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Community Empowerment

Area: Community participation

Community empowerment appears in the literature of participatory action research (Minkler, 2004), participatory planning (Jo & Nabatchi, 2018), and community development (Luttrell et al., 2009) as a key element of participatory practices, understanding it as a process that enables communities to take control of their lives and their environments (Rappaport, 2008; Zimmerman, 2000). Many argue that community participation becomes meaningless if it does not lead to, or pass through community empowerment. As the term is being used in diverse and ubiquitous ways, it runs the risk of ending up as an empty definition and a catch-all phrase (McLaughlin, 2015). It is therefore important to specify the perspective through which we will view the term and clarify the nuances. 

Since its origins, empowerment has been used in two different ways. Firstly, top-down as the power that had been ‘granted’ by a higher authority, such as the state or a religious institution, and secondly, bottom-up, as a process by which groups or individuals come to develop the capacity to act and acquire power. Examples of the latter can be found in social groups such as feminists working in nongovernmental organizations throughout the global south in the 1970s, who found a way to address social issues and inequalities that enabled social transformation based on women’s self-organization (Biewener & Bacqué, 2015). The term was gradually appropriated by welfare, neoliberal, and social-neoliberal agendas whose priority was individual agency and choice. In neoliberal rationality, empowerment is related to efficiency, economic growth, business productivity, and individual rational choice to maximize profit in a competitive market economy. In social liberalism agendas, empowerment is understood as ‘effective agency’, where ‘agency’ is not an inherent attribute, but something that needs to be constructed through ‘consciousness-raising’ (McLaughlin, 2016).

A broader definition sees empowerment as a social action process through which individuals, communities, and organizations take control of their lives in the context of changing the social and political environment to improve equity and quality of life (Rappaport, 2008; Zimmerman, 2000). Rowlands (1997), refers to four types of empowerment: power over, as the ability to influence and coerce; power to, to organize and change existing hierarchies; power with, as the power from the collective action and power within, as the power from the individual consciousness. Using this classification, Biewener & Bacqué (2015), adopting a feminist approach, understand empowerment as a multilevel construct with three interrelated dimensions: 1) an internal, psychological one, where ‘power within’ and ‘power to’ are developed, 2) an organizational, where ‘power with’ and ‘power over’ are strengthened and 3) a social or political level, where institutional and structural change is made possible through collective action. Thus, community empowerment links the individual level, which involves self-determination, growth of individual awareness, and self-esteem, to the collective level, relating critical consciousness and capacity building with the structural level, where collective engagement and transformative social action take place. This view of empowerment, which considers its goals and processes, has a social dimension that is lacking in other approaches that prioritize individual empowerment.

Aside from the feminist movements, the philosophy and practices of community empowerment have been greatly influenced by the work of Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator and an advocate on critical pedagogy. Freire proposed a dialogic problem-solving process based on equality and mutual respect between students and teachers; that engaged them in a process of iterative listening-discussing-acting. Through structured dialogue, group participants shared their experiences, discussed common problems, and looked for root causes and the connections among “problems behind the problems as symptoms” (Freire, 1970). The term conscientization, that Freire proposed, refers to the consciousness that arises through the involvement of people in the social analysis of conditions and their role in changing them. This awareness enables groups to be reflexive and open spaces, to enact change or to understand those limited situations that may deter change (Barndt, 1989).

Empowerment can be understood as both a process and an outcome (Jo & Nabatchi, 2018). As a process, it refers to “the development and implementation of mechanisms to enable individuals or groups to gain control, develop skills and test knowledge”(Harrison & Waite, 2015) and it entails the creation of new subjects who have developed a critical consciousness and the formation of groups with a ‘collective agency’ ‚ or ‘social collective identity’ (Biewener & Bacqué, 2015). Empowerment as an outcome refers to “an affective state in which the individual or group feels that they have increased control, greater understanding and are involved and active” (Harrison & Waite, 2015). This can lead to a transformation of the social conditions by challenging the structures and institutionalized forms that reproduce inequalities.

The values and the significance of community empowerment can be further applied in the participatory and community-based approaches of the housing sector. Examples of such approaches in the housing provision are the housing cooperatives, and self-developed and self-managed housing groups. Housing cooperatives aim at promoting co-creation to engage future residents, professionals, and non-profit organizations in all the stages of a housing project: problem-framing, designing, developing, cohabiting, managing, and maintaining. Such organisational models stress the importance and pave the way for community empowerment by uniting individuals with similar interests and ideals, enabling them to have housing that responds to their needs, preferences, and values. The participation of the residents aims to strengthen their sense of ownership of the process, the democratic decision-making and management, and the social collective identity, making community empowerment an integral characteristic of cooperative housing initiatives. With this social perspective, residents can gain individual and collective benefits while contributing to fairer and more sustainable urban development on a larger scale (Viskovic Rojs et al., 2020).

