Strategies, Methods and Outlook
Edited by Daniel A. Mazmanian and Hilda Blanco
Chapter 11: Developing effective participatory processes for a sustainable city
Transitioning from a city based on consumption levels untethered to resource renewal and reproduction will require a massive collective effort. Participation is important for educating and preparing city residents to deal with tomorrow’s challenges. Moreover, sustainability, as contested as the term is, shares qualities with other difficult-to-define but widely utilized terms such as resilience, eco-city and low-carbon urbanization. These future-oriented concepts are inherently imbued with uncertainty. City leaders need to help cultivate cultural norms to collectively accept this uncertainty and plan with it rather than deny it. In the absence of a clear and agreed destination and due to the inherent uncertainties involved, a critical component of an effective strategy is putting in place a strong social base and a process for negotiating and renegotiating agreement as the future unfolds. Public involvement in public affairs is a popular concept but one that varies widely in meaning, expectations and practice, and raises a plethora of questions. First, who is the public? How are they represented? And, how and when in a public process is the public involved and what is the nature of their involvement? Decision making for a sustainable city adds another layer of complexity. Not only is the question of what exactly constitutes a ‘sustainable city’ ambiguous, but the desire to anticipate conditions generations into the future brings forward challenges of dealing with uncertainty and unknowable change.
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