Research Associates

Geoff Bickford

Research Associate

Geoff Bickford is the founding director and lead consultant at Lively, a human-centred research, facilitation and design consultancy. Before founding Lively, he worked for seven years at the South African Cities Network where he led transport, municipal finance and built environment programmes. He holds over 10 years’ experience in the South African and African transport research and policy space and has worked across a broad spectrum of transport areas and contexts. He has extensive experience working with government and establishing policy relevant knowledge support. The focus of his work has been the promotion of spatial transformation. Holding a Masters Degree in Transport Studies, and a BSc (hons) in Urban and Regional Planning, Geoff has extensive research experience in the areas of transit oriented development, sustainable modal shifts and the institutional and stakeholder dynamics that inform transport decision making. Geoff is an advocate for user-centred approaches to transport solutions. He is a skilled facilitator and holds certificates in Social Entrepreneurship, Design Thinking Facilitation and Gestalt Foundations. Becoming a father has reminded him of the power of play in learning and development, he founded Lively to bring joy into the workplace by using creativity and human connection to support teams tackle their biggest challenges.

Most recent publications:

FES (2021) Assessing Just Public Transport Outcomes in the Gauteng City Region, Johannesburg, FES.

SACN (2022) Spatially Trapped: Transforming the Rules of the Game. Chapter in State of South African Cities Report V 2021, Johannesburg, SACN.

SACN (2020) Built Environment Integration Practice, Johannesburg, SACN.

SACN (2018) Financing Spatial Transformation, Chapter in State of City Finances 2018, Johannesburg, SACN.

SACN (2018) Urban Land Dialogues Report. Johannesburg, SACN.

SACN (2017) Introduction, chapter in Urban Land Paper Series, Volume 2: A transit-oriented development lens, Johannesburg, SACN.

SACN (2016) Transit Oriented Density: Towards a deeper understanding of density, Johannesburg, SACN.

Dr Christina Culwick Fatti

Research Associate

Christina is a Senior Researcher at the Politics and Urban Governance Research Group, University of the Western Cape. She worked at GCRO as a researcher for over a decade from 2013 to 2024. During this time she contributed to a range of GCRO projects including the Quality of Life surveys, Green Assets and Infrastructure, Just Sustainability Transitions and the NRF-funded Off-grid Cities project. She continues to collaborate with the GCRO in a number of areas, including the NRF-funded Just Urban Transitions project.

Christina's research interests lie at the intersection of environmental and social systems, and in particular just urban sustainability transitions, disaster management, climate change and urban governance. Her research extends across a range of disciplines, with interests in collaborative knowledge creation and the role of research for informing policy and governance practices.

She completed a BSc (Geography & Maths), Honours and Masters (Geography) at Wits University, and her PhD (Geography_ at the University of Cape Town. Beyond her academic work, Christina holds a postgraduate teaching diploma from UNISA and she worked for six years as an SABC broadcasting meteorologist. Her running, climbing, traveling and photography help to sustain her love for Joburg, where she grew up and lives with her husband and two daughters.

Most recent publications

Culwick Fatti, C. and Patel, Z. (2023). In pursuit of just sustainability: Decision-making and conflicting rationalities in government-led housing projects. Local Environment. 28(3), 277-303.

Khanyile, S. and Culwick Fatti, C. (2022). ‘Interrogating park access and equity in Johannesburg, South Africa’. Environment and Urbanization, 34(1), 10-31.

Culwick Fatti, C.(2022). 'Towards just sustainability through government-led housing: Conceptual and practical considerations'. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability. 54. 101150.

C. Culwick Fatti (Ed.) (2021) In pursuit of just sustainability. GCRO Research Report No. 12. Johannesburg: Gauteng City-Region Observatory.

Washbourne, C.-L., Culwick, C., Acuto, M., Blackstock, J. J., and Moore, R. (2021). Mobilising knowledge for urban governance: The case of the Gauteng City-region observatory. Urban Research & Practice, 14(1), 27-49.

Culwick, C. & Patel, Z. (2020). 'Building just and sustainable cities through government housing programmes'. Environment and Urbanisation. 32(1), 133-154.

Culwick, C. and Khanyile, S. (Eds.) (2019). Towards applying a green infrastructure approach in the Gauteng City-Region. GCRO Research Report No. 11. Johannesburg: Gauteng City-Region Observatory.

