In this blog article I explore the opportunities of creating an institutional framework for citizen participation in the new public company Athens Urban Renewal SA.
The consequences of eight years of austerity can be seen everywhere in Athens. The past years have left deep scars in the fabric of the Greek capital: unemployment and homelessness, poverty and public disinvestment, growing social rifts and street riots – paired with a threatening growth of extreme right-wing ideology permeating many aspects of public life (e.g. media, police, justice, church – even schools). At the same time, the number of tourists visiting the capital has risen exponentially, creating tensions in the housing market, as more and more flats turn into holiday rentals, making prices soar. While the art scene is flourishing, youth unemployment remains above 40%. Abandoned buildings and deteriorating public space on the one hand; AirBnBs, vibrant street life, cafés and entertainment venues on the other. I can’t remember Athens so fascinating and so depressing at the same time.
The Municipality of Athens has undertaken a series of measures to tackle those issues, including the renewal of central neighbourhoods and the rehabilitation of municipal buildings among others (s. Vaiou 2018 for a critical assessment of the reuse of the former municipal market). Additionally, a new public organization with the telling name of AthensUrban Renewal S.A. (Athens Anaplasis SA.) was founded, complementing the actions of the Municipality. I was asked by its President, Prof Nikos Belavilas, to join the advisory scientific committee of this new state agent, an invitation which I gladly accepted, as I see here the opportunity to institutionalize citizen participation in urban development. Continue reading “Principles of citizen participation in urban development in Athens”→
Placemaking is an established practice and research field. Sustainability Citizenship is an emerging concept that tries to understand the different socio-cultural dimensions used in the creation of places, but with a particular focus on: sustainability, social, environmental and/or economic means in the realisation of space(s), created from the bottom up. In our contribution for the special issue of the Journal of Place Management and Development on participatory placemaking, with the title“From placemaking to sustainability citizenship: An evolution in the understanding of community realised public spaces in Bogotá’s informal settlements” (https://doi.org/10.1108/JPMD-06-2017-0051), we discuss “sustainability citizenship” and how it may be a more appropriate concept to understand how urban space is created and transform in informal settlements in Latin America, taking as a example, barrios of Bogotá.
Sustainability citizenship and placemaking are linked through their “process-driven” approach to realising places and use of the citizenry to enact change. In Informal settlements, public spaces are created outside formal planning processes through alternative path dependencies and the resourcefulness of its citizens. Sustainability citizenship, rather than placemaking, can work outside formal planning systems and manoeuvre around established path dependencies, which offers an evolutionary step in the creation and understanding of community realised places in the global south. Continue reading “From Placemaking to Sustainability Citizenship”→
A discussion about citizen participation is nothing less than a discussion about democracy. Whatever we do, no matter how closely we try to focus and frame the issue, we come back to our basic understanding of democracy: What are the mechanisms through which citizens shape political decisions that concern them?