the project

The interplay between citizen initiatives and invited participation in urban planning: An interaction research project

Funder Formas

This project proposal is designed in cooperation with Mistra Urban Futures, a global centre for sustainable urban development. The consortium consists of seven partners, four of which are involved in this project: Chalmers University of Technology, University of Gothenburg, City of Gothenburg, and Region of Västra Götaland.

Aims and project design
The project’s aim is a transdisciplinary production of knowledge about the role of citizen initiatives in local governance and how current design and planning practices may be developed in order to more fully draw from these initiatives as resources for sustainable urban development. This requires a reflective process involving research and practice in concrete planning situations. As we are specifically interested in responses to urban deprivation, we will perform a case study in a Swedish suburban area suffering from socio-economic stigmatisation.

The main research question: How can citizen initiatives interplay with invited participation in local development work? This question raises sub-questions:

  • Which kinds of citizen initiatives exist? How do they function? What interests are manifested? How do they relate to formal planning institutions or other institutions involved in urban development? How do they influence local development?
  • How can invited participation in planning processes be understood with regard to its democratic quality? What are the constraining and enabling factors increasing empowered participative governance? How do invited participatory measures interact with citizen initiatives?
  • How can constructive dialogues between citizens and formal planning institutions be facilitated to support empowered participative governance and sustainable urban development?

The sub-questions correspond to the three phases of the project: (1) mapping phase; (2) interaction phase; (3) synthesis phase. The phases partly overlap, each phase conditioning the following one. According to the components of each phase, different methods and theories are required:

  1. The mapping phase. The objective is to map relevant experiences of citizen initiatives and invited participation in local development work, in the context of Swedish suburbs and in urban peripheries around the world. This work involves literature studies, seminars and study trips. We will also map the case study area, to get an overview of formal and informal actors, networks, activities and policies relevant for the research questions.
  2. The interaction phase. The main activity is to develop participative processes based on seminars, workshops, exhibitions and interventions in public spaces. The aim is to create neutral meeting arenas (‘interplaces’) where citizens and representatives of formal planning institutions can meet and work together. The spectrum of competences in the project team is crucial for the combination of practice and research required.
  3. The synthesis phase. The experiences are analysed and the findings formulated and presented. One important aim of this phase of the project is also to see how we may continue the work, building on the organisational and knowledge platforms we have created locally and internationally.

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