O’Farrell, P., Anderson, P., Culwick, C., Currie, P., Kavonic, J., McClure, A., … Wong, G. (2019). Towards resilient African cities: Shared challenges and opportunities towards the retention and maintenance of ecological infrastructure. Global Sustainability, 2.

Culwick, C. Washbourne, CL. Anderson, P. Cartwright, A. Patel, Z. Smit, W. (2019). 'CityLab reflections and evolutions: nurturing knowledge and learning for urban sustainability through co-production experimentation'. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability. Vol 39, August 2019. pp 9-16. [online first].

Culwick, C. (2019). 'Disasters and Disaster Risk Management in South Africa' in: Knight, J., Rogerson, C.M. (Eds.), The Geography of South Africa : Contemporary Changes and New Directions, World Regional Geography Book Series. Springer International Publishing, Cham, pp. 295–304.

Dr Julia de Kadt

Research Associate

Julia was a Senior Researcher at the GCRO between May 2017 and February 2022. During her time at GCRO she managed QoL V (2017/18) and QoL 6 (2020/21), and steered a major review of the Quality of Life Survey. In the process she made major contributions to the development of systems and practices around GCRO's flagship project. She is now a portfolio head of a research programme at the international NGO Sightsavers.

Julia has a long-standing interest in the use of various empirical data, including large-scale surveys, to better understand post-apartheid South Africa. Substantively, Julia is particularly interested in issues facing youth, and access to services such as health, education, and economic opportunity.

Julia earned her PhD from the University of the Witwatersrand in 2011. Her thesis explored the distances which primary school children in Johannesburg travel to attend school in the immediate post-apartheid period, relying on data from a range of sources, including the Birth to Twenty Cohort study. She also holds a Masters in political science and public policy from Princeton University, and a Bachelor of Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Before joining GCRO Julia worked with I-TECH South Africa, and the Centre for Health Policy at Wits University, on a range of research projects exploring different approaches to the provision of health care services in South Africa, with a particular focus on the potential role of Community Health Workers.

Most recent publications

Parker, A. and De Kadt, J. (2021). ‘Aging at Home: Gauteng's elderly in the context of COVID-19’, in Doucet, B., Filion, P. and van Melik, R. (eds.) Volume 2: Housing and Home, Global Reflections on COVID-19 Urban Inequalities. Bristol: Bristol University Press, pp. 119–127.

Parker, A. Hamann, C., and de Kadt, J. (2021). ‘Accessing Quality Education in Gauteng: Intersecting Scales of Geography, Educational Policy and Inequality’. Urban Forum. Vol. 32 No. 2, pp 141–163 (access the article:

Steward, W. T., Agnew, E., de Kadt, J., Ratlhagana, M. J., Sumitani, J., Gilmore, H. J., Grignon, J., Shade, S. B., Tumbo, J., Barnhart, S. and Lippman, S. A. (2021). 'Impact of SMS and peer navigation on retention in HIV care among adults in South Africa: results of a three-arm cluster randomized controlled trial'. Journal of the International AIDS Society. Vol. 24 No. 8, e25774 .

Goudge, J., de Kadt, J. Babalola, O., Muteba, M., Tseng, Y., Malatji, H., Rwafa, T., Nxumalo, N., Levin, J. Thorogood, M., Daviaud, E., Watkins, J. and Griffiths, F. (2020). 'Household coverage, quality and costs of care provided by community health worker teams and the determining factors: findings from a mixed methods study in South Africa'. BMJ Open 2020;10:e035578. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2019-035578

de Kadt, J., van Heerden, A., Richter, L. and Alvanides, S. (2019) 'Correlates of children’s travel to school in Johannesburg-Soweto—Evidence from the Birth to Twenty Plus (Bt20+) study, South Africa'. International Journal of Educational Development. Vol 68, July 2019, pp. 56-67.

Tseng, Y., Griffiths, F., de Kadt, J., Nxumalo, N., Rwafa, T., Malatji, H., Goudge, J. (2019) Integrating community health workers into the formal health system to improve performance: a qualitative study on the role of on-site supervision in the South African programme. BMJ Open 2019;9:e022186. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-022186

Kohler, P. K., Marumo, E., Jed, S. L., Mema, G. M., Galagan, S., Tapia, K., Pillay, E., de Kadt, J., Naidoo, E., Dombrowski, J. C. and Holmes, K. K. (2017). A national evaluation using standardised patient actors to assess STI services in public sector clinical sentinel surveillance facilities in South Africa. Sexually Transmitted Infections. 93(4):247-252. doi: 10.1136/sextrans-2016-052930.

McConnico, C., Jed, S. L., Marumo, E., Mazibuko, S., Mema, G. M., de Kadt, J., Holmes, K. K. and Kohler, P. K. (2017). Systems Mapping of Sexually Transmitted Infection Services at Three Clinical Sentinel Surveillance Sites in South Africa: Opportunities for Integrated Care. The Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care¸ Volume 28, Issue 1. 154-164. doi: 10.1016/j.jana.2016.09.004.

Lippman, S. A., Shade, S. B., Sumitani, J., de Kadt, J., Gilvydis, J., Rathlagana, MJ., Grignon, J., Tumbo, J., Gilmore, H., Agnew, E., Saberi, P., Barnhart, S. and Steward, W. T. (2016) Evaluation of short message service and peer navigation to improve engagement in HIV care in South Africa: study protocol for a three-arm cluster randomized controlled trial. Trials, 17:68.

Weaver, M. W., Pillay, E., Jed, S. L. de Kadt, J., Galagan, S., Gilvydis, J., Marumo, E., Mawandia, S., Naidoo, E., Owens, T., Prongay, V. and O’Malley, G. (2016) Three methods of delivering clinic-based training on syndromic management of sexually transmitted diseases in South Africa: a pilot study. Sexually Transmitted Infections, 92(2), 135-141.

Dr Kirsten Harrison

Research Associate

Dr Kirsten Harrison is an urbanist and urban planner specializing in strategic urban development projects. She has extensive experience working on South African cities in the planning and strategy sphere and has a multidisciplinary interest in local government and city planning. Kirsten has moved between policy and practice during her career working as an academic, senior city official and consultant. Since 2010, Kirsten has worked as a consultant and her work has centred on creative institutional approaches for dealing with significant urban development issues. Her research interests include property development, inclusive economies, public art, urban space and urban governance. She is currently co-curating a Massive Open Online Course on African Housing Finance on behalf of the Centre For Affordable Housing Finance in Africa and the African Cities Lab, EPFL

Prior to 2010, she was the Executive Manager: Planning and Strategy at the Johannesburg Development Agency, City of Johannesburg. Kirsten was also an Assistant Professor in the Department of Urban Planning at the United Arab Emirates University where she taught undergraduate courses on Government, Politics and Planning and Urban Sociology. Kirsten worked in the office of the City Manager at the City of Johannesburg between 2004-2006. Here she authored the City’s first post-apartheid human development and poverty reduction strategy. Between 2010 and 2016, Kirsten was a research associate with the NRF Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning in the Faculty of Architecture and Planning, Wits University

Kirsten holds a PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science, UK, an MSc in Real Estate Development and Planning from Herriot Watt University, UK, a Masters in Management from the Wits School of Governance, South Africa and a BA(Hons) in African Politics from the University of the Witwatersrand South Africa.

Most recent publications:

Harrison, K. (2022). ‘Funding micro property entrepreneurs in urban South Africa: the case of uMastandi’ (forthcoming) in Urban Governance Through the Housing Lens. Edited by Rubin, M., Charlton, C. and Klug, N. Springer.

Neke, J. and Harrison, K. (2021) The State of Urban Safety in South Africa Report. South African Cities Network.

Harrison, K. and Todes, A. (2020) ‘Developers, Density and the Dreams of the Corridors of Freedom’ in Densifying the City? Global Cases and Johannesburg. Edited by Rubin, M., Todes, A., Harrison, P. and Appelbaum, A. Edward Elgar Publishing. 266-275.

Zack, T. and Harrison. T. (2019) ‘The Role of Informal Economies in the Space Economy’. Part of the Urban Economies Paper Series. South African Cities Network.

Harrison, K. (2017) ‘Transit-Oriented Development and the Corridors of Freedom: Incentives, Regulations and the Property Market’. Part of the Spatial Transformation through Transit-Oriented Development in Johannesburg Research Series. Published by the South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning, University of the Witwatersrand.

Harrison, P. and Harrison, K. (2015) ‘Soweto: A Study in Spatial Complexity’ in Harrison, P., Todes, A., Gotz, G. and Wray, C. (eds) Changing Space, Changing City: Johannesburg after apartheid. 293-318.

Harrison, K. and Potsiso, P. (2014) Public Art: Aesthetic, Provocative and Invisible. Volume 7 of the Urban Transformation Research Project, School of Architecture and Planning, University of the Witwatersrand.

