Skip main navigation

Let’s get started

Watch Professor Ralph Horne introduce the course on creating ethical and sustainable cities - making our cities fairer, sustainable and inclusive.

Cities across the world are facing unprecedented challenges posed by climate change, unsustainable development and a global pandemic. To this we can add burgeoning inequality, urbanisation pressures, divisive politics, and widespread technology-induced disruption.

These challenges have left urban citizens facing complex and urgent problems at the local level.

How we collaborate within cities, and learn from each other, will determine how sustainable and fair our cities will be in meeting these challenges.

Welcome to this course about ethical cities and sustainability at a local level.

What will you be learning in this course?

In response to this rapidly shifting landscape the big question we’ll be looking at in this course is: ‘How can cities become fairer, more sustainable and inclusive, and better governed?’

To address this question we’ll explore key concepts of ethical cities and sustainability at a local level, drawing on ideas from the recent book by Barrett, Horne and Fien on ethical cities.

We’ll examine the role of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and place-based approaches for sustainability in cities, including Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) and the New European Bauhaus.

We’ll then take a critical view, and consider deeper social inequalities, and how sustainability initiatives might inadvertently reinforce social problems.

In response, we’ll discuss ethical cities – cities that take an approach based on principles, involving people in decision-making, responding to critical problems, and centring sustainability.

Your learning outcomes

After successfully completing this course, you will be able to:

  • explain the concept of ethical cities
  • discuss the role of the SDGs and place-based approaches such as the New European Bauhaus for advancing sustainability in cities
  • consider how to stop the sometimes unintended consequences of urban interventions
  • develop a participatory approach to sustainability and city governance

Meet the team

Ralph Horne, Professor of Geography at RMIT University, Australia.

Brendan Barrett, Specially Appointed Professor in the Center for the Study of Co-Design, Osaka University, Japan.

John Fien, Professor of Practice in the School of Architecture and Urban Design at RMIT University, Australia.

Lisa de Kleyn, Research Fellow at the Centre for Urban Research at RMIT University.

Getting involved

As the educators will not be facilitating this course, a key way to enhance your learning is to participate in the ‘your task’ set by your educators and engage in topic-related conversations with your fellow learners. Some of the ways you can do this include:

  • add a post to start or continue a conversation by building on what others are saying
  • use reply to ask a question or make a comment that indicates you’re interested in what someone has said
  • make a comment that links, compares or contrasts different themes in the conversation
  • disagree with a comment in a curious, constructive and compassionate manner.

Your Tasks

Watch the video from Ralph to find out what you’ll be learning in this course.

Next, take a moment to get to know one another by telling us a little about yourself in the comments. For example, you could describe:

  • Your location, professional background and interest in ethical cities and local sustainability.
  • Your motivation for participating in this course and what you hope to get out of it.
This article is from the free online

Creating Ethical and Sustainable Cities at the Local Level

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education