top of page

Mobility, What Opportunities for Urban Development and Public Policies?
An exercise that engages students in thinking about mobility as a set of practices that are embedded in everyday life dynamics, and reflecting on the 2nd and 3rd level impacts of any policy measure for supporting more sustainable forms of mobility.


By: Marlyne Sahakian (University of Geneva)

Session type: Multiple sessions, Graduate level, Medium size


  • Mobility

  • Social practice theory

  • Futures thinking

  • Sustainability impacts


Introduction to the teaching example:

The purpose of this activity is to help students understand the complexity of mobility systems as they relate to social use and the unintended consequences of any change endeavor. 


There are thus two parts to this example, a substantial homework exercise and a workshop. For the homework, students map their mobility practices and conduct a SWOT analysis. Once in the classroom and for the workshop, they go through a Futures Wheel exercise to uncover the first, second, and third level impacts of any policy change.


For the homework assignment and for the mapping of their own mobility practices, we are inspired by Spurling & Jensen (2017)’s mobility map. On this map, students indicate: 1) the form of mobility (walk, bike, car, plane, etc.), 2) infrastructures (roads, buildings, etc.), and 3) the type of activity they are engaging in (work, school, home, buying food, leisure, etc.), 4) in relation to distances. They then conduct a SWOT analysis on a form of mobility (either train, plane, bike, or walking, etc.) and reflect on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in relation to sustainable consumption. Practice theory is used to help guide the students in reflecting on material arrangements, norms and expectations, etc. Before coming to class, the students develop a short text of approximately 1,000 characters on imagining future policy measures that could influence more sustainable forms of mobility in the future, including what stakeholders might be involved in supporting this form of mobility. This homework assignment must be completed before the workshop.


Once in the workshop, students share their mobility practices and discuss commonalities and differences between themselves, toward recognizing the social embeddedness of everyday life. They then come up with 2-3 policy-relevant ideas for promoting more sustainable forms of mobility, also building on their homework assignment. In a second part of the workshop, students are divided into groups and engaged in a Futures Wheel exercise to evaluate the impacts of the proposed policies. They discuss first, second, and third level impacts, both positive and negative impacts, and inter-relations between the different impacts. To do so, they are prompted to think about impacts in relation to different elements of practices, including material arrangements, competencies, and skills, or social norms and rules.

bottom of page