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Collaborative Planning

Area: Design, planning and building

State-controlled spatial planning has been criticised for being too paternalistic as it tends to exercise political weight from the top, indicating the imbalance of power in decision-making processes (Albrechts, 2003). Furthermore, the dominance of an urban (economic) growth ideology in planning is discussed in critiques which address the problems of trust and accountability in central planning authorities. While the state is expected to act in the public interest through the rational and impartial guidance of planners, there is a notable lack of trust observed towards planning institutions and their methods of operation (Swain & Tait, 2007).

A common issue raised in the critiques of planning institutions is how the prioritisation of the technical knowledge of “expert” professionals is leading to the exclusion of the public through the resulting lack of diversity in universal assumptions of their interest, the lack of transparency and the changing political dimensions of planning decisions in general. In addition, the advancement of neoliberal ideology, either by rolling back the power of the state, or by the state operating as an entrepreneurial actor, has led to further mistrust of planning mechanisms aligned with urban entrepreneurialism (Phelps & Miao, 2020). State-market partnership dominance allows very little room for citizens that are not in positions of power to influence planning decisions and develops mistrust towards hegemonic planning institutions. A major dilemma is how to prioritise actions which would meet the needs of smaller groups of stakeholders while also serve the wider society. In addition, a common difficulty is the translation of theoretical concepts into practical actions that can address complex societal problems and create positive outcomes for communities and the environment.

In response to the structural failures of strategic planning and the distancing of citizens from democratic decision-making processes, Healey (1997) wrote about “practicing planning” or, “doing planning work”, focusing on the place-based, fine-grain interactions that are socially embedded and potentially able to influence the structures and power relations of existing planning institutions. The theory of collaborative planning (Healey, 1997) has been influential in the advocacy for new relations between state and local actors where policies and resources had not been previously allocated sufficiently. Collaborative planning accepts the highly political nature of allocating resources such as housing and social infrastructure, and aims to eradicate socio-economic injustices in certain areas. Collaborative planning ensures citizens’ right to be heard and the accountability of decisions made after the planning process by those in power. However, collaboration in planning has largely involved the management and mediation of continuous conflicts, for example, between competing urban interests.

Moreover, scholars of collaborative planning theory use the paradigm of communicative planning to argue that “communication itself is a form of action that changes the realities of the social world, including power relations” (Innes & Booher, 2015, p. 200). Communicative planning as an overarching paradigm is a fundamental means for instilling ethics and justice judgements in the particularities of collaborative planning theory which is specific to place (Campbell & Marshall, 2006; Innes & Booher, 1999). Innes and Booher (2003) discuss the capacity of society to govern and claim that the building of collaborative capacity for governance is dependent on “mutual trust and shared understandings” (Innes & Booher, 2003). However, while the paradigm of communicative planning stresses the need for a more equitable distribution of power (Albrechts, 1991, 2003; Forester, 1999), the operationalisation of communicative planning theory into action has remained a great challenge. Feelings of unfairness translated also into a lack of trust in public administration and other context-dependent challenges related to the governing processes are often found to be major obstacles in citizen-government collaboration.

Both collaborative governance and planning emphasize collaboration and stakeholder engagement but one needs to precede the other. Firstly, collaborative governance involves the rules and forms of interaction and communication through which public and private actors work collectively during decision-making practices (Ansell & Gash, 2008). Secondly, collaborative planning is a theory related to plan-making and policy-making in terms of spatial development and the management of public resources which depends on the consensus-building capacity of collaborative governance practices. Through the integration of collaborative approaches in governance and planning at the local level, alternative scales of urban governance appear, namely at the level of community, as “territorially-focused collective action” (Healey, 2006, p. 305) and by advancing bottom-up, self-organized initiatives in contrast to the top-down, modernist model that has dominated most configurations of Western urban space.

Fundamental to these considerations is the concept of placemaking in planning, explained by Healey (1998) as the work that involves people with a “stake” in a place which then makes them become active participants in urban planning processes. Hence, placemaking is the process of utilising the joint knowledge, abilities and effort of community members in collaborative planning, often involving public spaces and neighbourhood amenities, considering the balance of social and economic values and uses of land that grow out of the diverse concerns of those with legitimate interests. In other words, the communicative capacity of a community connected to a place, according to social values embodied in place, builds the capacity for direct forms of planning through discussions and plan-making process which involve all relevant stakeholders (Albrechts, 2013).

