Cities are sometimes considered as firm structures in which we can move freely, explore and enjoy but making a great change in the city is not something associated with the actions of citizens/individuals. This task is usually reserved for local administrations who (mostly) alone make a decision on the particular issue or project and eventually organize (sometimes obligatory) citizen consultation. Mostly, these consultations don’t make a real impact nor they bring changes to the initial plans of the city administration. The real question is – can we all (residents, commuters, tourists…) participate in co-constructing the city and improving livability on many levels. If yes, how?
The truth is, cities are becoming more and more densely populated and urban environment faces a growing number of challenges to meet the expectations of the growing population. People move to the city in the hope for better and easier life, a life with more opportunities. This also means that residents expect to be able to influence the development of their city, and this should go beyond the standard electoral cycles on the local level.
Co-constructing the city means creating an environment where local communities can interact with each other and with local administration/institutions, so that common challenges get a new way of being solved – quicker, simpler and in a more open way. Having a say in the subjects which are crucial for the city life (beyond dry discussions and standard consultations), helps to strengthen the city and its inclusiveness; it also empowers residents, knowing that they contribute to creative, sustainable, and socially viable solutions to the urban challenges.
According to a UN study on urbanization, 66 percent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. This is a 12 percent increase compared to 2014.
Local governments need to come up with creative and innovative solutions that would enhance citizen participation in many different ways and levels. Brussels Region already has a few initiatives regarding smart city Brussels, but many more, locally-focused measures could be created in order to tap into potential of urban co-creation and citizen engagement.