Participation – necessary, complex and fun


By URBACT, on November 16th, 2010

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Participation is a key element in all modern Urban Development Strategies. Just asking people to vote a local council every four or five years is no longer good enough. People want to have a say in all aspects concerning their neighbourhood from school to traffic and new buildings.
Older models of  participation like Arnstein’s “Ladder of Citizen Participation” published in 1969 are one-dimensional. Participation is just about giving power of decision making to “the people”.  Modern models like Fung’s “Democracy Cube” acknowledge the complexity of the process. Who participates? How is the communication? and what relevance is given to the results of a participation process? In the end not only those who participated but all those who are effected by decision making can scrutinize the procedure and its impact on justice, legitimacy and effective governance.

There is a wide range of methods and tools for participation of large groups among them future conferences, open space, charette and  planning for real. The CoNet network meeting in Alba Iulia used the “Future Workshop“ method by Austrian futurologist Robert Jungk to develop ideas for the disadvantaged “Lumea Nuoa“ (new world) neighbourhood. A Future Workshop has three separate phases critique, fantasy and implementation. Encouraged by the commitment of Alba Iulia’s Mayor Mr. Mircea Hava an English-speaking group and a Romanian speaking group came up with many proposals on pressing and serious problems for this neighbourhood and made the experience that Future Workshops, like other tool of participation, can be fun!

Reinhard Fischer
CoNet Communication Manager

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