A) Create a comprehensive vision of change

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Examples from real world governance interventions:

General ambition

A comprehensive vision of change is most influential when developed independently on two levels:

  1. Broad framework (at city level): One level refers to a vision of change developed for the whole city. By integrating several small-scale interventions (e.g. within the municipality) and aspects from different sectors, a comprehensive vision of change for the whole city towards justice and sustainability can be built. This can manifest itself in policies and laws. Key to this enabling governance arrangement is therefore the interaction between different scales of urban planning and policy making.
  2. Community-based organizations envisioning sustainable futures in detail (‘bottom-up’): This level refers to ways community based organizations define their (common) goals and their particular visions for the future (e.g. What is a “sustainable” way of living - in Vauban? What is desired for the neighborhood development - in Carnisse?).


Addressing the dimension 1.

Superblocks, Barcelona

When creating and implementing so-called “Superblocks” in the city, Barcelona embedded them in multiple city-level policies. Very important for example was the “Citizen Commitment for Sustainability” which was first signed in 2002 by over 800 organisations (large and small enterprises, community groups, professional associations, political parties and educational institutions …). Superblocks are one of the several actions that are defined in the document and experience public support because of that. In general, Superblocks are connected to different policies e.g the Municipal Action Plan, the Barcelona Mobility Pact (1998), the Urban Mobility Plan of Barcelona (2013-2018), the cities’ Green Infrastructure and Biodiversity Plan (until 2020) or the Barcelona Commitment to Climate, which creates synergies and gives the city a vision for comprehensive change, whereas Superblocks are one of the many means of reaching that change. (Q18)

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Addressing the dimension 2.

Vauban neighborhood, Freibrug

Vauban’s prospective residents as well as project proponents developed a shared vision on how to live in a more sustainable way i.e. parking free areas, sustainable mobility, affordable and inclusive housing etc. (Q.14).

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Carnisse neighborhood, Rotterdam

In workshops organized by local organizations, residents were invited to develop a shared vision of the district redevelopment and establish an agenda for transformative and experimental actions e.g. create a community center, a shared garden etc. (Q.14).

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Brixton Energy, London

The problematization of energy poverty, and the desire for education, employment, and projects for estates came directly from listening to community needs (Q.9). There was no formal vision development process with the community in this case, but their input (most likely) fed into Repowerings internal vision process.

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Relation to justice in urban sustainability governance

Visions on the first level (broad framework) are trying to overcome injustices caused by Unfit institutional structures and Uneven and exclusionary urban intensification and regeneration. Unfit institutional structures as a driver of injustice refers to those aspects or functions of organizations, public offices, administrations and authorities that deal with urban governance and stand in the way of achieving just outcomes in urban sustainability. Uneven and exclusionary urban intensification and regeneration as a driver of injustice refers to the ways in which new urban developments might force trade-offs between the social and environmental goals of urban sustainability projects. It involves public efforts to improve a neighbourhood’s physical structure and boost its economy by attracting investment, usually in the sectors of real estate and tourism. In this enabling governance arrangement, finding a balance between ecological sustainability, social and economical goals of a city is especially important, as a comprehensive vision built on integrated planning should guideline the city in balancing these goals, ideally accounting for greater sustainability and justice overall.

Community projects that actively work in a certain neighbourhood (i.e. on the level of individual community based organisations) can possibly better include voices of underrepresented groups in their area than what a municipality-led participatory process could achieve. Expressing a vision of the future through different types of exercises (e.g. drawing) can empower certain groups (e.g children/people not speaking the same language) that otherwise might not have the power/means to express themselves in other types of settings. Thinking about how you want your personal future to look like and how a project can help to reach that future has a huge potential in connecting individuals to one another, in fostering a sense of belonging and in generating momentum.

Critical reflection

A potential problem with benefitting from a previously developed comprehensive vision of change lies in its actual implementation in small scale interventions. There is sometimes a gap between what is happening on smaller-scale-projects and bigger visions (and policies) as often economic considerations dominate the design and implementation of even sustainability oriented small-scale projects, leading to ecologically unsustainable or unjust outcomes also on a city-wide level. The challenge then is not only the development of a comprehensive vision of change, but to also empower it to actually shape small-scale interventions.

Additionally, developing a comprehensive vision of change is a huge task community projects take upon themselves. It requires investing resources that can not at the same time go directly into changes in the neighbourhood/the project itself. Talking about where to go with a project in the longer term at the cost of working less towards tangible improvements also requires a lot of commitment, effort and belief. Especially community projects that completely rely on voluntary work might not have the resources, especially working hours, to do this. Projects therefore need to find a good balance between thinking about a vision for their project and actively working to achieve tangible results.

Covid-19 connection/How does this enabling arrangement play out under the conditions of a pandemic?

This enabling arrangement does not seem to be overly affected by the pandemic. Still, community projects can not meet as regularly as normal and will face restrictions when doing so. Online formats may not completely substitute especially the spirit that some community projects rely upon as well, making the development of a comprehensive vision of change harder.