Inclusive & Prosperous Cities

Erasmus Initiative collaboration programme
Rotterdam panoramic view
Birds' eye view of white building complex with green areas

Today about 55% of the world's population live in an urban environment, a number estimated to rise by another 13% until 2050. What will the lives of the people in these cities look like? And how can we already today make sure that not only today's cities will be inclusive and prosperous, but also future cities?

The development of cities

In this collaboration programme the two Erasmus Initiatives Vital Cities and Citizens (VCC) and Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity (DoIP) work closely together in the field of inclusive social-cultural-economic development of cities. Growth, well-being and development in cities come with the critical and relevant question for whom this is (made) possible?

The focus of our research

Several PhD research projects are initiated in this collaboration programme between VCC and DoIP. The PhD researchers are guided by a multidisciplinary team of supervisors/promoters to foster interdisciplinary study of inclusive cities. The PhD researchers study subjects for a longer period, of roughly 4 years and use mixed methods (statistical and qualitative research tools) to analyze subjects like inclusive city branding strategies, inclusive smart societies, morphological change in European cities, etc.

Positive societal impact

The PhD researchers will conduct excellent PhD research with the goal to help urban professionals to reach inclusive social-economic development in city environments. The insights gained from the scientific research will be translated into useful recommendations and guidelines for these professionals. Moreover, the researchers will organize workshops, discussion fora, etc. with the aim to further relevant scientific research that can create positive societal impact.

Team members

  • Sahar Abdollahi - PhD candidate

    Sahar's academic background is in urban management and development. She got her master degree in the specialization of “sustainability, environment and climate change” in 2019 from Erasmus University. Her current research aims to discover the impact of Urban Morphology on social and spatial inclusion in ancient cities of the Netherlands. During her Ph.D., she will analyze the models for spatial development in ancient cities of Netherlands to explore the influence of these evolutions on residential segregation.

  • Abdulrhman Alsayel - PhD candidate

    Abdulrhman's current research focus is to discover the connections and tensions between place branding, inclusive urban development, and the creative class theory. Before that, he led the youth engagement unit at UN-Habitat in its Future Saudi Cities Program, in the capacity of Youth and Advocacy Lead consultant. He also worked for the Imam Abdulrhman Bin Faisal University (IAU) as a lecturer in the urban and regional planning department. He received his education in sustainability, planning and environmental policy from Cardiff University (UK) from its School of Geography and Planning.

  • Run Zhao - PhD candidate

    Run’s research deals with inclusive city branding. Today, different city brands like Global City, Sustainable City, Creative City, Resilient City, Smart City, etc. are not only used for city marketing, but are also increasingly taking responsibility for providing opportunities and better living conditions for all. But even then, their ability to combat inequality and exclusion is extremely limited. Taken together, this study argues that it is more valuable to view these different city brands as a toolbox to provide a range of policies, institutions and programs that promote urban inclusion.

    Run Zhao
  • Jialong Zhu - PhD candidate

    Jialong’s academic background is in urban regeneration and development. His research interests lie in inclusive urban development, eco-cities and smart cities. During his PhD, he will explore whether smart city initiatives constitute an approach that integrates social, economic, and spatial dimensions of urban inclusion.

Team of supervisors

  • Prof. Dr. Jurian Edelenbos

    Academic Director Vital Cities and Citizens and full professor in the field of urban interactive governance with special attention to governance networks, community-based initiatives and boundary spanning leadership.  

    Portret Jurian Edelenbos
  • Prof. Dr. Martin de Jong

    Academic Director Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity, full professor in the fields of inclusive capitalism, well-being, city branding, Corporate Social Responsibility and cross-cultural management.

    Martin de Jong
  • Dr. Jan Fransen

    Theme Lead Resilient and Smart Cities. With a background in development studies, Jan’s research focuses on community resilience and initiatives.

  • Dr. Alberto Gianoli


Do you have questions about this research project or would you like to participate? Please send an e-mail to

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