As a result, the processes of coordinating and determining the diversity of decisions, collaborative planning strategies are not confined to technical expertise. They are strategies which recognise the value of “deliberative democracy” and citizens’ involvement in policy-making. However, a more collaborative and neighbourhood-oriented approach to planning also demands the ability to respond to the conflicts, debates and micropolitics of planning practice during the cooperation between state and non-state actors. Additionally, problems of participant selection and representation, stakeholders’ ongoing commitment and the level of shared decision-making and risk-taking that local administrations are able to manage can be especially challenging (Bartoletti & Faccioli, 2016).

A deeper understanding of the contextual, variegated planning processes and how they hinder or facilitate collaborative practices at the level of everyday decisions is still overdue (Calderon & Westin, 2021). The dominance of technocratic and political actors accustomed to top-down/hierarchical norms followed by the exclusion of residents and other less-powerful stakeholders are structures which have been socially embedded and reproduced over time. Consequently, the interplay between institutions and the agency of all of the actors and their understanding of collaboration is highly context driven:

"[Institutions] emerge and are reproduced within the specific spatial and temporal horizons of action pursued by specific actors … this shows the key role of actors in mediating (supporting, reinforcing or diminishing) the influence of institutions, and thus context, in specific planning processes … Hence, an analysis of the influence that context has on specific planning processes cannot be performed without close attention to actors and how they use their agency to reproduce or deviate from the institutional setting in which they operate." (Calderon & Westin, 2021, pp. 16–17).

Currently, a resurgence of communicative and collaborative paradigms in planning is being witnessed, but by using the concepts of co-production and co-creation. For example, urban living labs are being used as experimental spaces where actors with different levels of power and different types of skills and knowledge are learning to work together. A recent analysis shows that mutual learning and collaboration reinforce each other, yet challenges which remain may be the time-intensive nature of collaborative planning in general and the lack of clarity about expectations, responsibilities and roles of participants (Knickel et al., 2023). These new platforms for deliberation allow us also to think about housing outside of the bounds of private property and as a fundamental part of decisions at the scale of neighbourhood planning.






Albrechts, L. (1991). Changing Roles and Positions of Planners. Urban Studies, 28(1), 123–137.

Albrechts, L. (2003). Planning and power: Towards an emancipatory planning approach. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 21(6), 905–924.

Albrechts, L. (2013). Reframing strategic spatial planning by using a coproduction perspective. Planning Theory, 12(1), 46–63.

Ansell, C., & Gash, A. (2008). Collaborative governance in theory and practice. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 18(4), 543–571.

Bartoletti, R., & Faccioli, F. (2016). Public Engagement, Local Policies, and Citizens’ Participation: An Italian Case Study of Civic Collaboration. Social Media and Society, 2(3).

Calderon, C., & Westin, M. (2021). Understanding context and its influence on collaborative planning processes: a contribution to communicative planning theory. International Planning Studies, 26(1), 14–27.

Campbell, H., & Marshall, R. (2006). Towards justice in planning: A reappraisal. European Planning Studies, 14(2), 239–252.

Forester, J. (1999). The deliberative practitioner: Encouraging participatory planning processes. MIT Press.

Healey, P. (1997). Collaborative planning: Shaping places in fragmented societies. Macmillan International Higher Education.

Healey, P. (1998). Collaborative planning in a stakeholder society. Town Planning Review, 69(1), 1–21.

Healey, P. (2006). Transforming governance: Challenges of institutional adaptation and a new politics of space. European Planning Studies, 14(3), 299–320.

Innes, J. E., & Booher, D. E. (1999). Consensus Building as Role Playing and Bricolage. Journal of the American Planning Association, 65(1), 9–26.

Innes, J. E., & Booher, D. E. (2003). The Impact of Collaborative Planning on Governance Capacity. In IURD Working Paper Series.

Innes, J. E., & Booher, D. E. (2015). A turning point for planning theory? Overcoming dividing discourses. Planning Theory, 14(2), 195–213.

Knickel, M., Caniglia, G., Knickel, K., Šūmane, S., Maye, D., Arcuri, S., Keech, D., Tisenkopfs, T., & Brunori, G. (2023). Lost in a haze or playing to partners’ strengths? Learning to collaborate in three transdisciplinary European Living Labs. Futures, 152(May).

Phelps, N. A., & Miao, J. T. (2020). Varieties of urban entrepreneurialism. Dialogues in Human Geography, 10(3), 304–321.

Swain, C., & Tait, M. (2007). The crisis of trust and planning. Planning Theory and Practice, 8(2), 229–247.


