A number of us are working on a variety of projects focusing on the policy mobilities of urban development and regeneration programmes in and across different contexts. These include projects on:

Business Improvement Districts (BIDs):

A programme for a conference on BIDs in Stockholm, 2009. Click on the image to view a paper exploring the politics and practice of this conference.

Ian Cook and Kevin Ward have explored the trans-national mobilisation of the Business Improvement District ‘model’. Funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the Economic and Social Research Council, they have examined how BIDs – a policy that first emerged on a suburban high street of Toronto in the 1960s – has expanded into new contexts. It focuses on a range of places where BIDs have emerged such as the UK (Ward and Cook, 2017) and the USA (Ward, 2007, 2010) as well as where the BIDs model has received hostility such as in Sweden (Cook and Ward, 2012). The research has also explored the role of the media, government and professional bodies (e.g. the Association of Town Centre Management, International Downtown Association), governments and the media in shaping and circulating knowledge about BIDs. Likewise, it has looked at the ways in which people learn about BIDs elsewhere such as attending conferences and study tours (Ward, 2006; Cook, 2008, Cook and Ward, 2012). Finally, the research has also explored the local security operations they engage in (Cook, 2010), and the role of the private sector in BIDs and the motivations behind their involvement/non-involvement (Cook, 2009).

*** Click here for further details and outputs from the research on BIDs ***

Tax Increment Financing (TIF):

This ongoing project, led by Kevin Ward, considers how a policy that was conceived of, and designed in, California in the 1950s ended up being introduced into the UK some sixty years later. The Tax Increment Financing (TIF) model – a mechanism for borrowing money against future rises in tax revenues in an area, which is then spent on infrastructure within the area, generating extra revenue, some of which is then used to pay off the original debt – has been acclaimed as an innovative approach to kick starting local economies in the current era of fiscal austerity. Using archival research and interviews with a range of stakeholders, this project will examine three important moments in the TIF model’s internationalisation. The first is in California where it originated, the second is in Chicago, where it has played an important role in the city’s revitalization since the 1990s and the third is in Edinburgh, which looks set to be the first city in the UK to introduce the TIF model.

*** Click here for the outputs of the research on TIF ***

Waterfront redevelopment:

North Coast Harbor, Cleveland

This project by Ian Cook and Kevin Ward has examined the recent attempts by officials in Cleveland, Ohio to revitalise their waterfront. It has done this through understanding the territorial ‘in-place’ politics of Cleveland and also the relational politics of the project, in particular the ways in which they brought in external consultants and drew inspiration from Baltimore, Chicago and other ‘successful’ ports in other parts of the world.


Cook, I. R. and Ward, K. (2012) Relational comparisons: The assembling of Cleveland’s waterfront plan. Urban Geography, 33 (6): 774-795. [pdf] 

Ward, K. and Cook, I. R. (2012) Cleveland waterfront: Modèles en mouvement. Revue Urbanisme 383: 61-63. [pdf]

Sporting mega-events:

This project by Ian Cook and Kevin Ward has focused on how those bidding for and hosting sporting mega-events learn from elsewhere and engage in ‘policy tourism’. The example used was the policy tourism in and out of Manchester, who unsuccessfully bidded for the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games and subsequently bidded successfully for the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

See: Cook, I. R. and Ward, K. (2011) Trans-national networks of learning, mega-events and policy tourism: The case of Manchester’s Commonwealth and Olympic Games projects. Urban Studies 48 (12): 2519-2535. [pdf]

Post-war/Cold-war town planning:

This involves a variety of projects by Ian CookKevin Ward and Stephen Ward (Oxford Brookes University) that look at how cities were planned and redeveloped in between 1945 and the mid-1960s and the role and influence of ‘policy tourism’ within this. There are three projects in this work:

  1. One project examines the role of the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), led by Frederic J. Osborn, in post-war development and their use of lengthy international study tours. Click here for more details and outputs of this project.
  2. The second project explores the somewhat unexpected intellectual links made between urban policymakers and planners from the UK and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. This project begins by empirically focusing on a well-publicised 22 day TCPA study tour of the Soviet Union untaken in May and June 1958 by six British planners (including Frederic J. Osborn). Click here for details and outputs of this project.
  3. The third project (by Ian Cook) explores the development of a new suburb in Stockholm, Vällingby, in the 1950s. It explores the development process, the international interest in Vällingby, and the  policy tourism that Vällingby hosted in the decade or so after its development. See Cook (2017) and Cook (2018) for findings.


See also the following sections on the IUF website which speak to the wider issues of urban development and regeneration: