Planning Eco-inclusive Districts
For this Community Conversation (CoCo) the UrbanA Community of Practice came together to learn, share and discuss what urban planners can do to plan eco-inclusive districts that fulfill both social and environmental sustainability goals.
The CoCo, join by 34 people, was opened by UrbanA fellow Maarten Markus and his colleague Marije Ruigrok, both working for the Dutch urban development agency AM. AM initiated a consortium taking an interdisciplinary approach for sustainable and just neighbourhood development, involving universities, governments, private business and other consultancies.
Maarten’s project approach to plan eco-inclusive districts is based on three initial principles:
- Interdisciplinary cooperation: Setting a just and sustainable agenda
- Participation: Involve stakeholders in finding and selecting solutions
- District development model: Alternative model to facilitate just and sustainable outcomes
The Eco-Inclusive approach is a result of a group of public and private professionals that started discussing the underlying problem: Why sustainability efforts are increasing inequality? (e.g. green gentrification or exclusion). The main barriers or drivers for unequal outcomes that Maarten and his colleagues found overlap with the Drivers of injustice in the context of urban sustainability, presented at the second Urban Arena in June, 2020.
For instance, a fundamental barrier for more inclusive outcomes in district development is that the social policy domain is largely absent in the agenda setting phase, but also in the different planning stages. Furthermore, participation should be made more inclusive. Not by open invitations or questionnaires but alternative ways to gain insight in people’s capabilities and constraints, especially those with the least capabilities and most constraints in daily life. Lastly the way district development is managed should change towards a model that enables more inclusive outcomes.
UrbanA Community of Practice input to the conversation
During the event, UrbanA Community members shared their views on how successful inclusive planning can take place. The slides (available here) illustrate the conversations that occurred in the different breakout rooms. The main take away points were the following:
- As some groups are included in the planning process, others might be excluded. Urban planners need to be aware of this an make an extra effort in reaching out to diverse communities
- Trust is key. Residents should be given responsibilities and trusted as experts of their neighborhoods when consulted
- Breaking barriers for engagement (e.g. language). Barriers such as language might not allow some people to engage in the shaping of new districts. Accommodating needs, as for instance providing translation, helps overcoming such obstacles.
Overall, the UrbanA CoP advocates for the planning of environmentally sustainable districts with residents. They should be engaged through different co-creation activities and they should be central actors providing input into planning. This is a good starting point for districts to be eco-inclusive.
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