Urban futures expert joins RMIT Europe

Urban futures expert joins RMIT Europe

Professor Wendy Steele, a leading expert in sustainability and urban policy, has joined RMIT’s European Innovation Hub.

Professor Wendy Steele, who is from RMIT’s Centre for Urban Research in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies in Melbourne, will spend the next six months helping to establish a new regenerative futures cluster at RMIT Europe as Research Director.

Steele says that the theme of regenerative futures builds on topics of sustainability and resilience in three ways.

The first seeks to transform ‘business as usual’ and create flourishing futures based in new ideas and practices while remaining connected to the current local context.

The second one is grounded in the idea of living systems and cities – acknowledging that although humans are social beings, nature is also critically important.

The third is that it specifically seeks to address questions of equity and justice in the transformative process.

“The power of regenerative futures is that it provides hope for a flourishing planet Earth – grounded in the practices of local communities who are seeking to make a difference in a positive way,” said Steele.

Over the next six months, Steele will link up with partners across Europe including the Stockholm Resilience Institute, the Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna, Dark Matter Labs, Politics for Tomorrow and The New Institute, as well as colleagues in Utrecht, Rotterdam and London.

She also plans to connect with community-based organisations working in topics of climate adaptation, climate justice, threats and disasters and learn more about different types of civic engagement practices taking place locally in Barcelona and beyond.

Steele, who was previously the Interim Director of the RMIT Urban Futures Enabling Impact platform, has a background bridging environmental humanities and social sciences through transdisciplinary research.

She realised early on the link between environmental and urban issues, setting forth her fascination for the study of cities and their impacts on both human and non-human participants.

A core focus of Steele’s work is on critical urban governance, looking at policies and planning, as well as regulatory frameworks.

She also addresses questions of climate justice and equity, including themes of climate security in cities related to core infrastructure like water, energy and food.

"A lot of my work is focused on cities in climate change, with a particular emphasis on human-nature relationships through a critical governance lens," said Steele. 

Wendy Steele 800x800.jpg
It’s very exciting to be in Barcelona – a city famous for culture, art and innovation, sustainable urbanism and action on climate change.

– Wendy Steele

Recent work includes an investigation of the transformative potential of the Sustainable Development Goals, and a transdisciplinary project called Hot Cities focused on urban futures in a warming world.

In the latter, the researchers engaged with different disciplinary and sectoral experts from around the world to discover insights related to cities in climate change and developed an integrated set of key recommendations based on their lived experience and perceptions.

“Although I've done a lot of work at the local scale, it's increasingly clear that oceans, rivers, critical minerals, air and carbon – which can be referred to as planetary commons – create shared challenges that struggle to fit within conventional governance borders and structures,” said Steele.

While the governance of shared resources and geographical features brings about various challenges, opportunities for collaboration are vast and a focus of the European Research Director role.

“It’s very exciting to be in Barcelona – a city famous for culture, art and innovation, sustainable urbanism and action on climate change,” said Steele.

“I’m looking forward to seeing a very different perspective to the work that we do in Australia and how diverse practices can be better understood and shared.”

“RMIT Europe extends the University’s commitment to engaged research impact that builds bridges between emerging and critical concepts and the work that communities do on the ground.”

“It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to connect and develop the excellent research going on at RMIT in Melbourne with the progressive research partnerships and programs happening here in Europe, as well as being able to bring in our colleagues from RMIT Vietnam to address critical societal challenges such as climate change.”


Story: Hannah Tribe

09 February 2024


  • Sustainability
  • Society
  • Urban Design
  • Research
  • RMIT Europe
  • DSC

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RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.