Applied geography is a philosophy of usefulness, conducting research of use or benefit to participants or communities to help solve social or environmental problems (Kitchin and Hubbard 1999, Pain and Francis 2003). It is also a methodology, offering a framework or strategy to how research might proceed (Maynard 1998, Jayaratne and Stewart 1995, Smith 2001). Applied geography is a popular and vibrant aspect of contemporary human geography, evidenced in the variety of relevant research and publications, and the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) emphasis on working with user groups. Pain (2006) has characterised these developments as the ‘policy turn’ in human geography. As Peck (1999) comments:

Policy research is a legitimate, non-trivial and potentially creative aspect of the work of academic geographers.

(Peck 1999, p. 731)