Recommendations for Improving Urban Participatory Processes

The local level is where public policies and economic interests meet with communities and have immediate effects on their ways of life. The realm where the real action for urban change like regenerating a public plaza happens, that is.

Sometimes citizens have a central role in shaping such processes and often they are left as bystanders or worse, ignored. Occasionally, the aspirations for change come from the bottom up, and neighborhoods are improved outside official programs by direct action from community members.

These processes leading to urban or social change are at the heart of our EUrbanities project, which is aiming to facilitate the participation of civil stakeholders in neighborhood-level development programs. This goal will be progressed by the launch of an online game accompanied by a pedagogical curriculum.

As background work, we’ve explored around 20 on-going or already finalized neighborhood development projects from 10 countries to learn about the wealth of strategies and actions taken as different actors strive to participate in them.

The case studies – or experience evaluations as we call them – will soon be published as an e-book. Our analysis of the complex and cyclical participatory processes in cities also inspired us to generate recommendations what to focus on when trying to achieve positive urban change.

The key takeaway we’ve based our recommendations and upcoming game on is that participatory processes do not follow linear logics, but evolve around turning points like in storytelling. Each turning point takes the process to a new course, shifting power relations between stakeholders, and opening space for negotiations as well as recalibration of strategies.

We believe that understanding this structure is crucial for orchestrating a participatory process that leads to a positive outcome for everyone.

The Policy Recommendations paper can be downloaded here.

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