Envisioning and co-creating sustainable urban neighborhoods by reaching across institutional boundaries

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Imagine a green and pedestrianized city district where residents have participated in creating affordable and sustainable housing.

This intervention may be initiated by citizens wishing to live in more sustainable ways. With a clear vision of a sustainable neighbourhood, citizens could have identified their participation in formal urban development as the only way for this scenario to emerge. But can this be done? Specifically, converging interests with the municipality and its intentions to establish a new district while experimenting with innovative measures like participatory planning and the creation of citizens’ housing cooperatives, may be crucial. Citizens and the municipality could work in partnership to implement the project whose success may depend on the good collaboration between them. Indeed, a real co-creation process can only result from the well-defined and (relatively) horizontal distribution of responsibilities between each group.

Building on the experiences of previous community projects could facilitate citizens’ participation. Indeed, such background may provide legitimacy to citizen-led interventions as well as enhance trust among municipal actors in the capacity of citizen groups to successfully implement projects. Additionally, benefiting from organizational and human resources from other community networks may be of great support for the project’s proponents.

Undoubtedly, such innovative collaboration cannot work smoothly right out of the gate, some obstacles may be encountered on the way. For example, bureaucratic frameworks usually used by municipalities in urban development projects may not be adapted for such co-creation projects. Eventually, it could constrain citizen participation who may then feel unjustly treated and disregarded by the municipality.

Since such obstacles are mostly related to a lack of communication and misunderstandings, most important may be to express any discontents or frustrations (e.g. about procedures) and discuss these issues. Handy solutions could be found in appreciating the mutual wishes and expectations of citizens and the municipality. A mediator reestablishing the dialogue between these actors may be of great support. As roles and expectations would be adjusted as well as transparency and mutual trust between actors granted, the project could be successfully implemented.

This intervention on governance arrangements for urban development projects aims at being inspirational for citizens and urban policy makers. Eventually, key governance arrangements featured in this scenario may be replicated elsewhere, including in different sectors at the municipal level or/and to other urban contexts.

Do you want to learn more about this intervention?

Take a look at the detailed case study on the Resilience Lab case that has inspired this scenario.

This intervention fits under the approaches:

It addresses some drivers of injustice: