About Our History

The Circles of Sustainability approach was developed through long-term collaboration. Many people around the world contributed to developing and refining the method.

Stage 1. Development of the Basic Approach, 2007–2009

Development of the Foundational Principles

Host: UN Global Compact Cities Programme
Convenors: Paul James and Andy Scerri
Critical Reference Group: Caroline Bayliss (UN Global Compact, Cities Programme), Sally Capp (then Director of the Committee for Melbourne), Alex Fearnside (then City of Melbourne), Meg Holden (Simon Fraser University), Liz Johnstone (Municipal Association of Victoria), Mary Lewin (International Congress of Metropolis) Stephanie McCarthy (then UN Global Compact, Cities Programme), Liam Magee (then RMIT), Martin Mulligan (RMIT), Heikki Patomäki (University of Helsinki), Mike Salvaris (RMIT), Dom Tassone (State Government of Victoria), Wayne Wescott, (International Council for Local Environments Initiative, ICLEI), Andrew Wisdom (ARUP), John Wiseman (University of Melbourne).

During this stage the first stages of the framework were developed. The outcome of extensive consultation was expressed in the UN briefing paper, Circles of Sustainability: An Integrated Approach, United Nations Global Compact Cities Programme, Melbourne and New York, 2008.

Stage 2. Refinement of the Approach, 2009–2013

Accounting for Sustainability Project, 2009–2013

Host: Global Cities Institute, RMIT, funded by the Australian Research Council, Fuji Xerox, Cambridge College, the City of Melbourne and RMIT.
Convenors: Paul James, Liam Magee and Andy Scerri
Critical Reference Group: Felicity Cahill, Hepu Deng, Sarah Hickmott, Lin Padgham, James Thom, (all from RMIT) and Anni Rowland-Campbell (FujiXerox), Liz Ryan (UN Global Compact, Cities Programme).

During this stage the basic framework was elaborated, including developing the Urban Profile Process and initiating a series of pilot projects.

Materialities Process Project, 2009–2011

Host: Global Cities Institute, RMIT
Convenors: Liam Magee, Andy Scerri and Paul James
Critical Reference Group: Amanda Keogh (Fuji Xerox), Anni Rowland-Campbell (then Fuji Xerox)

Intelligent Cities Simulator Project, 2010–2011

Host: Accenture and the Global Cities Institute
Convenors: Liam Magee, Simon Vardey, Dominic Mendonca and Paul James, with Nicole Pepperell, Melbourne, an organizational team in France and a programming group in India.

This project culminated in a software system for simulated urban futures.

Stage 3. Development of the Process Tools, 2012–Present

Metropolis Framework Taskforce, 2012-2013

Host: Metropolis with the UN Global Compact Cities Programme
Convenors: Barbara Berninger (Berlin) and Paul James (Melbourne and Sydney)
Taskforce Members: Michael Abraham (Berlin); Tim Campbell (San Francisco), Emile Daho (Abidjan), Sunil Dubey (Sydney), Jan Erasmus (Johannesburg), Jane McCrae (Vancouver), Om Prakesh Mathur and Usha Raghupathi (New Delhi).

Metropolis Integrated Strategic Planning Initiative, 2012–2014

Host: Metropolis with the National Institute for Urban Affairs, the Department for Planning and Community Development, Victoria, and the United Nations Global Compact Cities Programme
Convenors: Mary Lewin, Sunil Dubey and Paul James

  • Consultation on the Urban Profile Tool and its refinement (ongoing);
  • Assessments of the cities of Hyderabad, New Delhi, Sao Paulo, and Tehran; and
  • Workshops in New Delhi in 2012, 2013, and 2014, elaborating the approach, with consultation over strengths and weakness of the approach for Indian and Brazilian cities.

Sustainability of Children’s Wellbeing Project, 2012–2014

Host: World Vision Centre of Expertise for Urban Programming
Convenors: Liam Magee (WSU) and Joyati Das (Global Head, CEUP, World Vision)
With: Stephen Court (Senior Urban Technical Specialist, World Vision), Randolph Head (Senior Manager, World Vision), Paul James, Clare Van Bakel, John Van Kooy (Research and Knowledge Management Officer, World Vision), Vanessa Zulueta (Senior Urban Technical Specialist, World Vision).

  • World Vision workshop on ‘Circles of Sustainability’, August 2012;
  • Presentations by Joyati Das, Paul James and others, Rio+20 Forum, Rio de Janeiro, 2012;
  • Presentations by Joyati Das and Paul James, World Urban Forum, Napoli, Italy, 2012; and
  • Assessment work by Liam Magee and others in Johannesburg, Phnom Penh, Siliguri, Kanpur, 2012-2014.

Report: Making Sense of the City: developing research through action research and learning

Urban Profile Tool Consultation Process, 2012–2014

Host: United Nations Global Compact Cities Programme and Metropolis
Convenors: Paul James (Melbourne and Sydney), Barbara Beringer (Berlin) and John Smithies (Melbourne).

  • Meetings in Delhi, Barcelona and Hyderabad in 2012, 2013 and 2014, convened variously by Mary Lewin, Sunil Dubey, Paul James and Michael Abraham;
  • Meeting in Jakarta in 2012 convened by John Smithies and hosted by the Cultural Development Network, Australia, as part of the United Cities and Local Governments Conference.

There were numerous consultants involved in setting up this method, often through email exchange, but always grounded in face-to-face engagement. Paul James worked closely with Liam Magee, Andy Scerri, John Smithies and Manfred Steger to work through the theoretical issues. In Melbourne, Peter Christoff, Robin Eckersley, Mary Lewin, Christine Oakley, Stephanie Trigg, and others provided crucial responses and suggestions. In Brazil, insightful responses came from Eduardo Manoel Araujo (UN Cities Programme Advisor), Luiz Berlim, Marcia Maina, Luciano Planco and Paulo Cesar Rink. In the United States important suggestions for reworking came from Jyoti Hosagrahar (New York) and Giovanni Circella (Los Angeles). The Metropolis Framework Taskforce was crucial to this consultation process. It comprised Michael Abraham, Barbara Berninger, Tim Campbell, Emile Daho, Sunil Dubey, Jan Erasmus, Paul James, Jane McCrae, Om Prakesh Mathur, and Usha Raghupathi.

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