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Andreas Panagidis


Andreas Panagidis is an architect and planner, with an MA in Architecture from the Royal Danish Academy and an MSc in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Amsterdam. During his professional practice as an architect both in Cyprus, the UK and the US, Andreas has gained experience primarily  in residential projects of various scales and sectors. After obtaining a second masters degree in 2020, he has worked as a research assistant at the Department of Architecture of The University of Cyprus within a team developing an affordable housing and eco-neighbourhood project. His personal research interests are in the pursuit of transcending scalar and disciplinary boundaries between architecture, planning and geography and investigating the organisational spaces between homes, neighbourhoods and the commons. With the research project "Urban living labs and the role of users in the co-creation of sustainable housing" he will explore new platforms of community participation in sustainability and governance at the neighbourhood level. This research is being carried out within a suburb of Nicosia, Cyprus and focuses on the potential for collaboration between the municipality of Latsia and citizens of the local area.

Research topic

Updated sumaries

June, 27, 2023

April, 01, 2022

September, 17, 2021

Urban Living Labs for Planning Experimentation at the Neighbourhood Level




This thesis will explore affordable and sustainable housing by widening the discourse through an investigation of alternative paths to urban development. The main hypothesis of this thesis is that the global housing crisis is understood as an urban governance crisis stemming from inequitable decision-making processes in planning. By investigating innovative and place-based models for citizen participation in urban governance and planning, this approach provides opportunities for a critical reflection of the role of the spatial planning discipline in the development of housing with a focus on collaborative governance processes and institutional innovation. This specifically involves the development of a conceptual framework which integrates the concepts of social sustainability (social equity, social infrastructure, social capital and social cohesion), collaborative governance, experimentation in urban planning and the urban commons. I aim to undertake an Urban Living Lab in the Latsia municipality in order to investigate collaboration and urban experimentation at the neighbourhood level which may lead to the creation of new planning rules and platforms for direct citizen engagement. The aim is to foster innovation in collaborative governance arrangements that span different scales of social and spatial organisation and prioritise citizen engagement for practicing urban development at the neighbourhood level.


Research questions

Main question:

How can ULLs facilitate experimentation in planning towards the production of the collaborative neighbourhood leading to socially sustainable housing environments?

Research sub-questions:

Through which social infrastructure resources can communities connect the realm of the household to the realm of the neighbourhood?

Which ‘nested layers of community’ can be identified and how are they spatially or social determined by the research participants?

What organisational structure can facilitate the collaboration between local government officials and citizens for the co-production of social infrastructure?

Housing as Social Infrastructure: Urban Living Labs for Planing Experimentation at the Neighbourhood Level


Increasingly, cities are understood as the infrastructural, spatial and material expressions of urbanisation that are entangled with the social and environmental realms that they co-constitute. The bundle of urban economic, socio-spatial and environemtal assemblages has become so complex  that urban research has pointed to transdisiplinarity and the need for further investigation of social sustainability (Murphy, 2012; Vallance et al., 2011), identifying “the community space as the main arena for the achievement of sustainability” (Colantonio & Dixon, 2009, p. 20). Consequently, a closer investigation of the spatial understanding of social sustainability and the conditions for its materialisation also presents the opportunity for exploring housing as embedded in wider contexts and within community infrastructure, re-establishing the importance of the local scale of the neighbourhood (Shirazi & Keivani, 2017). Furthermore, the interplay of housing and the distribution of public resources determined at the neighbourhood scale, prompt the revisiting of the call for a just city (Fainstein, 2014), how decisions are made and the consideration of alternatives to existing distributions of power.


Μany approaches to these overlapping issues are arguably captured by a promising trajectory linked to aspects of social sustainability which places emphasis on the integration of what is referred to as “hard” and “soft” social infrastructure, referring to the merging of the physical and social aspects of urban infrastructure. In addition, growing interest in experimentation that specifically prioritises the active engagement of users themselves is receiving more attention in the emergence of Urban Living Labs (ULLs) (Bulkeley et al., 2016; Puerari et al., 2018; von Wirth et al., 2019; Voytenko et al., 2016)⁠.


In ULLs, locally-relevant knowledge is prioritised at a scale that engages individuals by embedding or contextualising urban experimental practices into existing local structures, i.e. in their cultural and spatial real-life context. Importantly, a specific type of ULL is initiated up by municipalities or researchers and are labelled as City Labs in order to develop new local planning processes in real life settings with the input of citizens at the centre of innovation (Höflehner & Zimmermann, 2016; Scholl & de Kraker, 2021; Scholl & Kemp, 2016). Hence, a gap in research that calls for further investigation is how innovative and more inclusive approaches of citizen participation in planning influence the development of alternative urban governance arrangements and reduce the hierarchy of established processes of housing development.


I am to investigate the above problematics by framing the investigation of housing embedded in social infrastructure, setting the foundation for civic engagement with the state and providing under-resourced citizens the tools and decision-making power for the co-creation of resources that go beyond the building scale. Therefore, housing also understood as social infrastructure is conceived as a gateway to other essential infrastructures that are especially important in local planning. Furthermore, I aim to develop a conceptual framework that reinforces the under-researched concept of commons planning (Marcuse, 2009) to deal with the redistribution of power which ensures that community-based interests come first in local planning decisions.


The research question proposed is: How do citizens participate in Urban Living Labs for planning experimentation at the neighbourhood level?


The governance arrangement for this undertaking is expected to be facilitated by the setup of a partnership with a municipality and a housing association for the use of vacant land within an existing residential area. The collaborative governance arrangements will be at the focus of analysis concerning the conditions for co-production of social infrastructure that empower citizens to contribute to local governance through collective action. An ULL/City Lab will be set up to undertake this experimental form of action research in Nicosia, Cyprus with the ultimate goals of establishing new forms of neighbourhood development by engaging residents in partnership with a municipality and other planning actors. Expanding the scope of housing research to engage urban infrastructure and more active forms of citizenship, may provide powerful means for investigating more democratic configurations of local governance of land division/parcellation and housing production. The location of the ULL will depend on the need for community infrastructure improvements and the enhancement of social sustainability in a neighbourhood as well as the willingness of a municipality to collaborate with residents in local governance processes.


Reference documents

Icon document

Research plan


Urban Living Labs and the Role of Users in the Co-Creation of Sustainable Housing: Housing as Community Infrastructure


The priorities of contemporary urban-environmental policy are increasingly being criticised for not producing equitable inhabitations as an underlying pro-business agenda has been found in tension especially with the social goals of sustainability and leading to negative interrelated socio-environmental consequences. Moreover, the tried techno-managerial approaches to sustainable urban development are being criticised for failing in the governance of urban spaces and disempowering citizens as the access to affordable housing and sustainable neighbourhoods is becoming increasingly inequitable. In the face of mounting risks from climate change, systemic transformations at many different levels are not only becoming increasingly urgent, they are perhaps imperative for re-defining sustainable development and addressing these contemporary urban challenges.

One approach that addresses the complexity of such urban problems recognises that sustainability and affordability of housing should be addressed simultaneously, responding to the interests of communities. Collaborative forms of governance and collectively managed socio-spatial resources discussed in research on the urban commons, are emerging paradigms of alternative practices influencing contemporary housing discourses. More recently, the importance of a place-based approach to innovation and urban experimentation highlights the role of the local context in sustainability transitions and social innovation literature. This research will investigate practices in housing design by looking at the surrounding socio-ecological contexts, place-making processes and other aspects that ‘localise’ housing.

It is also still largely unstudied how social dimensions of sustainable development, for example social cohesion, and sense of place can contribute to housing research at the intersection of the home and its supporting urban systems. This is especially important in the design of affordable housing environments which should afford lower-income residents connections to community resources and broader sets of opportunities. The Urban Living Lab approach will be used in the co-production of collaborative knowledge, involving interactions between the local community and public authorities to form strategies for  place-based action in residential environments that support housing and may lead to housing as a form of infrastructure embedded in community-driven social, economic and ecological processes.


Recent activity

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Community outcry in public housing refurbishments

