Dr Julian Dobson

Job title: 
Senior Research Fellow, PhD

Phone 0114 2255177


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 role of the voluntary and community sector. He is especially interested in how and why change happens and the role of evidence in shaping policy and practice.

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 of How to Save Our Town Centres (Policy Press, 2015) 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. I have recently been involved in projects around 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. I have also supported Sheffield City Council in its bid for funding from the government’s Future High Street Fund.
  • Institutional and societal change: I am interested in how and why change happens, or fails to happen. My PhD focused on the role of three urban 'anchor institutions' in advancing transitions to a low-carbon society. More widely, I have been interested in the impact of community-based initiatives and the prefigurative politics of small-scale projects.
  • 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.

Current research projects

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

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.

2019-20 Evaluation of Decent Affordable Homes 2 programme, Nationwide Foundation. Role: member of the research team.

Selected research reports

Dobson, J., Harris, C. and Macmillan, R. (2020) Network Support: Community business peer networking before and during coronavirus. Power to Change.

Dobson, J., Macmillan, R., and Wells, P. (2020) Food for thought: Understanding market development in the community business sector. London: Power to Change.

Dobson, J., Harris, C., Eadson, W., and Gore, T. (2019) Space to thrive: A rapid evidence review of the benefits of parks and green spaces for people and communities. London: The National Lottery Heritage Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund.

Dobson, J. (2018) New seeds beneath the snow? Big Local neighbourhoods in action. London: Local Trust.

Dobson, J. and Papworth, R. (2015) Between a rock and a hard place: The work of food banks in Hampshire. Portsmouth: The Bill Sargent Trust.

Dobson, J. and Papworth, R. (2014) The impact of the Hampshire local welfare assistance scheme, 2013-2014. Portsmouth: The Bill Sargent Trust.

Dobson, J. (2013) Responsible Recovery: A social contract for local growth. London: ResPublica.

Dobson, J. (2012) Grey spaces need green places: The case for investing in our nation's natural assets. Birmingham: Groundwork UK.

Dobson, J. (2012) Forces for good: Local benefits from surplus military land. Portsmouth: The Bill Sargent Trust.

Dobson, J. (2011) Community assets: Emerging learning, challenges and questions. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Academic publications


Dobson, J. and Atkinson, R. (eds.) (2020) Urban crisis, urban hope: A policy agenda for UK cities. London: Anthem Press.

Dempsey, N. and Dobson, J. (eds.) (2020) Naturally challenged: Contested perceptions and practices in urban green spaces. Cham, Switzerland: Springer Nature. 

Dobson, J. (2015). How to save our town centres. Bristol: Policy Press.

Journal articles

Dobson, J. (2020). A part and yet apart: how third sector visions of carbon reduction are both welcomed and marginalised.Voluntary Sector Review.

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

Dobson, J. (2019) Reinterpreting urban institutions for sustainability: how epistemic networks shape knowledge and logics. Environmental Science & Policy, 92, pp. 133-140.

Dobson, J. (2018) From contest to context: urban green space and public policy. People, Place and Policy, 12 (2), pp. 72-83.

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

Dobson, J. (2016) Rethinking town centre economies: beyond the ‘place or people’ binary. Local Economy, 31 (3), pp. 335-343.

Dobson, J. (2015) Britain’s town centres: from resilience to transition. Journal of Urban Regeneration and Renewal, 8 (4), pp. 347-355.

Dobson, J. (2015) Achieving food equity: access to good local food for all. Journal of Urban Regeneration and Renewal, 8 (2), pp. 122-132.

Dobson, J. (2015) How can we save our town centres? Town and Country Planning, April 2015.

Dobson, J. (2013) High street regeneration and rebranding. Pushing Portas further: Life beyond the butcher, baker and candlestick maker. Journal of Urban Regeneration and Renewal, 6 (2), pp. 112-121.

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Key clients

Health Foundation
National Lottery Heritage Fund
Nationwide Foundation
Power to Change
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