Julian Dobson

Dr Julian Dobson PhD

Senior Research Fellow


Summary

Julian is a researcher and writer with a broad interest in place and society, and a particular focus on the complex systemic changes required to achieve environmentally and socially just approaches to urban life. His research expertise is in social and economic regeneration, urban greenspace, town and city centres and the civic role of universities. He is especially interested in how and why change happens and the role of evidence in shaping policy and practice.

About

Julian joined CRESR as senior research fellow in 2020. With a previous career in journalism and consultancy before moving into academia, he has given evidence to parliamentary inquiries, written for a wide range of academic and general audiences, and spoken at national and international conferences. He is author or editor of four books including How to Save Our Town Centres (Policy Press, 2015) and Reframing the Civic University (Palgrave Macmillan, 2023) and was the founding editor of the regeneration magazine New Start. His PhD at CRESR focused on institutional change and sustainability transitions.

Research interests

Place, policy and community: I am interested in urban settlements and how they can be more socially just, sustainable and inclusive. Building on previous work on the future of town centres and high streets, I am leading development of the High Streets Research Network at Sheffield Hallam University and have worked with Power to Change on research related to their 'Take Back the High Street' campaign.

I have also researched the benefits of public urban green spaces, working with the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Health Foundation and as part of the Improving Wellbeing through Urban Nature project at the University of Sheffield. Most recently I was part of the team evaluating the national Green Social Prescribing pilots.

Institutional and societal change: I am interested in how and why change happens, or fails to happen. I have led work to develop a Civic Impact Framework to assess the difference universities make within their communities, and am currently part of the team developing the National Civic Impact Accelerator programme. My PhD focused on the role of urban 'anchor institutions' in advancing transitions to a low-carbon society. Evidence, policy and practice: My professional history in journalism, consultancy, and current academic research, bridges the worlds of academia, policy and practice. I am constantly seeking both to understand and to question conventional understandings of how these links work.

Research

  • Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research

Current research projects

Please contact me for further details about these research projects and for summaries of the findings.

2023-2024 High Streets Research Network, Sheffield Hallam University. Role: Project Director.

2022-2026 National Civic Impact Accelerator, Research England. Role: Member of the research team.

2022-2023 Community Improvement Districts: learning and policy recommendationsPower to Change. Role: Project Director.

2021-22 Organisations supporting community control and decision-making, Local Trust. Role: Project Director.

2019-22 Future Parks Accelerator evaluation, National Lottery Heritage Fund and National Trust. Role: member of the research team.

2019-22 Evaluation of market development, Power to Change. Role: member of the research team.

2019-20 Public space for public good, evidence review and scoping study, Health Foundation. Role: member of the research team.

2019-20 Parks for People evaluation and evidence review, National Lottery Heritage Fund and National Lottery Community Fund. Role: member of the research team.

 

Publications

Dobson, J. (2021). Wellbeing and blue-green space in post-pandemic cities: drivers, debates and departures. Geography compass. http://doi.org/10.1111/gec3.12593

Dempsey, N., & Dobson, J. (2021). Planning for sociable green spaces after COVID-19. Town Planning Review, 92 (2), 171-179. http://doi.org/10.3828/tpr.2020.84

Dobson, J., & Dempsey, N. (2021). Known but not done: how logics of inaction limit the benefits of urban green spaces. Landscape Research, 1-13. http://doi.org/10.1080/01426397.2020.1864819

Dobson, J., Birch, J., Brindley, P., Henneberry, J., McEwan, K., Mears, M., ... Jorgensen, A. (2021). The magic of the mundane: The vulnerable web of connections between urban nature and wellbeing. Cities, 108, 102989. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2020.102989

Richardson, M., Dobson, J., Abson, D.J., Lumber, R., Hunt, A., Young, R., & Moorhouse, B. (2020). Applying the pathways to nature connectedness at a societal scale: a leverage points perspective. Ecosystems and People, 16 (1), 387-401. http://doi.org/10.1080/26395916.2020.1844296

Dobson, J., & Dempsey, N. (2020). Why practice doesn't make perfect. . http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-44480-8_1

Dobson, J., & Dempsey, N. (2020). Mind the gap: Does what we know about greenspace and wellbeing change what we do? . http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-44480-8_7

Dempsey, N., & Dobson, J. (2020). Realigning knowing and doing: An agenda for reflection and action. . http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-44480-8_9

Dobson, J. (2020). A part and yet apart: how third sector visions of carbon reduction are both welcomed and marginalised. Voluntary Sector Review, 11 (2), 187-204. http://doi.org/10.1332/204080519x15756858754217

Dempsey, N., & Dobson, J. (2020). Preface. Cities and Nature, Part F334, ix.

