Exploring Sustainable Development in UK UNESCO Designated Sites


This research project was designed for the module "FOAH2001: Research Placement" led by Dr Caroline Starkey, from the School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science at the University of Leeds. It targeted second-year Liberal Arts students and was supervised by Dr Francesca Gilberto, Research Fellow in Management at the Leeds University Business School, in partnership with the UK National Commission (UKNC) for UNESCO.

Research background and activities

Culture is a powerful tool to advance sustainable development and tackle the most pervasive global challenges facing people and our planet. Surprisingly, culture is not currently at the forefront of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Yet, inspiring examples of SDG localisation through cultural initiatives are emerging globally, especially in urban settings.

During this eight-month research project, students explored a systemic approach to sustainable development within specific UK UNESCO-designated sites. They investigated how these sites address interconnected challenges and serve as a bridge from local to global action.

Throughout their research, the students engaged with site managers, project evaluators, and the UKNC for UNESCO to understand the interactions between diverse sectors and goals. They conducted desk assessments and interviews to gain insights into how these sites address economic, social, environmental, and cultural concerns in connection with UNESCO’s Medium Term Strategy 2022-29, the United Nations’ Agenda 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the United Nations’ Common Agenda.

Their research also aligned with the key metrics of the evaluation framework of the UKNC’s project “Local to Global – Building a Resilient UNESCO Network in the UK”.

Publications and outputs