Kate Joseph

Research Associate

Kate has worked on various projects with the GCRO since June 2016. She works for the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality in the Group Strategy Policy Coordination and Relations unit. Her work contributes to the overarching long-term city development strategy. Her main areas of research are urban sustainability, governance and inclusion. She works on the City’s customer satisfaction surveys and collaborates with GCRO around the Quality of Life Survey. She has represented the City of Joburg in a number of global networks.

Most recent publications
Ballard, R. Parker, A. Butcher, S. de Kadt, J. Hamann, C. Joseph, K. Mapukata, S. Mkhize, T. Mosiane, N. Spiropoulos, L. (2021) ‘Scale of Belonging: Gauteng 30 Years After the Repeal of the Group Areas Act’, Urban Forum.

Ballard, R. Joseph, K. Hamann, C & Mkhize, T. (2019) Social cohesion in Gauteng. Johannesburg: Gauteng City-Region Observatory.

Parker, A. Khanyile, S & Joseph, K. (2019) Where do we draw the line? Graffiti in Maboneng, Johannesburg. Johannesburg: Gauteng City-Region Observatory.

Harber, J. & Joseph, K. (2018) Governing the GCR series: Institutionalising the Gauteng City-Region. Johannesburg: Gauteng City-Region Observatory.

Harber, J. Parker, A. Joseph, K & Maree, G. (Eds). (2018) Taking Streets Seriously. Johannesburg: Gauteng City-Region Observatory.

Ballard, R. Joseph, K. Hamann, C & Mkhize, T. (2017) ‘Current dynamics of social cohesion within the city of Johannesburg’. Johannesburg: prepared for the Group Strategy, Policy Coordination and Relations (GSPCR) of City of Johannesburg by the Gauteng City-Region Observatory.

Joseph, K & Schuhmann, A. (2014) ‘Shifting Bodies and Boundaries: Representation of Female Soccer Players and the Shortfall within South African Press’ in Identities on the Move: Contemporary Representations of New Sexualities and Gender Identities. Silvia Pilar Castro-Borrego & Maria Isabel Romero-Ruiz (Eds.) Lexington Books: Lanham.

Joseph, K. (2012) ‘Mixing soccer and sexually ‘subversive’ identities: Enabling a representational counter-culture in South Africa?’. Postamble. Vol 8(1) Counter-cultures in contemporary Africa. pp.1-13.

Ramphalile, M & Joseph, K. (2009) ‘I am What I am … The Nature of Sexual Difference’ Amandla, No:11/12 Dec 2009/Jan 2010.

Dr Rob Moore

Research Associate

Dr Rob Moore was the Executive Director of the GCRO from 2016 to 2021. Previously he was a Deputy Vice Chancellor at Wits University, a post he held for seven years. His work included responsibility for the advancement of the University’s strategic purposes in partnership with other institutions in society. Among other things, he assisted in developing the relationships between Wits and partners in government, industry, civil society and other universities. He was seconded as project director for South Africa’s Ministerial Review Committee on the National System of Innovation, a study conducted in 2010 and 2011 and published in 2012.

Prior to joining Wits, he spent twelve years (1992 – 2004) at the University of Cape Town researching and teaching in higher education studies, and was responsible for establishing various curriculum and educational-support initiatives. His research interests have focused on issues of higher education policy and institutional adaptation. In particular, he has published on issues of institutional responsiveness to policy, on curriculum reform, and on the governance of knowledge partnerships.

During the 1980s, he lived outside the country, mostly in newly-independent Zimbabwe, where he worked in the schooling sector. During this time he worked as an operative with the ANC’s intelligence wing.

He sits on the Boards of the Southern African Liaison Office (SALO), The Conversation Africa (TCA), the Centre for Sustainability in Mining and Industry (CSMI), and the Cradle of Humankind Trust (CoHT).

Most recent publications

Moore, R. (2016). The Gauteng City-Region Observatory – a case study. Occasional paper for the Programme to Support Pro-poor Policy Development, Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) in the SA Presidency.

Moore, R. (2016). Connective cognition: transdisciplinarity in a precarious world. In Quaderna: Disciplines and Transdisciplinarity.

Moore, R. (2015). From concord to conflict: a conceptual analysis of a partnership for social innovation. In Bitzer, V., Hamann, R., Hall, M. and Griffin-EL, E.W. (eds.) The Business of Social and Environmental Innovation: New Frontiers in Africa. Springer and University of Cape Town Press.