Dobson, J., & Dempsey, N. (2019). Working out what works: The role of tacit knowledge where urban greenspace research, policy and practice intersect. Sustainability, 11 (18), 5029. http://doi.org/10.3390/su11185029

DOBSON, J. (2019). Book Review. Town Planning Review, 90 (3), 327-328. http://doi.org/10.3828/tpr.2019.22

Dobson, J. (2018). The Battle for the High Street: Retail Gentrification, Class and Disgust. TOWN PLANNING REVIEW, 89 (2), 204-205.

Dobson, J. (2018). From contest to context: urban green space and public policy. People, Place and Policy Online, 12 (2), 72-83. http://doi.org/10.3351/ppp.2018.3824435278

Dobson, J. (2018). Reinterpreting urban institutions for sustainability: How epistemic networks shape knowledge and logics. Environmental Science & Policy, 92, 133-140. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2018.11.018

Dobson, J. (2017). Cities That Think Like Planets: Complexity, Resilience, and Innovation in Hybrid Ecosystems (Book Review). Town Planning Review, 88 (3), 381-382. http://doi.org/10.3828/tpr.2017.24

Dobson, J. (2017). From ‘me towns’ to ‘we towns’: activist citizenship in UK town centres. Citizenship Studies, 21 (8), 1015-1033. http://doi.org/10.1080/13621025.2017.1380605

Dobson, J. (2016). Book Review - The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy. People Place and Policy Online, 10 (3), 257-259. http://doi.org/10.3351/ppp.0010.0003.0007

Dobson, J. (2016). Rethinking town centre economies: Beyond the ‘place or people’ binary. Local Economy, 31 (3), 335-343. http://doi.org/10.1177/0269094216640472

Dobson, J. (2015). Britain’s town centres: From resilience to transition. Journal of Urban Regeneration and Renewal, 8 (4), 347-355. https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/hsp/jurr/2015/00000008/00000004/art00005

Dobson, J. (2015). Achieving food equity : Access to good local food for all. Journal of Urban Regeneration and Renewal, 8 (2), 122-132. https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/hsp/jurr/2015/00000008/00000002/art00003

Dobson, J. (2013). High Street Regeneration: Rebranding Pushing portas further: Life beyond the butcher, baker and candlestick maker. Journal of Urban Regeneration and Renewal, 6 (2), 112-121.

Dobson, J. (2008). What Happens to the Best-laid Plans? Local Economy: The Journal of the Local Economy Policy Unit, 23 (4), 261-266. http://doi.org/10.1080/02690940802407963

Book chapters

Dobson, J., & Ferrari, E. (2023). Bringing Civic Impact to Life. In Rethinking University-Community Policy Connections. (pp. 163-173). Springer International Publishing: http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-17686-9_9

Udall, J., & Wakeford Holder, A. (2023). Placemaking and the civic university: interface sites as spaces of tension and translation. In Dobson, J., & Ferrari, E. (Eds.) Reframing the Civic University. An agenda for impact. (pp. 143-162). Cham: Palgrave Macmillan: http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-17686-9_8

Udall, J., & Wakeford Holder, A. (2023). Placemaking and the civic university: interface sites as spaces of tension and translation. In Dobson, J., & Ferrari, E. (Eds.) Reframing the Civic University. An agenda for impact. (pp. 143-162). Cham: Palgrave Macmillan: http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-17686-9_8

Dobson, J., & Ferrari, E. (2023). Why the time is right for a civic turn. In Dobson, J., & Ferrari, E. (Eds.) Rethinking University-Community Policy Connections. (pp. 1-24). Springer International Publishing: http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-17686-9_1

Dobson, J., & Ferrari, E. (2023). Why the time is right for a civic turn. In Dobson, J., & Ferrari, E. (Eds.) Rethinking University-Community Policy Connections. (pp. 1-24). Springer International Publishing: http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-17686-9_1

Dobson, J. (2022). Public realm. In The Future of the City Centre. (pp. 134-149). Routledge: http://doi.org/10.4324/9781003141198-12

Dobson, J. (2016). From Crown to commons? In Sustainable Regeneration of Former Military Sites. (pp. 19-31). Routledge: http://doi.org/10.4324/9781315621784-2

Books

Dobson, J., & Ferrari, E. (Eds.). (2023). Reframing the civic university: an agenda for impact. Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-17686-9

Dobson, J., & Ferrari, E. (Eds.). (2023). Reframing the civic university: an agenda for impact. Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-17686-9

Dempsey, N., & Dobson, J. (Eds.). (2020). Naturally Challenged: Contested Perceptions and Practices in Urban Green Spaces. Springer Nature. https://www.springer.com/gb/book/9783030444792

Dempsey, N., & Dobson, J. (Eds.). (2020). Naturally Challenged: Contested Perceptions and Practices in Urban Green Spaces. Springer Nature. https://www.springer.com/gb/book/9783030444792

