Inclusive Governance for Urban Justice

Realising just cities means radical transformation in how cities are organised, managed and how decisions are made. We need to restructure existing relationships and processes amongst  governance stakeholders but also shift power towards greater citizen engagement and meaningful participation. Such goals have been recognised by the New Urban Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals. 

Goals 11 and 16 commit to

·       developing effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels (16)

·       ensuring responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels (16)

·       enhancing inclusive and sustainable urbanisation and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries (11)

At the same time, UN policy frameworks have been criticised for not going far enough and more action is needed to deliver these aspirations on the ground.

We need more critique of the dynamics and issues in participation, including politics, power and culture; a focus on what works and what doesn’t work; a focus on tactics and strategies for change; the need to learn from social innovations and experiments and to understand questions of up- or outscaling to move from micro to macro level change.

Participatory Cities is a bridging project within the wider international partnership of Mistra Urban Futures, with a particular focus on adding value to locally funded projects in Greater Manchester and Gothenburg. The overarching aim is to share knowledge drawn from our platforms and projects with urban decision-makers and international policy communities about how to create more participatory cities. Work in the project will position the centre as a critical friend to decision-makers and help shape the direction of future research and practice. It will also draw together networks beyond formal decision-makers – in community groups and horizontal networks – to galvanise and support action to create more participatory cities.

This project will seek to draw on existing and new knowledge across the LIPs to identify lessons and insights about the realisation of the three SDG goals:

Q1: How can cities develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions? Our contribution will reflect on the local interaction platform as a governance innovation and space for cross-institutional working.

Q2: How can cities ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making? Our contribution will be to review existing debates, identify secondary cases and undertake interviews with senior decision-makers to understand elite perspectives on this issue.

Q3: What needs to be done to enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanisation and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management at the urban level? Our contribution will be to review lessons from existing projects in participation in spatial planning and to identify good practice methods and processes.


People involved

Beth Perry

Beth is a Professorial Fellow at the Urban Institute. She is the Director of the Sheffield Manchester Local Interaction Platform and sits on the Mistra Urban Futures International Board. Her research focuses on urban governance, transformation and the roles of universities, with an emphasis on socio-environmental and socio-cultural transitions.

Beth Perry joined the Urban Institute in September 2016, following her appointment as a Professorial Fellow in the Faculty of Social Sciences. Following degrees in European Studies and Modern Languages (BA Hons, University of Manchester) and European Integration (MA, University of Bradford), she joined the Centre for Sustainable Urban and Regional Futures (SURF) at the University of Salford and became its director prior to moving to Sheffield.  During this time she completed her PhD which focussed on the relationship between universities and the knowledge economy in the context of multi-level and multi-actor governance. Since 2010 she has been the UK Programme Lead for the Mistra Urban Futures Centre, with headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden and sits on the International Board.

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Bertie Russell

Bertie is a Research Associate in the Urban Institute and works on the ESRC Jam & Justice Project and as part of the international MISTRA Urban Futures. His research interests are in participatory and deliberative democracy; utopianism and directional demands; the dismantling of post-politics; the organisation of the commons and post-capitalist transition; and the rise of new forms of urban internationalism. 

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Victoria Habermehl

Victoria is a Research Associate in the Urban Institute and works on the ESRC Whose Knowledge matters? as part of the international MISTRA Urban Futures. Her research to date has focused on Latin American Cities where she researched how the economy is understood and reshaped through crisis, narratives of economic informality and everyday economic practices such as economic solidarity initiatives, autogestion and popular economy. She has a PhD in Geography from the University of Leeds,  focused on organising in-against-and-beyond crisis in Buenos Aires, Argentina, through the economy, state and territory. She has previously worked as a Research Associate at University College London in the project ‘Economics in the Public Sphere’ and at Brunel University in ‘Timescapes of Urban Change’. She is part of the Contested Cities international network.

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News, events and blog

To exemplify co-productive design principles means challenging the idea of an ‘end-user’ who receives a final report. It means rethinking what impact looks like and how it can be achieved. Our commitment is to engage decision-makers in a collaborative learning journey through informal spaces for exchange and international networking.  Trans-local learning is an important element in opening up spaces for learning and dissemination often reserved for academics to urban decision-makers.

In this blog for our Trans-local Learning mini-series, guests David Rogerson and Nick Fairclough from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority reflect on their experience at the Mistra Urban Futures Annual Conference in Cape Town.

Roundtable on Participatory Cities, Realising Just Cities – Comparative Co-production, Mistra Urban Futures conference, Cape Town, South Africa, November 2018

By Nazem Tahvilzadeh, post-doctoral researcher Royal Institute of Technology, Department of Urban Planning and the Environment, Division of Urban and Regional Studies, Stockholm.

Realising Just Cities conference logo, superimposed on an image of Cape Town, South Africa

The Realising Just Cities programme is supporting peer learning visits to Cape Town and Barcelona for public sector strategists and community practitioners from Greater Manchester, to expand their knowledge of co-productive practices and participatory democracy in other urban settings. 

Snapshot of article from Nature (print version)

Catherine Durose, Liz Richardson and Beth Perry look at how we assess the value of co-production in an article in Nature

The theory behind co-production is that it generates better solutions to difficult problems. But how do we measure this in practice?

There are many critiques of existing forms of urban governance as not fit for purpose. However, there is just as much contestation over what alternatives might look like. Coproduction is proposed as a response to address complex wicked issues. Achieving coproduction is a highly complex and daunting task. Bottom up approaches to the initiation of coproduced governance are seen as fruitful, including exemplification of utopian alternatives though local practices.

Monday, September 3, 2018 - 09:00 to Wednesday, September 5, 2018 - 17:00
University of Sheffield

On 3rd to 5th September the UK and Ireland Planning Research Conference 2018 comes to the University of Sheffield. The conference offers a chance for international researchers, students, and practitioners to share work and discuss key themes and trends in planning.

Monday, June 11, 2018 - 12:00 to 13:30
Manchester Central Library

Devolution promised to open up new opportunities for community engagement and empowerment, shifting power from Whitehall to the Townhall. One year on since the election of Andy Burnham as Mayor of Greater Manchester, Jam and Justice's Action Research Collective are hosting a debate in Manchester Central Library to discuss the changing horizons of collective decision-making in Greater Manchester. 

Monday, February 12, 2018 - 09:00 to 20:00

Bridging European Urban Transformations Workshop Series in Brussels 2016-2018

How does citizen participation challenge or reinforce power relations in urban governance? What might an urban politics look like which values dissent as well as consensus? How can we contribute to realising global urban justice through critical methodologies? Whose Knowledge Matters researchers Vicky Habermehl and Beth Perry organise session at RC21 in Leeds.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017 - 16:00

This seminar is part of the 2017 RGS-IBG annual conference, running from 30 August to 1 September 2017, and will take place on 30 August. More information on the seminar is available here.

A roundtable discussion on the theme of nature of urban transformation. Panelists will be invited to address these questions, followed by open discussion.

By Bert Russell

The Jam & Justice project has been looking at examples of participatory urban governance across the Global North and South. We want to find examples of inspiring, workable, and actually existing examples of how citizens can be involved in decisions, processes and structures that affect them.