Created on 06-03-2024 | Update on 06-03-2024

Related definitions

Area: Community participation

In a broader sense, co-creation means the joint effort of bringing something new to fruition through acts of collective creativity (Sanders & Stappers, 2008) which can be manifested in both tangible (making something together) or intangible (learning something together) outcomes (Puerari et al., 2018). Recently, the concepts of co-creation or co- production have been applied to describe the processes of participation in urban planning and design. Both terms place particular emphasis on the partnerships formed between citizens and the public sector, in which a high level of citizen involvement is pivotal. Participation has been defined through its different levels of citizen involvement, ranging from non-participation to greater degrees of citizen control (Arnstein, 1969) indicating the different levels of influence a participant can have on a participatory process. From the perspective of urban planning, citizen participation is beginning to be described as co-creation when citizens’ roles become more prominent, presenting aspects of self-organisation, increased commitment and a sense of ownership of the process (Puerari et al., 2018). Recent research is exploring new methods of urban planning in which citizens, the municipality and private organisations co-create new planning rules (Bisschops & Beunen, 2019). However, co-creation along with co-production and participation, often used interchangeably, have become popular catchphrases and are considered as processes which are of virtue in themselves. Furthermore, while there is substantial research on these processes, the research conducted on the outcomes of enhanced participation remains rather limited (Voorberg et al., 2015). This highlights the ambiguity in terms of interpretation; is co-creation a methodology, a set of tools to enhance and drive a process, or a goal in itself? (Puerari et al., 2018). There have often been cases where participation, co-creation and co-production have been used decoratively, as a form of justification and validation of decisions already made (Armeni, 2016). In the provision of public spaces, co-creation/co-production may specifically involve housing (Brandsen & Helderman, 2012; Chatterton, 2016) and placemaking: “placemaking in public space implies engaging in the practice of urban planning and design beyond an expert culture. Such collaboration can be described as co-creation.” (Eggertsen Teder, 2019, p.290). As in participation, co-creation requires the sharing of decision-making powers, the creation of  joint knowledge and the assignation of abilities between communities, while urban professionals and local authorities should draw attention to the active involvement of community members. Furthermore, co-creation does not take place in a vacuum, but always occurs within socio- spatial contexts. This points to the objective of co-creation as a tool to influence locally relevant policy through innovation that is “place-based”. To conclude, co-creation can be perceived as a process that is both transdisciplinary in its application, and as a tool for achieving transdisciplinarity on a broader scale through a systematic integration in existing standard practices in urban planning, housing design and architecture. Despite the persisting ambiguity in its definition, co-creation processes can provide more inclusive platforms for revisiting and informing formal and informal knowledge on sustainable and affordable housing.

Created on 16-02-2022 | Update on 21-02-2022

Collaborative Governance

Author: A.Panagidis (ESR8)

Area: Community participation

With the world becoming increasingly urbanized and city planning facing numerous complex challenges, urban governance is being downscaled and decentralized, from the national level to the local level. Local authorities are now assuming more prominent roles in structuring urban development plans at the city or neighbourhood level. Various interpretations of governance exist (see, for example housing governance on this vocabulary). However, the definition proposed by Ansell and Gash (2008) – describing governance as the “regimes of laws, rules, judicial decisions, and administrative practices that constrain, prescribe, and enable the provision of publicly supported goods and services” – remains pertinent in discussions about housing, energy, and urban development. Governance involves the negotiation and reconfiguration of institutions – representing “a set of norms” (Savini, 2019)– leading to claims of urban citizenship and power struggles. These processes aim to establish location-specific governance practices, as noted by Baker and Mehmood (2015) and Zavos et al. (2017). In European urban planning, innovative governance models are emerging, integrating housing and spatial planning with increased resident decision-making control (Nuissl & Heinrichs, 2011; Scheller & Thörn, 2018; Van Straalen et al., 2017). Consequently, exploring collaborative urban governance is crucial. Ansell and Gash (2008, p. 544) define collaborative governance as “a governing arrangement where one or more public agencies directly engage non-state stakeholders in a collective decision-making process that is formal, consensus-oriented, and deliberative and that aims to make or implement public policy or manage public programs or assets”- The shift towards neighbourhood-level governance is pivotal in nurturing a "politics of locality" (Ghose, 2005). Despite power disparities, new opportunities for active citizenry emerge, especially in housing, neighbourhood revitalization, and service delivery. Governance now extends beyond governmental tiers, incorporating the civic sphere and community-driven initiatives, bridging gaps left by formal state-driven sectors. Collaborative governance develops over time, benefiting from shared vision, dialogue, consensus-building, and understanding diverse roles and responsibilities (Innes & Booher, 2003). This integration emphasizes alternative governance forms, focusing on "territorially-focused collective action" (Healey, 2006, p. 305) and self-organization, contrasting the top-down, modernist model. Collaborative governance, akin to collaborative planning, emphasizes rights-claiming processes, granting decision-making authority to non-experts. Ghose (2005, p.64) contends that “in order to participate in the power hierarchies […] one has to understand how to perform actively as a citizen in order to claim a right to the city”. Therefore, collaborative governance is a process characterized by shared responsibilities, where shared knowledge serves as the primary currency. This shared knowledge is emphasized as crucial in challenging the authority of experts, as noted by Emerson et al. (2012).