Dobson, J., & Atkinson, R. (Eds.). (2020). Urban Crisis, Urban Hope A Policy Agenda for UK Cities. Anthem Press. https://www.anthempress.com/urban-crisis-urban-hope-pb

Dobson, J., & Atkinson, R. (Eds.). (2020). Urban Crisis, Urban Hope A Policy Agenda for UK Cities. Anthem Press. https://www.anthempress.com/urban-crisis-urban-hope-pb

Dobson, J. (2015). How to Save Our Town Centres: A Radical Agenda for the Future of High Streets. Policy Press. https://policy.bristoluniversitypress.co.uk/how-to-save-our-town-centres

Reports

Dobson, J. (2024). A theory of civic change: how universities can work for the good of their places. Sheffield Hallam University. https://www.shu.ac.uk/centre-regional-economic-social-research/publications/a-theory-of-civic-change

Dobson, J. (2024). The civic university: FAQ. Sheffield Hallam University. https://www.shu.ac.uk/centre-regional-economic-social-research/publications/civic-university-faq

Crisp, R., Dallas, E., Fowler-Davis, S., Davies, M., Dobson, J., Hamer, R., ... Szydlowska, A. (2023). Understanding the SEED Domains: A scoping review of social, economic, environmental and democratic wellbeing. Sheffield Hallam University, Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research. https://www.shu.ac.uk/centre-regional-economic-social-research/publications/understanding-the-seed-domains-a-scoping-review

Dobson, J., Gore, T., Graham, K., & Swade, K. (2023). Unlocking the potential of Big Local partnerships: The role and impact of Locally Trusted Organisations. Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, Sheffield Hallam University. https://www.shu.ac.uk/centre-regional-economic-social-research/publications/unlocking-the-potential-of-big-local-partnerships

Dobson, J., Arbell, Y., Swade, K., & Graham, K. (2023). Community improvement districts pilot programme: final report. Power to Change. https://www.powertochange.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/88-PTC-CID-report-V3.pdf

Haywood, A., Dayson, C., Garside, R., Foster, A., Lovell, B., Husk, K., ... Wilson, I. (2023). National Evaluation of the Preventing and Tackling Mental Ill Health through Green Social Prescribing Project: Appendices to Interim Report - September 2021 to September 2022. Sheffield Hallam University, Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research. https://www.shu.ac.uk/centre-regional-economic-social-research/publications/gsp-interim-report-appendices-sept-2021-to-sept-2022

Haywood, A., Dayson, C., Garside, R., Foster, A., Lovell, B., Husk, K., ... Wilson, I. (2023). National Evaluation of the Preventing and Tackling Mental Ill Health through Green Social Prescribing Project: Briefing Document - Interim Report - September 2021 to September 2022. Sheffield Hallam University, Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research. https://www.shu.ac.uk/centre-regional-economic-social-research/publications/gsp-interim-report-briefing-sept-2021-to-sept-2022

Haywood, A., Dayson, C., Garside, R., Foster, A., Lovell, B., Husk, K., ... Wilson, I. (2023). National Evaluation of the Preventing and Tackling Mental Ill Health through Green Social Prescribing Project: Interim Report Summary - September 2021 to September 2022. Sheffield Hallam University, Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research. https://www.shu.ac.uk/centre-regional-economic-social-research/publications/gsp-interim-report-summary-sept-2021-to-sept-2022

Haywood, A., Dayson, C., Garside, R., Foster, A., Lovell, B., Husk, K., ... Wilson, I. (2023). National Evaluation of the Preventing and Tackling Mental Ill Health through Green Social Prescribing Project: Interim Report - September 2021 to September 2022. Sheffield Hallam University, Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research. https://www.shu.ac.uk/centre-regional-economic-social-research/publications/gsp-interim-report-sept-2021-to-sept-2022

Dobson, J., Eadson, W., Harris, C., & Munro, E. (2022). Future Parks Accelerator evaluation: final report. National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Dobson, J., Eadson, W., Harris, C., & Munro, E. (2022). Future Parks Accelerator evaluation: final report. National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Eadson, W., Dobson, J., Dempsey, N., Harris, C., & Munro, E. (2022). Future parks accelerator: key findings and recommendations. Sheffield Hallam University, Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research. https://www.shu.ac.uk/centre-regional-economic-social-research/publications/future-parks-accelerator-key-findings-and-recommendations

Dobson, J. (2022). Community businesses and high streets: ‘taking back’ and leading forward. Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, Sheffield Hallam University. https://www.powertochange.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Community-businesses-and-high-streets-CRESR.pdf

