Landscape of Emerging City Makers: the case of Rotterdam

Jotte I.J.C. de Koning, Emma Puerari, Ingrid J. Mulder and Derk A. Loorbach

Transition Management
Sustainability
Participatory Design
Third Sector
Urban Planning

Cities are increasingly complex environments that inhabit different kind of people and groups that perform different kind of activities. The increasing complexity brings along challenges for the future sustainability of cities. Government, planners and architects are traditionally in charge of planning and tackling the challenges within cities. However, today, citizens and people of other professions also contribute to the debate; and not just that, they take charge, stand in the lead and are front-runners of the sustainable transition of a city. These non-traditional groups of city makers are sometimes referred to as bottom-up initiatives, grass roots or voluntary citizen initiatives; other terms to describe them are civil society, social enterprises, non-profit organisations (NPO) or non-governmental organisations (NGO). The boundaries between these terms are often blurred and used interchangeably (Simsa, 2013). Often these different groups are congregated under the general term third sector. The third sector does not have a specific theorization, or at least not one as established as the state or market (Corry, 2010). The goal of this paper is to characterize the new emerging types of city makers in the context of urban sustainability transitions, where governance creates space for “short-term innovation and long-term sustainability visions linked to desired societal transitions” (Loorbach, 2010, p.163).
An initial categorization is presented to allow for stretching the transformative capacity of these new city makers towards flourishing and sustainable communities.

Context
This study of initiatives is executed in the Netherlands where the third sector is characterized by highly active initiatives that are visible in various policy fields (Pape & Brandse, 2016). The urban scale is the lens, often the scale the initiatives operate in, ranging from streets, to neighbourhoods, parts of the city or the whole city and sometimes beyond. Rotterdam, the second largest city in the Netherlands, is the specific case study city. It is recently receiving attention for its transformative energy and as a breading ground for new city initiatives.

Data collection method
A list of 152 initiatives i¬¬n Rotterdam was collected over the course of six months. The goal was to collect basic information to allow identification and description of themes, topics and types of initiatives. In the literature background, an overview of the different definitions and inclusion and exclusion criteria for third sector initiatives will be given. For the data collection process these criteria have been used as inclusion criteria rather than exclusion criteria. This way the literature framed the data collection process and provided a board scope. However, there was a second criterion during the data collection of initiatives: on contributing to sustainability transitions. Again, this was considered in the broader sense and more an inclusion than exclusion criterion. The sustainability transitions contributions criteria included contributions to environmental and social sustainability, of cities, people and systems that connect them. Results
The data of the 152 initiatives allowed the identification of 10 types of initiatives that contribute to sustainability transitions in the city of Rotterdam. The 10 types of initiatives or 10 ‘types of city makers’ can be found in Table 1: categorization of types of city initiatives. Second, the 10 types are mapped according to their participatory focus in the city and their contribution to the sustainability transition of the city. The results of this mapping can be found in Figure 1: Mapping of the 10 types of city initiatives according to their participatory focus and their sustainable innovation focus.

Discussion and conclusion
The 10 types of city makers show that the landscape of emerging types of city makers is indeed diverse. If all the different actors would be aggregated under one general term and other stakeholders would address them according to the same criteria, specific qualities of each type could be lost. The mapping of the 10 different types of initiatives shows a variation in qualities according to two axes. Different axes could have revealed other variations in qualities but these axes were chosen also in light of the following conclusions that propose a more participatory way of working towards sustainability transitions. The goal of the mapping was therefore dual: to show the variety and to point towards emerging city makers for a more participatory focus in the sustainability transition of cities. To conclude, the new types of city makers are valuable for the sustainability transitions in general but more participatory networks could benefit cross-overs and accelerate the transitions towards sustainable futures. However, the different types should not be treated as one and the same, they should all be nurtured and stimulated for their specific qualities. New approaches should be able to include these different types of initiatives in the city making process. The interconnectedness and complexity of the different old and new city makers calls for more holistic, participatory and systemic approaches to creating solutions. These approaches need yet to be developed and systems thinking and design could greatly contribute to the development of these new systemic and participatory approaches. In order to develop these new ways of ‘participatory city making’ it is important to understand for whom and with whom these approaches need to be developed. Therefore, this landscape of emerging city makers that participate and contribute to the sustainability challenges of cities can be seen as a starting point. It is hoped that it can stimulate the development of more participatory approaches to city making in the future; and with that feed the debate of how these design approaches can enable systemic change.

Posted: Oct-2017

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