Posted on 03-06-2023

Since its establishment, the Republic of Cyprus has enacted housing policy geared towards the enabling of individual homeownership. Important plans included the large state housing estates in many cities across the island, built for people internally displaced by the 1974 division of the island. The houses and apartments have since been transferred to the residents’ own private ownership. Programmes for their rehabilitation have been put forward ever since, but only recently has a comprehensive policy been put together for a national plan to either demolish and rebuild, or refurbish the aging government-built estates. The plan named "Grant Scheme for Existing Multifamily Housing in Government Housing Estates for Displaced Persons" was prepared on the basis of the findings of the structural/seismic evaluation study of a total of 358 existing apartment buildings, accounting for 3,128 apartments in total. On the basis of this study and the structural problems of the apartment buildings, a preliminary decision was made to demolish 43 of them, taking into account social, economic and legal aspects, in order to enable the Scheme's immediate implementation. The total cost of implementing the 10-year Grant Scheme is estimated at a maximum of €130 million and will be financed exclusively from national funds. The Scheme provides for the development of open space within the Government Housing Estates themselves for the construction of new apartment buildings which will replace the ones being demolished. The first stage of the Scheme requires the decision of the eligible residents to participate in the Scheme and to receive a new apartment (with appropriate sponsorship and contribution), or to withdraw from the Scheme and receive a lump sum of the existing apartment and land value attributable to them. However, there has been a very strong backlash by the residents who have been living in these buildings under worsening conditions of disrepair during the past decades.  The most contentious issues have been the provision of rental subsidies and the provision of the lump sum received by those wishing to not participate in the Scheme. For those participating, until the new buildings are constructed, they will have to evacuate the existing buildings and seek rent in the private sector or use the subsidies as they wish while finding accommodation at a friend or a relative, for a period of 24 months and a sum determined by their eligibility status. The largest subsidy amount goes to 1st generation displaced persons and original beneficiaries of the apartments, who are also holders of title deeds. However, the subsidies of a one bedroom apartment being €400 per month, a two bedroom €600 per month and a three bedroom €700 per month are lower than average market prices. For the lump sum recipients, a one-bedroom apartment is valued at €30,000, a two-bedroom apartment at €40,000, and a three-bedroom apartment at €50,000. An example of a plot valued at €180,000 as stated in the Scheme, is divided by 9 homeowners, adding a value of €20,000 for each apartment. During a recent public hearing in Nicosia, many residents voiced their indignation to such a low amount, stating that it will be impossible to find any one-bedroom apartments in the private market sold at €50,000. During the public hearing, strong disagreements were also heard by people in buildings aimed for refurbishment. As the residents of the apartment buildings most often have low or very low incomes, they were unable to repair serious issues such as water penetration, mould and deteriorating structural elements for years. They had to wait for state maintenance workers to come to do the work, and according to the residents, did few repairs, hastily and without much effort. For those residents who spent the little money that they had on essential repairs themselves, it seemed unfair and illogical that they will be receiving subsidies to refurbish the buildings again after the work had been already carried out. Due to such serious shortcomings in truly understanding the above practicalities and the large scope of needs of the Government Housing Estates residents, the policy has been widely discussed in the local media.  Arguably, the lack of consultation with the residents of the housing estates before the preparation of the strategy for their rebuilding and refurbishment has been the largest mistake that the state planners could have done. Confronting perhaps one of the most sensitive housing matters in Cyprus, the top-down strategy that the Planning Department followed in preparing the above Scheme points to the serious inadequacies in the planning system and the failures of hegemonic urban governance institutions in general. This case study  is aligned with the “Design, planning and building” and “Community Participation” of the Re-Dwell project research areas. The government of Cyprus is evidently administering planning system which restricts community participatory processes and offers little transparency in the ways that decisions are made. In general, a real lack of community planning is evident and new housing policies such as the one examined in this case study do little to ensure the affordability or social sustainability of new social housing.


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Novel approaches to participation in planning

Posted on 11-05-2022

During my recent secondment at the University of Reading, School of Architecture I was lucky enough to participate in the Urban Room, part of the Community Consultation for Quality of Life (CCQoL) research project in the UK.[i] The ongoing research project is taking place during the development of four pilot projects in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland and brings together community groups, academic researchers, industry partners and local authorities, with the aim of improving the process of community consultation (CC) in planning. In Reading, it was a great opportunity to see how the issues mentioned above were being tackled “on the ground” so to speak, where local community groups were given a real space to meet and discuss important local issues.   During my experience of the Urban Room, I found the process of mapping social value combined with face-to-face engagement particularly important tools placed in the hands of citizens as much as experts in understanding and enhancing social value when undertaking processes of community consultation. The co-design of maps emphasises how people can have their say in creating a resource of local knowledge aimed at revealing the hidden attributes that benefit communities. As the map began to be populated with responses, I noticed how people’s feelings, now spatially strewn across different parts of the city, became a process of learning about and connecting with each other. Concurrently, the opportunity for people to casually meet in physical space has proven that face-to-face encounter still is incredibly necessary.   Both processes have indicated how important it can be to have control and power to take decisions collectively, rather than individually, as other researchers have noted.[ii] In focus group discussions, it has been made clear by community representatives that in real community consultation processes the community needs to there from the beginning as much as possible, pointing to the need for transparency, and for taking the “peoples’ pace”, highlighting the need for patience. These observations come in a time of rapid technological innovation and adoption of digital mediums both in data collection, consultation, design and visualisation, related to planning decisions that influence the development of quality of life in housing and neighbourhoods.   Recently, public-private partnerships in the development of housing and neighbourhoods seem to be growing but the methods of participation in planning that focus on the needs and aspirations of communities are just beginning to be updated. The processes of collaborative decision-making by involving communities directly and from the early stages have become increasingly important in the built environment disciplines. Yet, physical, technocratic design concerns seem to be dominant and perhaps easier to evaluate than the accumulated complexity of interactions that make social value at the neighbourhood scale. The integration of a set of social participation- with design-oriented guidelines is necessary.   A growing interest is observed in Urban Living labs (ULLs) as a physical setting and a methodology, with more emphasis placed on real-life settings of experimentation and collaboration between different stakeholders. Collaborative knowledge production and citizen-driven innovation in urban sustainability transitions is often prioritised. ULLs focused on innovation in urban planning processes, are being defined by the term City Labs.[iii] The influential research currently underway on community engagement in Urban Rooms is an exciting and promising trajectory for innovation in participatory planning that shares aspects of the ULLs/City Labs by involving communities, built environment professionals and local councils in collaborative and interactive arrangements. Perhaps the ULLs/City Labs approach, as an extension of the Urban Room concept, presents the opportunity of placing more emphasis on experimentation, involving new tools and methods that enhance participation and lead to co-creation of social value at the neighbourhood level.           [i] [ii] [iii] Scholl, C., & Kemp, R. (2016). City labs as vehicles for innovation in urban planning processes. Urban Planning, 1(4), 89-102.