Dobson, J., & Harris, C. (2022). Nourishing community businesses: beyond market development. Power to Change. https://icstudies.org.uk/sites/default/files/uploads/research/PTC_3859_Nourishing_Community_Businesses_FINAL.pdf

Dobson, J., Harris, C., & Macmillan, R. (2021). Network Support: Community business peer networking before and during coronavirus. Power to Change. https://www.shu.ac.uk/centre-regional-economic-social-research/publications/network-support-community-business-peer-networking-before-and-during-coronavirus

Eadson, W., Harris, C., Parkes, S., Dobson, J., & Dempsey, N. (2021). Why should we invest in parks? Evidence from the Parks for People programme. Heritage Lottery Fund. https://www.shu.ac.uk/centre-regional-economic-social-research/publications/why-should-we-invest-in-parks-evidence-from-the-parks-for-people-programme

Dobson, J., & Ferrari, E. (2021). Capturing and enhancing the impact of the civic university: current thinking, issues and challenges. Sheffield Hallam University, Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research. https://www.shu.ac.uk/centre-regional-economic-social-research/publications/capturing-and-enhancing-the-impact-of-the-civic-university-current-thinking-issues-and-challenges

Dobson, J. (2021). A framework for civic impact: a way to assess universities’ activities and progress. Civic University Network. https://www.shu.ac.uk/centre-regional-economic-social-research/publications/a-framework-for-civic-impact-a-way-to-assess-universities-activities-and-progress

Gore, A., Bimpson, E., Dobson, J., & Parkes, S. (2021). Local Government Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic in the UK: A Thematic Review. Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, Sheffield Hallam University. https://www.shu.ac.uk/centre-regional-economic-social-research/publications/local-government-responses-to-the-covid19-pandemic-in-the-uk-a-thematic-review

Wells, P., Macmillan, R., & Dobson, J. (2020). Food for thought: Understanding market development in the community business sector. Community Fund. https://www.shu.ac.uk/centre-regional-economic-social-research/publications/food-for-thought-understanding-market-development-in-the-community-business-sector

Eadson, W., Dobson, J., Shepherd, J., Bridge, E., & Hall, J. (2019). Catalysing People-powered Energy in Yorkshire and the Humber. Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, Sheffield Hallam University. https://www.shu.ac.uk/centre-regional-economic-social-research/publications/catalysing-people-powered-energy-in-yorkshire-and-the-humber

Eadson, W., Harris, C., Gore, A., & Dobson, J. (2019). Space to thrive: A rapid evidence review of the benefits of parks and green spaces for people and communities. National Lottery Heritage Fund and National Lottery Community Fund. https://www.shu.ac.uk/centre-regional-economic-social-research/publications/space-to-thrive-a-rapid-evidence-review-of-the-benefits-of-parks-and-green-spaces-for-people-and

Dobson, J. (2018). New seeds beneath the snow: Big Local neighbourhoods in action. Local Trust. https://longreads.localtrust.org.uk/2018/02/02/new-seeds/

Dobson, J., & Papworth, R. (2015). Between a rock and a hard place: The work of food banks in Hampshire. Bill Sargent Trust. https://bstrust.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/BST_Foodbanks_Full-report.pdf

Dobson, J. (2012). Grey places need green spaces: The case for investing in our nation's natural assets. Groundwork UK. https://issuu.com/groundworkuk/docs/grey_spaces_need_green_spaces_repor

Dobson, J. (2012). Forces for Good: Making the most of military land for public benefit. Bill Sargent Trust. http://bstrust.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/BST-Forces-for-Good-V4-MC1.pdf

Dobson, J. (2012). Forces for Good: Making the most of military land for public benefit. Bill Sargent Trust. https://urbanpollinators.co.uk/wp-content/plugins/downloads-manager/upload/Forces%20for%20goodJan2012.pdf

Theses / Dissertations

Dobson, J. (2017). Reading the future : constructing low-carbon imaginaries in urban institutions. (Doctoral thesis). Supervised by Wells, P., & Eadson, W. http://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00004

Internet Publications

Dobson, J. (2024). What kind of change agent is a civic university? https://civicuniversitynetwork.co.uk/what-kind-of-change-agent-is-a-civic-university/

Dobson, J. (2024). Environmental wellbeing and the case for urban green spaces. https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/125716/pdf/

(2023). Why geographers shouldn’t stop caring about the high street. http://doi.org/10.55203/pznp4719

Dobson, J., & Gonzalez, S. (2023). High-street regeneration has to start with community trust and care. https://theconversation.com/high-street-regeneration-has-to-start-with-community-trust-and-care-216034

Other publications

Orlek, J., Udall, J., & Dobson, J. (2022). High Streets Network. Sheffield Hallam University: https://highstreets.network/

(2022). High street exchange(s) : essays, ideas and artworks on the future of the high street. Sheffield Hallam University

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