Joanna Sawkins

Doctoral Candidate


Joanna’s PhD is on innovations in local knowledge production for urban policy. She is interested in radically new ways in which policy-makers can engage communities and access important local, indigenous and embodied cultural knowledge, specifically to do with how to live together and how to live sustainably in the twenty-first century. She is currently investigating innovations in knowledge production for policy in London, through research with her PhD co-sponsor, the Greater London Authority. As part of this Joanna is helping to support the Mayor of London’s Community Researchers Network and Citizen-Led Engagement Programme. 

Prior to starting the PhD Joanna was a Research Intern and Assistant in the department and contributed to a research project on the knowledge production and translation practices of urban observatories in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. In 2018 she worked with UN-Habitat and partners on initial drafting of the first of five quadrennial reports on progress towards the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. In this work her area of interest is local engagement and community participation platforms for collecting, monitoring and reporting urban data. 

Joanna is strongly influenced by her background in critical theory and motivated by issues of social justice. She has previously studied in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds and in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College, University of London. She has a professional background in arts and culture and place management. She left a career in place marketing and events to go back to uni in 2014. She also has five years of experience working with Camden Arts Centre, a contemporary art and education space in north London. Artistic practice still heavily influences her qualitative research methodology and teaching methods. 

Joanna is the Postgraduate Teaching Assistant in the Lab and is currently teaching on the MPA in Urban Innovation & Policy. She is also engaged in a mentorship programme designed to widen access to highly selective universities for students from under-represented groups.