Department for International Development Drivers of Urban Change
 entry page home framework offical documents site map viedo
Urban development finance
Informal economy
Labour market
Innovative financial mechanisms
Globalisation & SAPs
Urban - rural interactions
Participatory budgeting
Transparency & Corruption
Community activitism & CBOs
Democracy & empowerment
Participatory processes & tools
Social inclusion
Urban livelihoods
Violence & Human rights
Health Children & Education
Culture & Identity
Shelter & Settlement
City planning
Land tenure
Basic infrastructure
Appropriate technology
Transport & Mobility
Environmental planning
Health hazards & Pollution
Local Agenda 21

URBAN GOVERNANCE | participatory processes

The documents here presented discuss new varieties of participatory learning, action research, planning, and policy dialogue; community consultation, community partnerships, social movements and civil society association involvement.

quick links

local level city level
  international level websites

local level

Boonyabancha, Somsook (1999) - "The Urban Community Environmental Activities Project - Thailand" - Environment and Urbanization, Vol.11 No.1, April 1999 [pdf]

Thailand - This describes the work of an environment fund set up to support community-initiated and managed projects within low-income settlements in urban areas. Over a two year period, this supported 196 projects benefitting 41,000 families. Although this was managed by a Thai government agency (the Urban Community Development Office) and with funds from the Danish Government agency DANCED, it allowed low-income communities to develop their own projects and to manage their implementation. It also encouraged inter-community exchanges and a strengthening of the capacity of low income communities to negotiate and work with external agencies.

Dahiya, Bhárat (2003) - "Hard struggle and soft gains: environmental management, civil society and governance in
Pammal, South India" - Environment & Urbanization, Vol 15 No 1, April 2003 - IIED [pdf]

India - This paper analyzes the relationships of a women-led civil society organization (the Shri Shankara Nagar Mahalir Manram) with the local government and with the local residents of Pammal, a small town on the periphery of the city of Chennai in southern India. It examines these relationships with regard to the organization’s initiative on community-based solid waste collection and management in a middle-income neighbourhood. This initiative began in response to the inadequacies in the waste collection services provided by local government and, to remain successful, it had to change and develop in response to the changing relationships between this organization, the residents and local government. It also had to overcome opposition from some of the residents and the lack of support from local politicians. When local government stopped collecting the waste that the organization had amassed from house-to-house collections, composting and recycling were developed, greatly reducing waste volumes and generating revenues that helped cover costs.

Driskell, David; Kanchan Bannerjee and Louise Chawla (2001) - "Rhetoric, reality and resilience: overcoming obstacles to young people's participation in development", Environment and Urbanization, Vol 13 No 1, April 2001 - IIED [pdf]

India - This paper describes the difficult relationships between those implementing an action research project with children in a low-income settlement in Bangalore (India), the distant and unresponsive bureaucracy of an international funding agency, and the authoritarian management of the NGO through which its money was channelled. This case study highlights the difficulties that international agencies face in operationalizing the principles of grassroots participation that they officially endorse. The action research was one of several projects within the Growing Up in Cities programme. It shows the difficult circumstances under which so many young people live, including six and seven year-olds thrust into adult roles, and lives cut short by disease and violence. But it also shows their astonishing resilience and energy, self-reliance and optimism. External agencies, from local governments and NGOs to international funders, need to work with children to understand what does (and what does not) work for them.

Nieuwenhuys, Olga (1997) - "Spaces for the children of the urban poor: Experiences with Participatory Action Research" - Environment & Urbanization, Vol.9 No.1, April 1997 [pdf]

This paper explains why participatory action research (PAR) could be so important in helping the children of the urban poor, and those who work with them, generate relevant insights into their specific needs and priorities and help them influence decisions that are taken about their lives. The paper begins by discussing the problems facing children in urban areas of the South and why more participatory research approaches which work with children have come to the fore. It then describes what 'participatory action research' is (and is not) and why researchers and the institutions that fund them have difficulty in supporting such a research approach, especially in relation to children.

