Mapping Eco-Social Assets (MESA)

Principal Investigator: Flora Samuel
Researcher: Eli Hatleskog
Funding Status: Research British Council/ Newton Fund
Start and End Date: April 2018 – March 2020

Mapping Eco Social Assets (MESA) was a two year Newton Funded collaborative project between the Schools of Architecture at the University of Reading and Santo Tomas in Manila in the Philippines.

The aims of the project were:

  • To develop a culture of collaborative urban research across the two universities and local stakeholders, by exploring the challenge of protecting and enhancing eco-social assets during the process of regeneration and gentrification;
  • To generate eco-social asset maps of neighbourhoods in Santa Rosa and in Reading in collaboration with the people in these areas;
  • Develop planning guidance in the form of a taxonomy of eco-social assets for each neighbourhood, to be extrapolated into planning guidance for each city;
  • Develop tools and processes for shared learning and a shared understanding of eco-social assets across the two locations, in doing so contributing to the research field of inclusive place making;
  • Formulate an action plan for future collaboration teased out through a further research funding application and summarized in a reflective report.

The focus of this project was on recording and preserving the freely available social assets – for example meeting places, market places, community halls, playgrounds, public open spaces and green infrastructure (planned and unplanned urban greenery). These had a particularly strong impact on the wellbeing of low income groups, but can can quickly be overrun in situations of rapid urbanisation and change or be destroyed through extreme weather. This project used participatory design techniques to map social assets and green infrastructure – eco-social assets – in two small cities, exploring the connections between them. It also assessed and identified particular types of eco-social assets distinctive to the two cities through comparative analyses, in this way highlighting the unique qualities of ‘place’ in either environment important for identity as cities became more homogeneous.

The Newton Fund builds research and innovation partnerships with 17 partner countries to support their economic development and social welfare, and to develop their research and innovation capacity for long-term sustainable growth. It has a total UK Government investment of £735 million up until 2021, with matched resources from the partner countries.

The Newton Fund is managed by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and delivered through 15 UK delivery partners, which include the Research Councils, the UK Academies, the British Council, Innovate UK and the Met Office.

News and Events:


Reports and Publications:

Eco-Social Value at Orts Road & Newtown, Reading_MESA Report

Multilayered social value mapping of Orts Road & Newtown Reading 2019

Social Value in Architecture

Sta Rosa – site for Santo Tomas study


A further outcome of MESA was a special edition of the global journal Architectural Design on ‘Social Value in Architecture’ edited by Flora Samuel and Eli Hatleskog. This groundbreaking edition of AD brings together a range of global expertise on social value, exploring its potential for demonstrating the positive impact of both architecture and architects on homes and communities in terms of social justice, sustainability and wellbeing.