From face-to-face to virtual knowledge exchange: The tenth edition of the Shelter Academy

UN-Habitat, in partnership with Arcadis, held the tenth edition of the Shelter Academy from 19 to 22 October 2020.

The Shelter Academy is a week-long training programme that provides participants with the knowledge, skills and capacity to respond to urban challenges in their cities. Through collaborative exercises, case studies and peer-to-peer interactions participants discussed and received feedback on the formulation, development and follow-up of action plans for their respective cities.

With COVID-19 restrictions limiting the possibilities for in-person trainings – the usual modality of the Shelter Academy – the training programme was organized online via a video conferencing tool.

11 senior local government officials from 9 countries – Brazil, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Cameroon, Kenya, South Africa, Nepal, Mongolia and Philippines – successfully challenged significant time zone differences to participate in the workshop.

A wide range of cases were presented by workshop participants, for example on flood risk management in Belo-Horizonte, Brazil and Accra, Ghana, on governance systems in Kathmandu, Nepal and Santiago, Dominican Republic to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 11. Amongst others, some participants sought technical advices to promote low-carbon development (in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and in Wote, Kenya), or to prohibit single-use plastics (in Cebu, Philippines).



The virtual format – a first for the Shelter Academy – brings challenges to well-established in-person training programmes, but also opportunities for innovation. Digital tools allowed for efficient virtual plenary sessions with case study presentations, breakout groups for knowledge exchange between participants, private virtual rooms for individual coaching sessions with Arcadis’ experts, and the use of polling software to energize participants and get real-time feedback.

Participants reported high levels of satisfaction with the experience. They applauded the innovative format, which inspired new possibilities for collaboration. For example, participants suggested to open a virtual community of practice to follow up on cases and continue the knowledge exchange online.

On 22 October, the Academy attended the Urban Thinkers Campus, a webinar organized to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the partnership between UN Habitat and Arcadis.



Click here for further information on Arcadis and the Shelter programme.

From face-to-face to virtual knowledge exchange: The tenth edition of the Shelter Academy