Schusterman, Ricardo; Florencia Almansi, Ana Hardoy, Cecilia Monti & Gastón Urquiza (2001) - Poverty reduction in action: Participatory Planning in San Fernando, Buenos Aires, Argentina - IIED Working Paper 6 on Poverty Reduction in Urban Areas [pdf]

Argentina - This paper describes an initiative to support community-directed development projects in low-income neighbourhoods in San Fernando, one of the poorer, peripheral municipalities in Buenos Aires. This was part of a national programme for "vulnerable groups" in low-income areas which sought to facilitate access to social services, increase participation and promote transparency in the use of government resources at local level.

city level

Gotz, Graeme & Abdou Maliq Simone (2001) - The Implications of Informality on Governmentality: The case of Johannesburg in the context of Sub-Saharan urbanisation - May 2001 ESF/N-AERUS workshop [pdf]

South Africa -Actors in fluid African urban environments try to make collaborative action work, collective responsibility enforceable, and instruments of power effective and legitimate. These efforts give rise to an uneasy tension between the adoption of normative discourses concerning urban management and governance, the ways in which urban residents attempt to adapt to a vast range of new opportunities and crises, and the role of the city as a place of experimentation.

Montiel, René; Pérez and Françoise Barten (1999) - "Urban governance and health development in León, Nicaragua" - Environment & Urbanization - Vol.11, No.1, April 1999 - IIED [pdf]

Nicaragua - This paper describes the development of a "healthy municipality" initiative in Léon and of the innovations in local governance that preceded it - especially the partnerships that local government developed with the university, bilateral agencies and the long-established urban social movement. After first discussing why participation and good governance are so central to "healthy cities", the paper describes the specific conditions which fostered the participatory approach in Léon, and the difficulties faced. The paper also analyzes the process of citizen participation in policy-making and the contents and results of the programme.

UN-Habitat (2002) - Best Practice - Urban Poverty and the City Consultation Process, Ijebu-Ode [pdf]

Nigeria - The programme was designed to bring together all stakeholders in the affairs of the city of Ijebu-Ode to collectively appreciate the problem of poverty in the city, collectively look into how to solve the problems of the city regarding poverty using the available human, material and natural resources.

international level

Abbot, Jo (1999) - "Beyond tools and methods: reviewing developments in participatory learning and action" - Environment and Urbanization, Vol. 11 No. 1, April 1999 [pdf]

This paper reviews recent innovations in the use of participatory tools and methods that are relevant to urban areas. This includes the use of participatory approaches for understanding poverty, involving children, identifying livelihood opportunities, and monitoring and evaluating projects. It also highlights recent literature which discusses how participatory and conventional research and planning methodologies can be combined, and how institutional and policy contexts can be changed in order to be more supportive of participatory learning and action.

Ainstein, Luis (2000) - Urban Sustainability within Institutional Vacuums - May 2000 ESF/N-AERUS workshop [pdf]

The evolutionary patterns of metropolitan settings in the context of underdevelopment constitute in most cases neat examples of lack of sustainability, both social and environmental. Deregulation and, mainly, decentralization, are normally presented as the key features associated with the promotion of both social participation and democratization, and, thus, of social -and eventually overall- sustainability.

Mega, Voula (1999) - The Participatory City Innovations in the European Union - Discussion Paper No. 32 - UNESCO-MOST [pdf]

Europe is a kaleidoscope of unique urban cultures. It consists of an archipelago of cities, called by Braudel "greenhouses of civilisation", and by Levi-Strauss "objects of nature and subjects of culture". Change is inevitable. The challenge is how best to manage change in order to achieve the best European future. Cities are the only places where decision-makers, entrepreneurs, workers and citizens congregate, at a point beyond which synergetic effects become more important than the accumulative ones. The potential, due to their scale and diversity, has to be reinforced; the participation of all is leading to the optimisation of the "disorderly order of human interaction".

Mitlin, Diana & John Thompson (1995) - "Participatory approaches in urban areas: strengthening civil society or reinforcing the status quo?" - Environment & Urbanization, Vol. 7 No. 1, April 1995 [pdf]

The paper examines current experiences with the use of participatory methodologies in low-income urban communities. It outlines the nature and development of participatory approaches and describes experiences, prospects and problems related to their use in an urban context. Three case examples from the UK, Sri Lanka, and India and South Africa demonstrate how innovative approaches are being used by different agencies to strengthen and support the activities of community based organizations. Finally, the paper concludes with a number of broad questions about the future application of participatory approaches in low-income urban communities.

Satterthwaite, David (2001) - "From professionally driven to
people-driven poverty reduction: reflections on the role of Shack/Slum Dwellers International" - Environment & Urbanization, Vol 13 No 2, October 2001 - IIED [pdf]

Perhaps the single most important factor in the limited success or
scope of so many housing and urban projects supported by governments and international agencies over the last 40 years is the lack of influence allowed groups of the urban poor in their conception, location, design, resource mobilization, financing, implementation and management, and evaluation. Or, going beyond this, the very limited support for urban poor groups to develop their own local representative organizations that can influence these projects or develop their own – and for these organizations to be able to work together in larger federations at municipal, city, regional or national level to influence policies, laws and resource allocations beyond the local levels.

