D) Committing to a meaningful participation process

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The ambition

Meaningful participation means that citizens’ inputs are seriously considered in inclusive design and governance processes, they visibly shape initiative outcomes, and thus can influence the status quo in urban sustainability and justice. Such a process is also cognisant of who is invited and capable of participating, since otherwise it runs the risk of becoming a further driver of injustice.

Based on the sample of cases studied while deriving the enabling governance arrangements, this one usually involves both the municipality and community-led initiatives:

  1. On the side of municipalities: Municipal actors need to acknowledge and embrace the value of citizen participation in project development and trust civil-society in visioning and implementing projects. This entails a clear definition of roles and responsibilities and could even mean seeing each other as equally legitimate to engage in the project as partners (e.g. between municipal actors and citizens).
  2. On the side of civil society: Committing to a meaningful participation process can also entail a thoughtful mix of deliberative and practical approaches to citizen participation.

Check out examples

1. On the side of municipality

Vauban neighborhood, Freiburg

The citizen-led Vauban Forum was invited to participate in the “Vauban city planning council” (a consultative committee within the city council) which indicates that the municipality recognizes citizens as legitimate partners in the project development.

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Superblocks, Barcelona

While establishing Superblocks, the municipality of Barcelona developed a standard procedure for participation in each block. Over the course of the project, this procedure became increasingly open putting responsibilities and decisions into the hand of formalised local working groups consisting of diverse local stakeholders (e.g. local businesses and residents).

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2. On the side of civil society

Brixton Energy, London

Consultation with local residents informed the initiative’s problem definition (deliberative approach), and hands-on involvement (practical approach) in the creation of solar panels and internships led to increased interest and participation.

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Community Land Trust, Brussels

Future building residents are essential actors in the planning process.

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Carnisse neighborhood, Rotterdam

To make the project more inclusive, project proponents developed two types of participation methods and invited residents to engage in a more deliberative one (e.g. visioning the district) and more practical one (e.g. developing activities in the community center and community garden).

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Büger Energie Berlin, Berlin

BEB would not have been able to establish and grow the way it did without the contribution of volunteers. Most of them are students, mainly graduates from the field of renewable energies but there are also retired people who want to use their free time to help the cooperative. According to an interviewee: “Among the most important factors for the cooperative being alive and working to realize its goals is that we have a lot of people as volunteers giving their time and putting in their efforts for instance, myself and other team members, although, their duties are being managed paid positions - two general managers – in BEB. The two general managers are essentially doing what needs to be done from coordinating all the activities to implementing new ideas and doing all the nitty gritty and everything. However, that wouldn’t have been possible without the larger membership base that is gradually increasing”.

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Relation to previous work in UrbanA

This enabling governance arrangement addresses the following drivers of injustice:

  • Limited citizen participation in urban planning. It refers to the limited involvement and engagement of citizens and citizens’ initiatives in decision-making around the planning, design, implementation and/or evaluation of urban sustainability-oriented interventions.