Created on 26-10-2023 | Update on 08-12-2023


Author: A.Pappa (ESR13)

Area: Community participation

Placemaking in the urban realm is a holistic approach that foments the collaborative transformation of public spaces into vibrant, inclusive and engaging places. The core objective of placemaking is reflected in David Engwicht’s analogy: “placemaking is like turning a house into a home” (Placemaking.Education, no date), that is, to transform a mere physical location or space into an emotionally resonant and socially connected place. Placemaking encompasses not only the planning and design of spaces but also their sustainable management (Project for Public Spaces, 2016). The placemaking theory has been developed on the principle that urban and architectural projects should prioritize people and their emotions over cars and shopping centres. This idea originated in groundbreaking work of intellectuals from the 1960s, such as Jane Jacobs[1] and William H. Whyte[2]. Building upon their work, the term ‘placemaking’ started being used in the 1970s by architects and planners to describe the process of transforming public spaces into enjoyable destinations. Since then, a number of placemaking organisations, most notably the pioneering Project for Public Spaces (PPS)[3], have played a pivotal role in guiding community leaders toward the value of reinvesting in existing communities instead of pursuing endless urban sprawl. These organisations have raised awareness that this approach is both economically and environmentally more sustainable (Ellery, Ellery and Borkowsky, 2021). Over the last few decades, placemaking has been extensively used to describe various approaches in urban development, ranging from community-driven emancipatory practices, such as reclaiming underused neighbourhood spaces, to top-down strategic plans for neighbourhood revitalisations. Theoretical discussions have attempted to categorize placemaking processes with regards to ignition, goal, scale, budget and involvement, among others (Courage et al., 2021). One widely adopted classification among placemaking scholars is Wyckoff’s (2014) distinction of four types:    Standard Placemaking (or simply placemaking) aims at creating quality places and reviving existing public spaces. This approach is pursued by the public, non-profit, or private sector, employing community participation into a variety of projects and activities. These projects are often incremental, such as street and façade improvements, residential rehabs, which may encompass public spaces and small-scale projects. Tactical Placemaking focuses on creating quality places using a deliberate approach to change, developed in phases that begin with quick, short-term commitments and realistic expectations. Over time, short-term activities and projects achieve gradual transformations in public spaces. Tactical placemaking can be initiated by local development strategies or from bottom-up. It includes activities such as parking space conversions, self-guided historic walks, outdoor music events, and temporary conversion of buildings. Creative Placemaking utilises arts and cultural activities to strategically shape the identity of a neighbourhood, city, or region. The processes include revitalisation of buildings, structures and streetscapes, often improving the local business viability and public safety. Strategic Placemaking is targeted at achieving specific goals, such as raising the economic, social and cultural prosperity of a community in addition to creating quality places. This can be achieved by interventions that attract talented workers in certain locations, such as mixed-use places that are pedestrian-oriented, bike-friendly, as well as supporting recreation, arts and housing options. Naturally, implementing placemaking processes come with their own risks. Similar to other forms of civic participation, placemaking can sometimes become a buzzword for urban renewal programmes, especially when used to drive economic development of an area through spatial upgrade. When the goal is to replace an existing place with one considered an improvement, it is likely that the affected people may experience negative effects, such as direct or indirect displacement. In this regard, as placemaking strategies, aimed at revitalising underutilised spaces into vibrant places, consequently enhancing the location’s attractiveness and value, are often criticised for potentially fuelling gentrification trends rather than alleviating them (Placemaking Europe, 2019).   [1] In her work, epitomised in her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), Jacobs introduced the idea of “eyes on the street” that advocates for citizen ownership on the street. [2] Whyte’s groundbreaking work The social Life of Small Urban Spaces (1980), summarises his extensive research on the Street Life Project in New York, in which he recorded the human behaviour in the urban setting, concluding to the essential elements for creating social life in public spaces. (see more at Projects for Public Spaces, William H. Whyte) [3] Organisation led by Fred Kent and consisted of an interdisciplinary team, has been advancing placemaking processes since 1975 originally in the US and recently globally. Developing roadmaps and toolboxes that place community participation at the centre of action they have engaged with more than 35000 communities in 52 countries (About — Project for Public Spaces, no date), while at the same time sharing their placemaking experiences and principles (see Project for Public Spaces Inc., 2015) through networking activities and courses.

Created on 08-11-2023 | Update on 15-11-2023


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