Elaborations of the Circles Approach

Publication names in orange below connect to downloadable pdfs.


Paul James with Liam Magee, Andy Scerri and Manfred Steger, Urban Sustainability in Theory and Practice: Circles of Sustainability, Routledge, London, 2015.

This book responds to the crises of sustainability in the world today by going back to basics. It provides a means of reflexivity learning about urban sustainability, while working practically for positive social change. It challenges the usually taken-for-granted nature of sustainability practices, while providing tools for modifying those practices. It emphasizes the necessity of a holistic and integrated understanding of urban life. Finally it rewrites existing dominant understandings of the social whole.

Liam Magee, Interwoven Cities, Palgrave Macmillan, Hampshire, 2016.

Proposing a renovation of the metaphor of the urban fabric, Interwoven Cities develops an analysis of how cities might be woven into alternative patterns, to better sustain social and ecological life. It intersects with and builds upon the key arguments of Circles of Sustainability. It considers in further detail the technical and aesthetic dimensions critical to sustaining urban life.

Articles and Chapters

Paul James, ‘Urban Design for the Global South: Ontological Design in Practice’, in Eleni Kalantidou and Tony Fry, eds, Design in the Borderlands, Routledge, London, 2014.

This essay examines the ontological layers of the human communities who inhabit three illustrative Global South cities, and argues for a reconfiguration of urban form that reinvigorates the ways of life that tend to be marginalized or submerged. This re-imagining involves not a dismissal of modern ontologies per se, but rather a critique of the dominance of the modern.

Liam Magee, Andy Scerri, Paul James, Lin Padgham, James Thom, Hepu Deng, Sarah Hickmott, and Felicity Cahill, ‘Reframing Sustainability Reporting: Towards an Engaged Approach’, Environment, Development and Sustainability, vol. 15, no. 1, 2013, pp. 225–43.

Approaches to sustainability are typically characterized as being either ‘top-down’ or ‘bottom-up’, global or local. While top-down approaches are commonly adopted by governments and international organizations, bottom-up and local approaches tend to be adopted by civil society organizations and communities. We outline a way of bridging these two approaches.

Liam Magee, Paul James, and Andy Scerri, ‘Measuring Social Sustainability, A Community-Centred Approach’, Applied Research in the Quality of Life, vol. 7, no. 3, 2012, pp. 239–61.

This essay received the prize for the best paper in ‘Quality of Life’ studies for 2012–2013 presented by the International Society for Quality of Life Studies in Berlin. It seeks to bridge the gap between psychological orientations towards wellbeing, on the one hand, and sociological or organizational studies on sustainability, on the other hand

Andy Scerri and Paul James, ‘Communities of Citizens and “Indicators” of Sustainability’, Community Development Journal, vol. 45, no. 2, 2010, pp. 219–36.
Andy Scerri and Paul James, ‘Accounting for Sustainability: Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Research in Developing “Indicators” of Sustainability’, International Journal of Social Research Methodology, vol. 13, no. 1, 2010, pp. 41–53.
Andy Scerri, Paul James, Kim Humphrey and Martin Mulligan, ‘Towards Meaningful Indicators of Wellbeing: Community Arts, Inclusion and Avowal in Local-Global Relationships’, in Scott Fleming, Leisure and Tourism: International Perspectives on Cultural Practice, Leisure Studies Association, Eastbourne, 2009.



There are currently no developed guidelines for assessing the cultural impact, sustainability or vibrancy of cultural development. The overall goal of this Report is to develop the principles, protocols, indicators and tools for a cultural impact assessment process. The Report was commissioned in the framework of the revision of Agenda 21 for culture (2013-2015) and it also contributes to the activities of the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments for Post-2015 Development Agenda towards Habitat III (2016).

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