Overcoming compartmentalization in urban regeneration projects for inclusive sustainability and resilience

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Imagine a city consisting of ecologically sustainable urban neighbourhoods that are inclusive for its residents and resilient towards climate change. How can we create these neighbourhoods?

Creating truly sustainable neighbourhoods from a holistic perspective is often hindered by compartmentalized administrations and specialized, inconsistent policies. The ‘breaking down of silos’ could mean, for example, that different departments of a municipality would have to work together and with different local stakeholders in creating comprehensively sustainable areas taking into consideration a variety of issues (e.g biodiversity, health, inclusivity, climate) at once. What needs to change is also how specific topics are addressed: reducing the energy consumption in a neighbourhood might not just call for the technical improvement of buildings, but may also involve dedicated campaigns for changing energy related behaviour of residents.

When pushing sustainable district and neighbourhood developments in your own city, being truly enthusiastic about the projects can be hugely important to get others on board. Individuals can play a very important role here. An area that has a bad reputation where there is an already existing urge that something has to be done might be a good area to start a sustainable neighbourhood campaign. This can for example apply to neighbourhoods that could have very diverse issues such as high rates of unemployment, low interest in politics or even something really specific like missing resilience to floods. A typical story of such a sustainable neighbourhood campaign could start with the municipality as an initiator. If this is supposed to be an integrated effort, however, the municipality would have to involve different local stakeholders, e.g the municipal housing company, local schools and most importantly local residents.

Developments that try to tackle issues in single sectors (like, mobility or energy) will most likely take a long time to be implemented which could lead to a decline in public interest over the course of the project. Shifting responsibilities and making residents more and more responsible over the duration of the project might help with such issues. If projects aim to address different justice related issues, especially procedural justice, it would be crucial to carefully design participation processes. Such projects should engage residents as well as comprehend their needs and wishes.

A sustainable neighbourhood will only exist if residents feel as integral parts of it. Trying to push best practices onto the neighbourhood will most likely not work if residents do not understand why these developments are necessary or if they are opposed to such ideas.Still, organising workshops that convey experiences from other areas might spark ideas for your own neighbourhood. As a municipality, taking up a perspective that provides guidance in what could be done to improve situations might sometimes be more feasible than telling residents what has to be done. Embracing such an open perspective as well as overcoming compartmentalized policies might be key in creating sustainable as well as resilient neighbourhoods.

Do you want to learn more about this scenario?

Take a look at the detailed description of Holistic neighbourhood development Augustenborg that has inspired this scenario.

This scenario fits under the approaches:

  • Governance and participation processes. This approach geared toward urban sustainability emphasise defining and addressing environmental problems as well as envisioning the future of cities, mainly based on the co-production of knowledge through innovative, diverse and strategic partnerships.
  • Governance for urban climate mitigation and adaptation. This approach refers to the effort of public institutions to engage the civil society in policy making processes.

It addresses some drivers of injustice:

  • Material and livelihood inequalities. This driver refers to the ways that the underlying distribution of economic resources gets expressed within urban sustainability efforts, reinforcing or exacerbating unjust outcomes.
  • Uneven environmental health and pollution patterns. This driver 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.
  • Weak(ened) civil society. This driver refers to the ways in which collective civic groups that share common interests (other than the state, the market, or the family) are either not constituted and impactful enough to influence and benefit from sustainability efforts or are indeed constrained by interventions that carry sustainability objectives.