Project management in urban discipline: Managing processes in highly complex and highly unpredictable work environments


MU students in Darmstadt closed the winter semester with the class on Project Management (PM) with our guest lecturer MU alumna Prof. Lauren Ugur. Let’s take a look at the dynamics and outcomes of this top-priority course.

The complexity of urban systems makes managing the overall processes of urban development practice exceptionally challenging. As urban professionals, our motivation is to contribute to improving the living conditions of societies who are most in need and to take up the journey to implement our ideas with good intentions to the best of our ability. Like any journey, only through solid preparation can we actually effectively manage processes. Without a thorough understanding of the contexts, complexities, and functioning of urban systems, we are plugged in but not switched on.

BlogPhoto1Students working on their project on solid waste management in Bangladesh.

The simple reality is that, with traditional PM we cannot control the systems with which we work. Due to their complexity, uncertainty is a reality and we need to learn to not only accept it but proactively work with uncertainty and dynamic change. We therefore need non-traditional approaches to PM if we are to improve project success rates.

That’s why activating approaches towards a very thorough understanding of PM is crucial: Only through an in-depth understanding of management processes can students appropriately adapt traditional management tools to the international development project environment.

During this recent 2-week course, MU students elaborated on their own projects which addressed some urban problems such as water scarcity in Cape Town, facilitating organic growth to rejuvenate urban areas in decline as in the example of Amsterdam, solid waste management in Bangladesh, developing societal approaches against domestic violence and alcoholism in Ontario. 

Projects on demographic challenges in Amsterdam (left) and water scarcity in Cape Town (right).

The students had the opportunity to use numerous traditional PM tools from SWOT to 5C, CPA, and PERT, from Gannt charts to stakeholder analyses and to apply them to their specific contexts. But this activity represents just the basics—the real focus of the course goes beyond the basics of traditional PM and gets the students to understand and be able to work with more agile forms of management which are essential for dealing with the highly complex and therefore also highly unpredictable environments in which we work.

The one-to-one application of traditional PM tools has limited effect on ensuring project success and therefore it needs to be better understood and critically reflected on what PM tools offer, how they can/should be adapted to different projects and used more flexibly. Thus, the focus of the course is on understanding the effects that decision-making and the information rendered through use of PM tools has on the management process in an iterative manner consisting of project solution cycles that incorporate feedback throughout the process of problem identification, project planning, and potential implementation.

What students have to say

Marina: “I worked on the project which dealt with the water scarcity in Cape Town. Being a huge undertaking, our group work sessions were intense in the amount of information we had to research, handle, disassemble in order to understand the management, the direction, the leadership drive behind that project. However, this exercise with all the tools it involved proved extremely useful, as later on I had to go back on my experience with project management and use it for my work during my internship. I guess the lesson learned is that project management takes an equal amount of personal development and professional skills/experience to be able to handle immense amount of workload and information of high complexity.”

Susan: “The most interesting point of Project Management course, for me, was developing a customized integrative framework within which all the steps of conceptualizing the issue, formulating the question, analyzing the situation, conducting the process, and developing the product were reciprocally linked. It was also an eye-opening experience for me as an urban planner/designer, playing a project management game, to realize how concerns and considerations simply change depending on one’s position in either side of the table!”

Prof. Dr. Lauren Ugur is an urban development and management professional. She holds a PhD in Urban Sociology and a MSc in International Cooperation and Urban Development both from the Darmstadt University of Technology, Germany, as well as a first-class Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of South Australia. Professionally, Lauren holds a Professorship in International Tourism Management at Heilbronn University of Applied Sciences. She draws on her diverse background, focusing her research interests on the environmental, social and institutional complexity that determines how organizations, public and private, are able to deliver integrated planning interventions to address contemporary urban issues. Prior to this appointment, Lauren held a Professorship in Tourism and Event Management at Frankfurt International School of Management (2014-2017) and worked as the Consortium Manager for the Mundus Urbano program “International Cooperation and Urban Development” (2009-2014).


ICUP receives AESOP Certificate of Quality!

Darmstadt, Grenoble, Mundus Urbano Consortium

We are so proud to announce that our partner programme in Grenoble, Master of International Cooperation in Urban Planning (ICUP), recently received Quality Recognition by Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP) until 2022.

According to AESOP, “this programme fulfils the European quality standards of planning programmes according to the AESOP Charter, complemented by an effective internationalization of teaching and learning processes.” AESOP’s mission is to promote excellence in planning education and research, and by quality recognition, to make the best of the plurality and diversity of approaches.

Mundus Urbano students have the possibility to choose to study this programme during their second year at the Institut d’Urbanisme et de Géographie Alpine and are awarded a double degree in Urban Planning.

For more information on the programme please visit:

Annual Consortium Meeting in Darmstadt

Darmstadt, Mundus Urbano Consortium

As always, it was a great pleasure to host the annual consortium meeting and to welcome the administrative team of the programme in Darmstadt. The Consortium was represented by: Annette Rudolph-Cleff and Nina Gribat (Technische Universität Darmstadt), Federica Gatta (Université Grenoble Alpes), Carmen Mendoza Arroyo and Raquel Colacios (Universitat Internacional de Catalunya), and Carmen Tata and Paolo Paesani (Università degli Studi di Roma ‘Tor Vergata’). The Consortium made a selection of the new students for the 2018/20 intake and planned the forthcoming academic year. Special thanks to Nebojša Camprag (Consortium Management), Anaïs-Marie De Keijser (Programme Management) and Edith Subtil (Programme secretariat). We meet again soon!

MU students take over!



Mundus Urbano proudly announces: Our student initiative Medium page is now available to the world! It hosts opinion essays from our current students in Darmstadt with reference to the coursework of Mundus Urbano. Our page is launched with its very first entry titled Navigating the complexities of slum upgrading by our student Rudolf du Plessis following a weekly module with Aditya Kumar. Visit and stay tuned for the updates to come!


Our 10th year anniversary

Conference, Darmstadt, Mundus Urbano Consortium

Mundus Urbano consortium celebrated ten years of its successful operation on the 7th of October 2017 at Christoph-Georg-Lichtenberg-Haus in Darmstadt. More than 100 alumni, lecturers and friends took part in the whole-day programme, during which they shared not only the most valuable experiences and thoughts, but also used the opportunity for networking and exchange. To see some photos from the event, please follow this link:

During the opening session, the founder of the consortium Kosta Mathéy reflected on the early establishment challenges from the year 2007, as well as on some of the major achievements during the early programme development phase. Coordinators of the partner universities, Carmen Mendoza from Universitat Internacional de Catalunya in Barcelona, Carmen Tata from Università degli Studi di Roma Tor Vergata in Rome, Jean-Michel Roux from Université Grenoble Alpes in Grenoble, and Annette Rudolph-Cleff from Technische Universität Darmstadt highlighted some major results of the cooperation and shared perspectives on potential strategies for the future.

The following session opened the floor for the alumni. The focus was on research and academia in a world of cities, on which the guest speakers shared their perspectives: Maria Ustinova (World Bank, Russia), Mbongeni Ngulube (KU Leuven, Belgium), Luciana Dornelles Hosannah (GSSI, Italy), Andreas Brück (TU Berlin, Germany), and Natasha Aruri (UR°BANA, Germany). The session after that emphasized experiences and perspectives of the alumni involved in urban development practice. This session hosted presentations from Alexandria Novokowsky (The United Nations World Food Programme, Italy), Brenda Perez-Castro (Consultant at Habitat for Humanity International, Asia Pacific), Lukas Hoye (GOPA, Germany), and Ulyana Vynyarchuck (former Sector Manager EU Delegation, Ukraine). The sessions were chaired by Nebojša Čamprag, Anaïs De Keijser, and Kosta Mathéy, and discussed by Nina Gribat and Pierre Böhm.

Finally, World Café session provided a platform for several parallel sessions to explore issues about making an impact in the field, challenges of intercultural communication, urbanization in higher education, ways of strengthening the alumni network, and urban planning and emergency architecture in the field of international cooperation. After the hard work, the event was concluded with a reception and dinner, and with melodies of Mundus Urbano alumni DANA Band, Frederico Duff de Azevedo (guitar and vocals), Reza Mahdi Daniswara (guitar and vocals), and Pinar Bilgic (vocals).

Mundus Urbano consortium wishes to extend its gratitude to everyone who made it to actively participate in the event, providing thus valuable contributions for the years to come!

Today is the first day of classes!


#MundusUrbano classes have officially started today with the warm welcome words from Prof. Rudolph-Cleff and MU administrative team. As always, we are so proud and thrilled to welcome this international and interdisciplinary group of students from Bangladesh, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey, Uruguay, the USA, and Yemen, who unite in dealing with the highly complex issues of #InternationalCooperation in #UrbanDevelopment.
We wish you all a productive and successful time in Darmstadt!

Celebrating 10 Years of Mundus Urbano

Conference, Darmstadt, Mundus Urbano Consortium

Programme Description:

09:00-10:00 Registration

10:00-10:30 Opening Session: remembering the past, envisioning the future
Since its creation in 2007 more than 200 alumni have graduated from Mundus Urbano and have become leading figures in the field of urban development. Collaboratively, the founder of the program and the current coordinators will chronologically reflect on the programme’s milestones and present potential strategies for the future.