Dr Alexandra Parker

Research Associate

Dr Alexandra Parker was a researcher, and then senior researcher, at the GCRO between August 2016 and February 2022. During her time at GCRO she made a number of key contributions, including by building a practice around interactive visualisation of GCRO data, and science-writing (especially through the generation of multiple opinion pieces around Quality of Life findings and the impacts of COVID-19). She also built a substantial portfolio of research around gender, the impacts of COVID-19 on women, and the social identity of mothers and families trying to navigate the city. Alexandra now works in communications and advocacy at the international NGO Global Health 5050.

Alexandra's research is grounded in the disciplines of architecture and urban studies but with published scholarship in geography, media and cultural studies, feminist methodologies, identity studies, and visual representation and methods. Alexandra’s research is directed at the everyday practices and activities occurring in the city-region with interests in gender and the urban, suburbia, culture and space, and place identity. She has an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on multiple research disciplines and theories. In November 2019 she was awarded a Y-rating (awarded to promising young researchers) by the South African National Research Foundation. Alexandra believes in the power of storytelling and is inspired by recent innovations that combine data, narratives and rich visual imagery. As such, she has a growing portfolio of work that includes exhibitions, interactive data visualisations, and explainer videos.

Alexandra joined the GCRO in late 2016 after a long and fruitful association with the University of the Witwatersrand as an undergraduate and postgraduate student, and then as a postdoctoral research fellow. She completed her PhD in town and regional planning in 2014 (Thesis Title: Images and Influence: The Role of Film in Representing Johannesburg and Shaping Everyday Practice in the City) published as the monograph Urban Film and Everyday Practice: Bridging Divisions in Johannesburg (2016, Palgrave Macmillan). Her doctoral and postdoctoral research explored the influence of urban films on everyday practice in the cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town. She enjoys teaching and supervising students and has taught courses in planning and architecture at the Wits School of Architecture and Planning; the Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg; and a Masters course at the Università Iuav di Venezia, Italy.

Recent outputs

Parker, A. and De Kadt, J. (2021). ‘Aging at Home: Gauteng's elderly in the context of COVID-19’, in Doucet, B., Filion, P. and van Melik, R. (eds.) Volume 2: Housing and Home, Global Reflections on COVID-19 Urban Inequalities. Bristol: Bristol University Press, pp. 119–127.

Ballard, R., Parker, A., Butcher, S. de Kadt, J., Hamann, C. Joseph, K. Mapukata, S., Mkhize, T., Mosiane, N., and Spiropoulos, L. (2021). ‘Scale of Belonging: Gauteng 30 Years After the Repeal of the Group Areas Act’. Urban Forum. Vol. 32 No. 2, pp. 131–139. (access the article:

Parker, A. Hamann, C., and de Kadt, J. (2021). ‘Accessing Quality Education in Gauteng: Intersecting Scales of Geography, Educational Policy and Inequality’. Urban Forum. Vol. 32 No. 2, pp 141–163 (access the article:

Parker, A., & Appelbaum, A. (2020). On the defensive: the residential strategies shaping densification in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs. In A. Todes, P. Harrison, M. Rubin and A. Appelbaum (eds.) Densifying the City?: Global Cases and Johannesburg, Edward Elgar Publishers: Cheltenham.

Parker, A. and De Kadt, J. (2020). ‘Close look at some South African households gives insights into COVID-19 vulnerability', The Conversation Africa, 5 August 2020.

Parker, A. and De Kadt, J. (2020). ‘Our research shows why it’s vital to protect older South Africans from coronavirus', The Conversation Africa, 26 April 2020.

Parker, A., Maree, G., Gotz, G. and Khanyile, S. (2020) Women and COVID-19 in Gauteng, GCRO Map of the Month, Gauteng City-Region Observatory, August 2020.

Parker, A. and Hamann, C. (2020) The most densely populated areas of Gauteng, GCRO Map of the Month, Gauteng City-Region Observatory, April 2020.

Parker, A. and De Kadt, J. (2020). [Interactive visualisation]. Household characteristics in relation to COVID-19 risks in Gauteng.

Parker, A. (2020). [Interactive visualisation]. 100 GCRO Maps of the Month.

Parker, A. and De Kadt, J. (2020). [Interactive visualisation]. Gauteng's elderly in the context of COVID-19.

Parker, A. (2018). ‘The ghetto in the cities and films of Johannesburg and Cape Town’. Journal of African Cinema, 10:1+2, pp. 65–80, doi: 10.1386/jac.10.1-2.65_1.

Parker, A. (2018). ‘The Spatial Stereotype: The Representation and Reception of Urban Films in Johannesburg’. Urban Studies. 55(9), 2057-2072. DOI: 10.1177/0042098017706885

Parker A. (2016) Urban Film and Everyday Practice: Bridging Divisions in Johannesburg. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Dr Margot Rubin

Research Associate

I am an urban geographer and planner located at the School of Geography and Planning at Cardiff University. I am interested in working across and between spatial and political disciplines. My work is comparative, largely focused on the Global South, and draws on embedded and well-established research networks that span multiple countries. My research explores key questions of urban sustainability through various lenses, such as housing provision and mobility, framed by broader theoretical analyses of governance and gender. My research projects have ranged in focus from urban housing, land use management, transit-oriented development, to urban governance, questions of mobility and accessibility, and work on gender and the Geographies of Care. This has given me the scope to engage with broad conceptual themes of socio-economic rights, urban sustainability, spatial change and identity politics and their relationship to the City through comparative studies. These have included comparisons between Delhi, India and Johannesburg; Johannesburg and Cairo, Egypt; and I am currently involved in a comparative mobility study with colleagues in Maputo, Mozambique, and study of the housing/employment nexus of the urban youth in Hawassa, Ethiopia and Ekangala, South Africa.

Selected publications:

Rubin, M. (2020). Doing Boundary Work: Suburban Residents’ Associations in Johannesburg. Journal of Asian and African Studies,p.0021909620970567.

Rubin, M.W. (2020). Paralleling auto-construction: the danger of misconceptualising density, Urban Geography, pp.1–7.

Harrison, P., Rubin, M., Appelbaum, A., and Dittgen,R. (2019). Corridors of freedom: Analyzing Johannesburg’s ambitious inclusionary transitoriented development, Journal of Planning Education and Research, 39(4), pp 456–468.

Huchzermeyer, M., Harrison, P., Todes, A., Rubin, M., and Klug, N. (2019). Urban land reform in South Africa: pointers for urban policy and implications for planning practice, Town and Regional Planning, 75, pp.91–103

Rubin, M., (2018) At the borderlands of informal practices of the state: negotiability, porosity, and exceptionality: Special Issue: Exploring Informal Practices of the State in Urban Governance: Crossing Indian and Southern African Perspectives, Journal of Development Studies,

Dr Alexis Schaffler-Thomson

Research Associate

In 2010, Alexis worked together with GCRO to develop the first Green Strategic Programme for the Gauteng Provincial Government. Following this, Alexis became a key Researcher steering the GCRO’s early sustainability project between 2011-2013. During her time at the GCRO, she led the authorship of the first State of Green Infrastructure Report, now in its [X] iteration, and stands out as one of our flagship sustainability projects. In the process, she made important contributions to linking green infrastructure and urban-provincial decision systems. These areas have also been strongly influenced by Alexis’ early research within the GCRO’s resource flows and sustainability transitions work streams. Together with research director, Graeme Götz, Alexis’ multi-year research project, Governing Resource Flows in the Gauteng City-Region (GCR), inspects how capital investment decision tools used by the region’s three metros integrate sustainability criteria and policy narratives.

Alexis regularly works with the public and private sectors and to understand the role of the business planning, innovation and decision systems to drive more sustainable infrastructure and development outcomes. She has assisted public agencies around Africa with strategy development and implementation plans for the national development plans, the green economy, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and climate finance. As cities are pivoting to become smarter and more responsive agents for citizens, Alexis is assisting public administrations understand what smart transitions mean in a southern African context, and the technologies that are most workable in that context.

In her current capacity as Consulting Manager at Pegasys Strategy, Alexis leads projects in the Cities and Resilience practices around Africa. She led Pegasys in South Africa’s reporting of three SDGs and the most recent Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) for the National Development Planning (NDP) process. Her most recent academic works include on Localizing the Sustainable Development Goals and a co-authored WWF book on aligning water resources and spatial planning. She completed her doctorate in Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at the University of California, Berkeley.