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Lisbon IRL, Transdisciplinarity is Now Real

Posted on 26-09-2021

It was the first time for all of us. We finally met in real life (IRL) at the Lisbon Workshop. In the three days of lecture sessions, discussion groups and case study trips a lot was accomplished. Apart from the valuable new insight on a wide spectrum of housing issues and perspectives, the transdisciplinary aspects of the Re-Dwell programme were beginning to come alive IRL! Meeting my fellow Early Stage Researchers, every discussion and every interaction was infused with the communication nuances and beautiful little moments we know to be true (and take for granted) only when being in the same space with another person. This personally felt very important and extremely different from the digitally-enabled interactions we were up to now used to as a group.   I am convinced that people and physical space assign meaning to each other. They form a co-constitutive state of socio-spatial complexity that the digital world simply cannot recreate accurately, and transdisciplinary research may be in fact dependent upon such IRL-ness.   Social media slang aside, real life is perhaps inherently based on transdisciplinary interaction. Transdisciplinarity became expressed in the when and how of voicing opinions, in the excitement in our voices and in the way we critically and selectively chose what to say when in a big group or one to one. This is maybe the point of research on housing matters that are most definitely not going to be addressed by researchers in academic vacuums. When I saw us as a group in the lecture room, turning towards each other in a spontaneous moment of heated debate, we were directly engaging with each other, stretching and testing conceptual and philosophical boundaries.   Similarly, walking, seeing, listening and then talking about our environment was an emotional learning process during the social housing visit of the Marvila district that was directly engaging with certain boundaries. I remember feeling a strong sense of awareness of being an outsider, a researcher with a purpose but somewhat distant from the daily routines of peoples' lives that we were casually observing. The boundaries that we were crossing were now not so much disciplinary, but spatial, physical and perhaps more personal. What does housing mean for the people living in it, how is it performed and by whom is it shaped? We were now in the results of previous accomplishments and failures, not above them. We are beginning to splash “in the murky waters and messiness of local struggles and conflicts” (Kaika, 2018) and perhaps this is where transdisciplinarity is necessarily practiced.       Kaika, M. (2018). Between the frog and the eagle: claiming a ‘Scholarship of Presence’for the Anthropocene. European Planning Studies, 26(9), 1714-1727.



Case studies

Contributions to the case study library


Contributions to the vocabulary


Collaborative Governance

Collaborative Planning

Social Sustainability

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

Author: E.Roussou (ESR9), 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

Author: A.Panagidis (ESR8)


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.        

Created on 06-03-2024

Author: A.Panagidis (ESR8)