10:30-12:00 Research and academia in a world of cities
One third of the Mundus Urbano alumni opt for an academic career. In urban studies researchers have to cope with highly complex contexts leading to a variety of contestations and requiring an array of differentiated methods and approaches. Which lessons learnt can we get from alumni who have taken up this challenge? This session will be concluded by an open discussion.

12:00-14:00 Lunch break

14:00-15:00 Keynote lecture
Bridging the gap between theory and practice is certainly one of the greatest challenges that urban profesionals have to deal with. Prof. Grubbauer from HafenCity University Hamburg will challenge some of the existing discourses and highlight directions for an open discussion.

15:00-16:30 Managing the urban: practitioners’ perspectives
As an interdisciplinary profession, in a world of segmented and saturated job markets, Mundus Urbano alumni have the opportunity to redefine their professional identity. How can the benefits of this situation be reaped while simultaneously minimising potential threats? This session will equally be concluded by an open discussion.

16:30-17:30 World Café Session: hosting conversations that matter
Through this easy-to-use method for creating collaborative dialogue the aim of this session is to explore issues that matter. A platform is provided where everybody can engage in the search of collective discoveries on the following topics:
– From an altruistic idea to making an impact in the field
– Communication between cultures and disciplines in international cooperation
– Preparing for a complex professional field: tackling urbanisation challenges in higher education
– Bridging the gap among urban professionals: a strong and vibrant alumni network

17:30-18:00 Wrap-up and closing remarks

18:00 Reception and dinner
What’s a birthday without a party! After a whole-day programme and engaging discussions, the event will be concluded with a delicious buffet accompanied by the melodies of the Mundus Urbano alumni DANA Band. Don’t forget to bring your dancing shoes! 🙂

Celebrating 10 Years of Mundus Urbano

Darmstadt, Mundus Urbano Consortium

Dear Mundus Urbano alumni and friends,

For the past 10 years the Mundus Urbano Program has been providing urban professionals and researchers with innovative solutions required to address the increasing needs in the field of international cooperation in urban development.

To celebrate this occasion we are happy to invite you to join us for a day of discussions, exchange of experiences and networking in Darmstadt on October 7th, 2017.

The programme in PDF version can be downloaded here.

We look forward to your presence and participation, please send us a confirmation to before September 15th.

Kind regards,
Mundus Urbano Team

International Workshop: Towards Urban Resilience

Barcelona, Conference, Mundus Urbano Consortium

May 23 and 24, 2017, the UIC School of Architecture hosts the International Workshop: Towards Urban Resilience. Young researchers and guest speakers from the field of urban design and development will discuss practices and processes in designing resilient and sustainable cities. The event is organized by Technische Universität Darmstadt and the Mundus Urbano Consortium: Universitat Internacional de Catalunya (UIC), Université Grenoble Alpes (UGA), Università degli Studi Roma Tor Vergata in coperation with UN-Habitat CRPP.

Keynote speakers include: Lorenzo Chelleri (UIC Barcelona) and Richard Little (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute).

If you would like to attend, please register here: TURBCN17 Registration

For sessions and keynote speeches download the full program.

A_Critical Infrastructures

As the dependency on technology increases, there is a growing need to reflect on the role of infrastructures to sustain human activities. Infrastructures are critical for the functioning of society, not only as the physical components in cities, or ‘hardware,’ but also as structures embedded with the intangible essence of human groups and our understanding of them in specific contexts and throughout time.

B_Resource-sensitive Urban Design

In face of rapid urbanization and the negative impacts of climate change on natural and built environments, this session calls analysis of practices and processes of resource-sensitive urban design. Urban design can contribute towards an educational and professional shift towards resilience and sustainability by focusing on integrative approaches, such as district-based networks, low-impact approaches, and climate-adaptive planning and building.

C_Resilience and Multi-level Governance

This session seeks cross-scalar and multi-level frameworks which help in understanding cities as complex and adaptive systems. Contributions should problematize urbanization processes and include tools and strategies which explain scalar arrangements of nature and power. The role of international and global frameworks will deem necessary in laying the base for transition and transformation of cities, and to contribute to the development of urban resilience.

D_Post-Crisis Emergency Reconstruction and Upgrading

This session aims at understanding refugee camps as a form of urbanization and sets the basis for rethinking camp design and their temporality. Contributions should bridge social structures and their physical transformations, as a means for their integral regeneration. This session looks at examples where resilience in the social fabric of informal settlements and low housing estates can create a sense of belonging and act as a force for their physical upgrading.

Address: Immaculada, 22, 08017 Barcelona.

Tuesday, May 23 from 16:00 to 19:00, Sala de Graus, UIC Barcelona

Wednesday, May 24 from 09:30 to 18:00, Room 303, UIC Barcelona