and exacerbating the inequalities, for example in access to livelihoods based on a circular economy. 

At UrbanEmerge, we are committed to supporting continued learning and innovation, convening partnerships and for sustainable and equitable development through the ingenuity of responsible companies and good governance. We are proud to be supporting the transition to inclusive and circular economies through some of our work. 
We are currently delivering research for the GSMA’s Mobile for Development Foundation on the role of digital and mobile-enabled solutions to help improve plastic waste management. GSMA, the global telecoms trade association, is interested in supporting for-profit innovators in this space with an innovation grant and brokering partnerships with mobile network operators. We’ve identified over 50 really interesting organisations making use of digital innovation such as Banyan Nation in India, Mr Green Africa in Kenya and Coliba in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. Digital solutions can help throughout the value chain, particularly in better collection and in aspects such as traceability of recycled plastic for larger manufacturers interested in supporting ‘social plastic’. Emerging issues include the need to avoid further marginalisation of informal sector workers who may not have access to a mobile phone or may not be e-literate enough to operate an app. We will share the public report once it’s released, early in 2021. 

Earlier in 2020, we carried out a scoping study on plastic waste management and a potential deposit return scheme in Rwanda for the FCDO-funded Commonwealth Clean Ocean’s Alliance (CCOA) and in 2018 we contributed to a scoping study in Bangladesh which informed an FCDO intervention in plastic waste value chains.
Are you an expert in circular economies? We’d love to hear from you. Please do get in touch with us to explore how we can together have an impact on transforming our industries into inclusive and thriving circular economies. 

Welcoming Ashley Richardson - BD Lead 

We are very pleased to welcome Ashley to the UrbanEmerge team, to help us drive forward business development. Ashley will work part-time for UrbanEmerge while also working for the Peabody and completing her part-time Masters in Sustainable Urban Economic Development at UCL. She will help us to identify project opportunities, communicate with potential partners and clients and contribute to preparing EOIs and proposals. With Ashley in this role, we’re aiming to accelerate our growth and offer you access to assignment opportunities on a more regular basis, via the UrbanEmerge platform. You can see Ashley’s profile on our website, here


Using Coda as our Intranet

At UrbanEmerge we value shared resources that add value to our network of independent consultants. In addition to our beautifully designed proposal and report templates, that our network can use when working as UrbanEmerge, we have been developing our shared knowledge-base in Coda. is a shared and user-friendly, blank-canvas interactive file that sits on Google Drive, and is thus as secure as the G-Drive. Here we have been collaborating on proposals and projects, making all project-related resources and analysis accessible to all team-members over a project life-cycle. This includes our literature reviewed and summaries, citations ready to paste into reports, interviews and drafts of all sections of the final report. 
With all project-related material and findings in one place, knowledge pertaining to our projects is disseminated in real-time across all team members. This accelerates learning by UrbanEmerge consultants and creates a knowledge-base for future projects. It also translates into greater learning and insights for our clients.
Internally our management team is using Coda to manage business development, allowing us to better track client and project exploration in pursuit of project opportunities for our Members and broader Network of Independent Consultants. 

UrbanEmerge Members and the Database of Independent Consultants

Since our launch, we have developed a close-knit network of independent consultants who are Members of the UrbanEmerge Platform. While communication with our members has been predominantly through emails and Zoom calls, as we continue to grow we see the value of our Platform increasing as a means for sharing project opportunities and building solid teams for project opportunities.
We decided to maintain the quality of our close-knit network by restricting Membership of our Platform (and priority access to project opportunities) by invitation only, predominantly to consultants we have worked with on projects in the past and thus able to vouch for their professionalism and expertise. 

As we want to continue to grow our wider network, we have created a database of CVs. Consultants can register on the database via a link at the top-right of our website and their profile is then integrated into Coda, allowing us to identify experts beyond our close-knit network to fill gaps in expertise on projects as we grow. 
If you would like to invite independent consultants to join our Database please share this link with them:

Recently Completed UrbanEmerge Projects

During the past year, the GSMA Mobile for Development team has emerged as a key client. GSMA is the global organisation representing over 800 mobile network operators and tech companies and is well placed to influence members on digital solutions that can help drive sustainable solutions. We’re now delivering our fourth assignment for them. The four projects are described below, with links to the resulting public reports.

  • Research, Analysis and Guidance for GSMA on mobile-enabled assistive technologies for persons with disabilities in low- and middle-income countries, 2019-2020, GSMA Foundation: The GSMA M4D Assistive Tech programme was launched in December 2018 with the aim to drive greater inclusion of persons with disabilities through access and usage of mobile technologies. Starting in 2020 the programme will launch an innovation fund to support organisations looking to market and grow mobile-enabled assistive solutions with high social impact. To support the most effective design and targeting of the fund, GSMA commissioned UrbanEmerge to undertake a study to understand the maturity of digital innovations for assistive solutions in low- and middle-income countries, the resources needed throughout the innovation process, and specific geographic opportunities. Public report available here.

  • UrbanEmerge undertook a study to help GSMA’s Mobile for Development (M4D) programme understand what the ethical and responsible use of AI actually means in practice in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals as well as understanding the business models, opportunities and constraints of deploying AI-based solutions in developing markets. The study resulted in an overview and a set of practical recommendations for GSMA and their partners including AI innovators, policy-makers, international financial institutions and telecoms operators. The public report is available here or simply click on the photo below. 

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  • GSMA Study on the Role of Digital and Mobile-enabled Solutions to help address Climate Change. UrbanEmerge recently completed a study on the role of digital and mobile solutions to address climate change, under GSMA’s Mobile for Development (M4D) programme. The objective of the study is to help GSMA, DFID (now FCDO) and a range of external audiences to understand the current role, and potential future role, of mobile technologies in addressing climate change in low/middle-income countries. Having this understanding will also help inform GSMA M4D team’s future strategy on climate related interventions and build FCDO capacity on the subject. The study consisted of desk research and a detailed literature review, expert interviews, scoring potential intervention areas, hosting a validation workshop and providing recommendations for the M4D programme. 


Apart from GSMA work, we’re still contributing to the preparation of the Addis Ababa 2030 Sustainable Transport Development Plan, Ethiopia, World BankAndreas Beavor at UrbanEmerge is responsible for stakeholder mapping and analysis, development of a stakeholder communications and engagement plan and incorporating the full range of stakeholder concerns into the development of the plan. Stakeholder considerations include people with disabilities, women’s groups and ethnic group representation. 
We’ve recently completed desk research in Chongqing, Guiyang, Ningbo and Tianjin in China, for the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), to inform the World Bank Sustainable Cities Index under the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities. The World Bank’s Global Platform for Sustainable Cities (GPSC) is a knowledge-sharing platform that aims to help cities translate the international sustainability policy agenda into city-level actions with a focus on integrated planning and fiscal responsibility. One of the key outcomes is to build a benchmarking tool where city governments around the world can learn about the policy actions their peer cities are undertaking to promote sustainable development. The initial phase comprises 25 cities in low-, middle- and high-income countries around the world. The benchmarking tool will also help cities track their own progress in achieving sustainability objectives. 

We have recently won 4 projects which are currently under management, including a new UK-based client: Digital Catapult. 

Projects Currently Under Management

Projects Currently Under Management
We have recently won and are currently managing the following projects:

  1. GSMA: Research on digital solutions for improving plastic waste management in LMICs.

  2. GSMA: Landscaping study for GSMA’s digital identity innovation fund. 

  3. GSMA: Research on the policy landscape and enabling environment for digital inclusion of persons with disabilities in LMICs.

  4. Digital Catapult, UK: Research on the role of digital technologies in sustainability in the digital manufacturing and creative industries in the UK (to help achieve SDGs and also to understand the impact of tech in terms of GHG emissions etc)


Thank you to all our consultants who have contributed to our bids and research.

Project Pipeline

We are working on or have recently submitted a proposal for the following:

  1. GSMA: Access to the internet and digital content for people with difficulties reading and writing (Submitted proposal 09/12/2020).

  2. GLA (The Greater London Authority): Feasibility Study on Digital Districts in the UK (please see details on UrbanEmerge Platform) 

  3. GIZ: Analysis of the textile, leather, and garment cluster in Rwanda.


Thank you again for your continued interest in UrbanEmerge. As we wrap up a challenging 2020 and move into what will hopefully be a brighter 2021, we hope to be able to add more and more value to everyone in our network, including by providing meaningful assignment opportunities and access to a shared knowledge base and document and image library. 
The importance of low-carbon and resilient development and a circular economy is becoming clearer each day and we’re here to help clients across government, business and civil society do their part to contribute to a more sustainable future. 
Please reach out to us if you have a project idea you want to explore, a thought leadership piece or blog you’d like to spearhead within your area of expertise or if you need support on a project. We would love to hear from you.

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