  • Schäffler, A. 2022. The Sustainable Development Goals in South Africa: Transitions Are the Hardest Part in Localizing the SDGs in African Cities. Springer Online.
  • Pegram, G., et al. 2022. Water resources planning and spatial economic planning: A strategic approach to alignment. WWF.
  • Schäffler, A. 2017/8. Value shifts: the rise of multifunctional infrastructure. Published PhD Dissertation.
  • Schäffler, A. 2017. Cities as ecosystem – a cultural reflection, The Nature of Cities.
  • Götz, G. & Schäffler, A. 2015. Conundrums in implementing a Green Economy in the Gauteng City-Region in Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 13: 79-87.
  • Schäffler, A. Swilling, M. 2013. Valuing green infrastructure in an urban environment under pressure – the
  • Johannesburg Case in Ecological Economics, 86: 246-257.
  • Schäffler, A. 2012. Developmental Green Economy Strategy for Gauteng. In UN-Habitat, Towards a Green Economy: case studies from around the world.
  • Schäffler, A. 2011. Enhancing resilience between people and nature in urban landscapes, Masters of Philosophy Thesis, Stellenbosch University Gauteng. Published Master’s Thesis.

Dr Carla Washbourne

Research Associate

Carla is an interdisciplinary researcher working at the interface of science and public policy. She is an Associate Professor in Environmental Science and Policy at University College London (UCL), in the department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy and member of the UCL Urban Innovation and Policy Lab. Carla completed her PhD in Geosciences and MSc in Engineering Geology at the University of Newcastle (UK) and her BSc (hons) in Natural Sciences at Durham University.

Her current research seeks to understand how knowledge generated in the sciences and engineering is, and could be better, applied to decision-making in urban settings. An on-going research project with the GCRO investigates the way in which the concept of green infrastructure is being applied in the design, development and management of urban green spaces. A collaboration with GCRO, Melbourne University and UN-Habitat seeks to develop theoretical and practical understandings around the role of urban observatories in addressing contemporary urban issues.

She has previously worked in the UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology as a Physical Sciences Advisor, developing interests in practical science advice and science communication for policy.

Carla teaches science, engineering and public policy modules at UCL from undergraduate to doctoral level, and co-develops and delivers continuing professional development courses internationally.

Most recent publications

Akerlof, K., Allegra, A., Nelson, S., Gonnella, C., Washbourne. C-L., Tyler, C. (2022) Global perspectives on scientists’ rolesn legislative policymaking. Policy Sciences, doi: 10.1007/s11077-022-09457-3

Washbourne, C. L. (2022). Environmental policy narratives and urban green infrastructure: Reflections from five major cities in South Africa and the UK. Environmental Science & Policy, 129, 96-106.

Dickey, A., Washbourne, C. & Murray, K. (2021). Urban Observatories and COVID. Connected Cities podcast, S1, E3. Connected Cities Lab, University of Melbourne: Melbourne.

Dickey, A., Acuto, M., & Washbourne, C (2021). Urban Observatories: A Comparative Review. Connected Cities Lab, University of Melbourne: Melbourne.

Dickey, A., Acuto, M., & Washbourne, C (2020). Urban Observatories in the Midst of COVID-19: Challenges & Responses. Connected Cities Lab, University of Melbourne: Melbourne.

Acuto, M., Dickey, A., Butcher S., Washbourne, C-L. (2020) Mobilising urban knowledge in an infodemic: Urban observatories, sustainable development and the COVID-19 crisis. World Development.

Washbourne, C.-L., Dendoncker, N., et al. (2020) Improving collaboration between ecosystem service communities and the IPBES science-policy platform. Ecosystems and People. doi: 10.1080/26395916.2020.1766573

Akerlof, K., Tyler, C., Allegra, A., Webler, T., Heath, E., Cloyd, E., Washbourne, C.-L. (2020). New methods in creating transdisciplinary science-policy research agendas: The case of legislative science advice. Science and Public Policy.

Camargo Nino, E., Lane, S., Okano, K., Rahman, I., Peng, B., Benn, H., Culwick, C., Maree, G., Khanyile, S., Washbourne, C-L. (2020) Urban agriculture in the Gauteng City-Region’s green infrastructure network. GCRO Occasional Paper # No. 15. Gauteng City-Region Observatory, Johannesburg, South Africa

Akerlof, K., Tyler, C., Foxen, S.E., Heath, E., Gual Soler, M., Allegra, A., ...Nguyen, C.T. (2019). A collaboratively derived international research agenda on legislative science advice. Palgrave Communications, 5 (1), doi:10.1057/s41599-019-0318-6


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