Streeten, Paul (2002) - Empowerment, Participation and the Poor - UNDP [pdf]

NGOs, governments, the international financial institutions and bilateral donors have recently placed much emphasis on participation and empowerment of poor people. The direct purpose of a programme may be improvements in health or literacy or agriculture or credit, but NGOs are often more concerned with how much these projects enhance people's power, articulate their voice and meet their felt needs. We now understand much better the multidimensional nature of poverty. We know that the poor suffer not only from low incomes but also from a sense of social exclusion, that they have no power, nor access to power, no voice and no security. A discussion of empowerment and participation is therefore in order.


UN Habitat Agenda on Participation:

Paragraph 181
Paragraph 182


Documents highlighting DFID's published work in support of participatory processes & community consultation in urban areas:

Tripathi, Dwijendra (1999) - Slum Networking in Ahmedabad: The Sanjay Nagar Pilot Project - DPU / CLIC / DFID [pdf]

The case study traces the development of a consensus and understanding between the partners that led to their agreement and enthusiasm to implement a pilot upgrading project in Sanjay Nagar, but it then reveals how and why that consensus disintegrated leading to the break up of the partnership. The problems that can hamper communication and learning are therefore explored in this case study.

"Quality of Life Indicators in Jacksonville" - Wakely, Patrick; Nicholas You (2001) – Implementing the Habitat Agenda: In Search of Urban Sustainability – DPU [pdf]

USA - Choosing and collecting indicators on quality of life for urban citizens is usually seen as a technical exercise, to be carried out by government ministries and research organisations. This does not, however, necessarily have to be the case and many benefits can be reaped from having a citizen-led approach to quality of life indicators. The Jacksonville Community Council Inc. (JCCI) is an open membership NGO that works through 750 volunteers and aims to promote the informed participation of citizens in community life.

"Community Decision-making for Basic Services in Calcutta" - Ibid. [pdf]

India - This initiative by the West Bengal Government set
out to improve the environmental conditions of two suburban towns in Calcutta Metropolitan Area.
Infrastructure facilities have been extended to the slums to reduce environmental health hazards and make the city fabric more cohesive.

"Poverty Alleviation in Teresina" - Ibid. [pdf]

Brazil - This programme demonstrates how an integrated, multi-sectoral approach based on partnerships can improve basic housing conditions of the residents of villages, peri-urban areas and slums, and can contribute to their socio-economic development. Teresina City is the capital of Piaui Province in north-eastern Brazil, one of the poorer regions of Brazil

"ICT and Civic Participation" - Ibid. [pdf]

Italy - Bologna's Iperbole Civic Network is an example of how ICT can be used to improve governance, in an experimental approach to increasing civic participation
through the use of information technologies.

"Participation In Neighbourhood Improvements in Los Hornos" - Ibid. [pdf]

Mexico - This initiative shows how the process of developing and implementing an integrated and participatory neighbourhood improvement programme can contribute effectively to change traditional government / citizen relations. The process managed to improve living conditions in the neighbourhood and made it possible to propose a form of urban management that is inclusive and plural.

"Compatibility Matrix-Urban Agriculture in Mexico City" - Wakely, Patrick; Nicholas You (2001) – Implementing the Habitat Agenda: In Search of Urban Sustainability – DPU [pdf]

Mexico - The Compatibility Matrix is a tool for evaluating opportunities and constraints in any initiative. It works through identifying relationships between actors and objectives that would otherwise be difficult to see, and helping to recognise areas or patterns of compatibility between the actors concerned.

"Civil Society Participation in Urban Governance" - Ibid. [pdf]

Mozambique - Soon after a decentralisation process was introduced in Mozambique, it was realised that there was a need for new institutional structures at the community level to support this process. Since it started in late 1997, an initiative in Dondo created and consolidated such structures, promoted the dialogue between government and civil society and realised a capacity development programme for civil society institutions.

"Improving living conditions in Ougadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso" - Ibid. [pdf]

Burkina Faso - The Project to Improve Urban Living Conditions (PACVU) started in 1997 in the cities of Ougadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso in Burkina Faso. It works to ensure that efforts to improve urban living conditions are founded on the priorities of residents, but links residents' leadership in decision-making to the fact
that they must contribute resources to projects that they have chosen.

2003 Development Planning Unit | Sikandar Hasan | Anna Soave | Khanh Tran-Thanh || Tina Simon