Area: Community participation

From the three pillars of sustainable development, economic, environmental and social, the latter  involving social equity and the sustainability of communities, has  been especially neglected. Ongoing problems caused by conflicting economic, environmental and social goals with regard to the processes of urbanisation continue. underpinning economic growth that contradict principles of environmental and social justice (Boström, 2012; Cuthill, 2010; Winston, 2009). Research on sustainable development highlights the need for further investigation of social sustainability (Murphy, 2012; Vallance et al., 2011). Social sustainability has been interpreted as an umbrella term encompassing many other related concepts; “social equity and justice, social capital, social cohesion, social exclusion, environmental justice, quality of life, and urban liveability” (Shirazi & Keivani, 2019, p. 4). A vast number of studies have been dedicated to defining social sustainability by developing theoretical frameworks and indicators particularly relevant to urban development and housing discourse (Cuthill, 2010; Dempsey et al., 2011; Murphy, 2012; Woodcraft, 2012). However, with a lack of consensus on the way of utilising these frameworks in a practical way, especially when applied to planning, social sustainability has remained difficult to evaluate or measure. Consequently, planning experts, housing providers and inhabitants alike understand social sustainability as a normative concept, according to established social norms, and less as an opportunity to critically examine existing institutions. Vallance et al (2011) provide three categories to analyse social sustainability, development, bridge and maintenance sustainability: (a) social development improves conditions of poverty and inequity, from the provision of basic needs to the redistribution of power to influence existing development paradigms; (b) the conditions necessary to bridge social with ecological sustainability, overcoming currently disconnected social and ecological concerns; and (c) the social practices, cultural preferences as well as the environments which are maintained over time. Maintenance social sustainability particularly deals with how people interpret what is to be maintained and includes “new housing developments, the layout of streets, open spaces, residential densities, the location of services, an awareness of habitual movements in place, and how they connect with housing cultures, preferences, practices and values, particularly those for low-density, suburban lifestyles” (Vallance et al., 2011, p. 345). Therefore, the notion of maintenance is especially important in defining social sustainability by directly investigating the established institutions, or “sets of norms” that constitute the social practices and rules, that in turn, affect responsibilities for planning urban spaces. A conceptual framework that appears frequently in social sustainability literature is that of Dempsey et al. (2011)⁠ following Bramley et al. (2009), defining social sustainability according to the variables of social equity and sustainability of community and their relationship to urban form, significantly at the local scale of the neighbourhood. In terms of the built environment, social equity (used interchangeably with social justice) is understood as the accessibility and equal opportunities to frequently used services, facilities, decent and affordable housing, and good public transport. In this description of local, as opposed to regional services, proximity and accessibility are important. Equitable access to such local services effectively connects housing to key aspects of everyday life and to the wider urban infrastructures that support it. Sustainability of community is associated with the abilities of society to develop networks of collective organisation and action and is dependent on social interaction. The associated term social capital has also been used extensively to describe social norms and networks that can be witnessed particularly at the community level to facilitate collective action (Woolcock, 2001, p. 70). They might include a diversity of issues such as resident interaction, reciprocity, cooperation and trust expressed by common exchanges between residents, civic engagement, lower crime rates and other positive neighbourhood qualities that are dependent on sharing a commitment to place (Foster, 2006; Putnam, 1995; Temkin & Rohe, 1998). In fact, “the heightened sense of ownership and belonging to a locale” is considered to encourage the development of social relations (Hamiduddin & Adelfio, 2019, p. 188). However, the gap between theoretical discussions about social sustainability and their practical application has continued. For example, the emphasis of social sustainability as a target outcome rather than as a process has been prioritised in technocratic approaches to planning new housing developments and to measuring their success by factors which are tangible and easier to count and audit. Private housing developers that deal with urban regeneration make bold claims to social sustainability yet profound questions are raised regarding the effects of gentrification (Dixon, 2019). Accordingly, the attempted methods of public participation as planning tools for integrating the ‘social’ have been found to be less effective - their potential being undercut due to the reality that decision-making power has remained at the top (Eizenberg & Jabareen, 2017). Therefore, social sustainability is not a fixed concept, it is contingent on the interdependence of the procedural aspects (how to achieve social sustainability) and substantive aspects (what are the outcomes of social sustainability goals) (Boström, 2012). From this point of view, social sustainability reveals its process-oriented nature and the need to establish processes of practicing social sustainability that begin with the participation of citizens in decision-making processes in producing equitable (i.e. socially sustainable) development. As a dimension of sustainable development that is harder to quantify than the economic or environmental aspects, the operationalisation of social sustainability goals into spatial, actionable principles has remained a burgeoning area of research. In such research, methods for enhancing citizen participation are a particularly important concern in order to engage and empower people with “non-expert” knowledge to collaborate with academic researchers.

Created on 03-06-2022

Author: A.Panagidis (ESR8)



Panagidis, A. (2022, August). Configurations of Fragmented Infrastructure: The case of Nicosia situated at the Global North-South interface. In RC21 Conference: Ordinary Cities in Exceptional Times, Athens, Greece.

Posted on 24-08-2022



Pappa, A., Tzika, Z., Roussou, E., & Panagidis, A. (2023, December). Informality as evidence: ethnographic insights from Southern European contexts. In KAEBUP 2023 Conference, Nicosia, Cyprus.

Posted on 17-07-2024



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