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.

You can rewatch Maarten’s presentation here, and see his slides here. During the “Listening Room” Marije outlined an AM case study in greater detail, slides here.

Fellow Maarten Markus giving a presentation on Eco-inclusive districts as opening of the #UrbanACoCo on 24th November 2020

Maarten’s project approach to plan eco-inclusive districts is based on three initial principles:

  1. Interdisciplinary cooperation: Setting a just and sustainable agenda
  2. Participation: Involve stakeholders in finding and selecting solutions
  3. 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.

Want to get in touch with the UrbanA Community?

Check out our upcoming events and join our dedicated chat on the LinkedIn group or simply send an email to You can also subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Youtube. There’s also our podcast series. If you want to know more generally what the UrbanA Community of Practice is all about, read our CoP blog.




Sharing the highlights of UrbanA’s co-creative journey with city-makers and city-thinkers over 3 years for #sustainablejustcities. #Horizon2020

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