A new collaboration model to transform urban areas


Our cities are undergoing fundamental change, requiring us to organize ourselves differently so that different interests can be heard and incorporated. Supported with examples from Amstel III, a transformation area in Amsterdam, this article introduces a new approach to overcome urban transformation challenges we are facing now: collaborative urban development.

The principles (1) build a local collective, (2) design the process, not the end-result and (3) make it tangible and concrete are the building blocks of collaborative urban development. This local approach allows us to connect and collaborate with all involved parties, enabling the urban transformation towards the city of the future.

Changing cities

If we look at the most dominant factors influencing the future development of our cities, we can identify three fundamental shifts:

  • Cities continue to grow – by 2050, over 2/3 of the world-population will live in cities. A lot of cities are reaching the limits of possible urban developments on the outskirts of the city, so that we must transform existing urban areas. This brings about a complex multi-stakeholder context with fragmented ownership and dispersed interests.
  • Climate change – we are facing serious climate challenges that affect areas such as mobility, energy, waste and water. There are various technologies available today that can tackle these challenges. The real challenge is to get everybody aligned and well informed about these solutions and required investments.
  • Digital technology – more and more the smart city is taking shape around us, providing new opportunities for interaction with ourselves, others and our cities. At the same time, the gap between the digital savvy and digital illiterate people in our aging society is increasing, illustrated for example by the increase in loneliness. The question is how we can improve social cohesion to counter these negative side effects.

Faced with the three fundamental shifts outlined above, it becomes clear that the key to successful urban development is the ability to connect and collaborate with local parties. Success will be defined to which extent we are able to understand and sympathize with each other.

The problem – us versus them

When is the transformation of an urban area considered a success? Put differently: what are the defining factors of a successful collaboration in urban development?

The answer to this question, at first sight, seems heavily dependent on which “stereotypical-hat” you are wearing. For example, the municipality is serving the public interest, an investor is primarily interested in the return on investment (ROI), a project developer in profit margin, a local company in increasing its revenue, etc.

Whilst these interests may seem dispersed, they all boil down to an overall goal: “how do we make and keep the area attractive for its direct users?” Unfortunately, our natural tendency seems to be to focus on the differences between parties resulting in mistrust and suspicion. As a consequence, the municipality lacks overview and control over the area, investors and project developers struggle with making progress and local parties feel overwhelmed, not taken seriously and are not equipped to participate in a meaningful way.

The solution – Collaborative Urban Development

Simply repeating the common goal of making the urban area attractive for its direct users in the hope that stakeholders magically align is not going to put things in motion. We have to acknowledge that primary interests can differ and sometimes do oppose each other. Traditional top-down oriented planning approaches were sufficient in the past to overcome these oppositions. Active land policy by local governments, a manageable stakeholder field and mainly greenfield urban development kept things relatively simple. However, with the fundamental shifts we are currently facing in our cities we need to organize ourselves differently. We call this new way of working collaborative urban development. It is based on three principles: (1) build a local collective, (2) design the process, not the end-result and (3) make it tangible and concrete. (…)

Tim van den Heuvel

Makalenin tam metnini https://www.transformcity.com/2019/04/30/a-new-collaboration-model-to-transform-urban-areas/ adresinden okuyabilirsiniz.


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