The symposium is over. Now what?
On 24th and 25th of January 2022, the symposium on Delivering Urban Transformation through Co-production brought together people from academic, industry, and governmental organizations to exchange knowledge and ideas. We were delighted with the large number of abstracts and registrations (76 abstracts and 182 registrations) from all over the world, which showed international interests in the topic and highlighted the relevance of co-production in a wide range of contexts.
The sessions were bookended by an opening keynote lecture from Angela Million (Technical University of Berlin), who reminded scholars to ask critically if we talk about participation or co-production: Is it just a different label for the same practices, or is a change of roles really taking place?
Closing the event and in cooperation with our colleagues, Robin Chang and Agnes Foerster (both from RWTH Aachen University), panelists Louise Schwarz (Recylcing Alternative), Manila de Iullis (World of Walas), and Meg O’Shea (Vancouver Economic Commission) were invited to rooted conversations on co-production in regards to current development and challenges on urban industrial lands.
The process of organising the event that resulted from a thematically broad call, allowed for an organic clustering of diverse session themes. These ranged from public space, green space, community scale co-production, digitalisation, informality, urban renewal, to citizen – led co-production, as well as governance and knowledge co-production. These presented the variety of facets and different contexts in which the concept of co-production is used.
Next steps are to build on the outcomes and exchanges from this event by encouraging systematic comparisons in urban studies. This will be made possible through a thematic issue in Urban Planning with aims to bring additional clarity on the topic. The issue will be published at the beginning of 2024, for which we invite you to respond to the call by preparing a contribution.
What is the added value of co-production, why is the concept used widely? We have seen that it is partly triggered by difficult contexts such as austerity, shrinking, lack of public services in informal settlements, recovery from COVID or increased risk for natural hazards . So, on the one hand, new solutions are required and, on the other hand, the public resources are limited.The contributions have addressed limitations and challenges of co-production. But overall, there is a widespread belief in its potential. Speakers have highlighted benefits such as innovation, adapted solutions and better response to citizen’s needs, empowerment as well as higher acceptance and user satisfaction. Yet, what is less clear is under which conditions these benefits can be realized.
Who is actually co-producing space? Some of the cases include housing companies, skateboarders, investors as actors. But the large majority of contributions was about co-production involving local administrations and residents as well as some kind of intermediaries such as community organizations, NGOs, artists or universities. Some of the speakers were themselves involved in facilitating co-production processes. Citizens are in part directly involved in the implementation. But in the majority of cases discussed, citizens rather contributed their claims for transformation, whereas their inputs were translated into projects by intermediaries. Co-production partly is about taking into account the local knowledge of residents based on their everyday life experience. Rare examples were initiated by citizens themselves, rather by public administrations or intermediaries reaching out to them.
What is co-produced? We heard examples of either temporary or permanent interventions concerning a building or public space, partly with the aim of transforming a neighborhood or the perception of it. Moreover, in the context of informality, the provision of basic services, improving livelihoods and tenure security have been addressed.
We would like to thank everyone involved in the event for their contribution to make this event possible.