The future of quality of life in urban areas is fully dependent on how people are able to communicate and deal with each other and with their environments. This month, researchers from The Hague-based Wageningen University and Research (WUR) published a study addressing the question of how the contributions of stakeholders are judged as appropriate in transitioning toward increased urban sustainability.

Through a literature review, the study looks at three approaches to securing stakeholder contributions in sustainable city-making: stakeholder, government, and science-based. The stakeholder-based approach is defined as when stakeholders, like businesses and nongovernmental organizations, take initiative themselves, while the government-based approach is when governments actively engage stakeholders in public policy through clear initiatives. Finally, the science-based approach is explained as when science takes initiative for involving stakeholders based on research approaches.

Diagram illustrating the integration between contributions of stakeholders.

A transition approach to initiate urban development by means of integration of stakeholder contributions motivated by stakeholder initiative, government initiative and science initiative. CC: Science Direct

The researchers argue that their study is significant since urban sustainability challenges can be addressed through innovative and sustainable ideas adopted by stakeholders. Also, the incentive to include stakeholders in city-making is based on the belief that stakeholders enjoy knowledge that is complementary to science and public management – in reference to the government- and science-based approaches – which is critical for sustainability.

The researchers found that the perception of environmental risks and benefits influence the willingness to participate in terms of effort, time, and money – which vary depending on whether a city region is new or already established. Barriers that discourage stakeholders to participate in land use in Hong Kong for example include difficulties in urban renewal, inherent shortage of land, lengthy time involved in coordination and responsiveness to stakeholders, and overcomplicated bureaucratic red-tape.

In the case of Bari, Italy, stakeholder participation is an essential component of strategies and policies for sustainable urban mobility. Moreover, it is also argued that multi-stakeholder collaboration for the co-creation of knowledge, tools, and experiments with social and technical systems can advance social sustainability through learning and education. In that sense, stakeholders’ motivation to participate is vital for city-making. “At a more general level it is argued that urban sustainability concerns the kind of world the urban citizens want to live in now and in the future, and this itself is seen a core motivation for public involvement,” the study concludes.