References

Barndt, D. (1989). Naming the moment: Political analysis for action. Jesuit Centre for Social Faith and Justice.

Biewener, C., & Bacqué, M.-H. (2015). Feminism and the Politics of Empowerment in International Development.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Seabury Press.

Harrison, T., & Waite, K. (2015). Impact of co-production on consumer perception of empowerment. Service Industries Journal, 35(10), 502–520. https://doi.org/10.1080/02642069.2015.1043276

Jo, S., & Nabatchi, T. (2018). Co-Production, Co-Creation, and Citizen Empowerment. Co-Production and Co-Creation, 231–239. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315204956-36

Luttrell, C., Quiroz, S., Scrutton, C., & Bird, K. (2009). Understanding and operationalising empowerment.

McLaughlin, K. (2015). Empowerment: a critique. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315744339

Minkler, M. (2004). Ethical challenges for the “outside” researcher in community-based participatory research. In Health Education and Behavior (Vol. 31, Issue 6, pp. 684–697). https://doi.org/10.1177/1090198104269566

Rappaport, J. (2008). Studies in Empowerment. Http://Dx.Doi.Org/10.1300/J293v03n02_02, 3(2–3), 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1300/J293V03N02_02

Rowlands, Jo. (1997). Questioning empowerment : working with women in Honduras. Oxfam.

Viskovic Rojs, D., Hawlina, M., Gračner, B., & Ramšak, R. (2020). Review of the Participatory and Community-Based Approach in the Housing Cooperative Sector. In J. Nared & D. Bole (Eds.), Participatory Research and Planning in Practice. The Urban Book Series. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-28014-7_6

Zimmerman, M. A. (2000). Empowerment Theory Psychological, Organizational and Community Levels of Analysis.

Created on 03-06-2022 | Update on 03-06-2022

Related definitions

Area: Community participation

In a broader sense, co-creation means the joint effort of bringing something new to fruition through acts of collective creativity (Sanders & Stappers, 2008) which can be manifested in both tangible (making something together) or intangible (learning something together) outcomes (Puerari et al., 2018). Recently, the concepts of co-creation or co- production have been applied to describe the processes of participation in urban planning and design. Both terms place particular emphasis on the partnerships formed between citizens and the public sector, in which a high level of citizen involvement is pivotal. Participation has been defined through its different levels of citizen involvement, ranging from non-participation to greater degrees of citizen control (Arnstein, 1969) indicating the different levels of influence a participant can have on a participatory process. From the perspective of urban planning, citizen participation is beginning to be described as co-creation when citizens’ roles become more prominent, presenting aspects of self-organisation, increased commitment and a sense of ownership of the process (Puerari et al., 2018). Recent research is exploring new methods of urban planning in which citizens, the municipality and private organisations co-create new planning rules (Bisschops & Beunen, 2019). However, co-creation along with co-production and participation, often used interchangeably, have become popular catchphrases and are considered as processes which are of virtue in themselves. Furthermore, while there is substantial research on these processes, the research conducted on the outcomes of enhanced participation remains rather limited (Voorberg et al., 2015). This highlights the ambiguity in terms of interpretation; is co-creation a methodology, a set of tools to enhance and drive a process, or a goal in itself? (Puerari et al., 2018). There have often been cases where participation, co-creation and co-production have been used decoratively, as a form of justification and validation of decisions already made (Armeni, 2016). In the provision of public spaces, co-creation/co-production may specifically involve housing (Brandsen & Helderman, 2012; Chatterton, 2016) and placemaking: “placemaking in public space implies engaging in the practice of urban planning and design beyond an expert culture. Such collaboration can be described as co-creation.” (Eggertsen Teder, 2019, p.290). As in participation, co-creation requires the sharing of decision-making powers, the creation of  joint knowledge and the assignation of abilities between communities, while urban professionals and local authorities should draw attention to the active involvement of community members. Furthermore, co-creation does not take place in a vacuum, but always occurs within socio- spatial contexts. This points to the objective of co-creation as a tool to influence locally relevant policy through innovation that is “place-based”. To conclude, co-creation can be perceived as a process that is both transdisciplinary in its application, and as a tool for achieving transdisciplinarity on a broader scale through a systematic integration in existing standard practices in urban planning, housing design and architecture. Despite the persisting ambiguity in its definition, co-creation processes can provide more inclusive platforms for revisiting and informing formal and informal knowledge on sustainable and affordable housing.

Created on 16-02-2022 | Update on 21-02-2022

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Area: Community participation

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, participation is “the act of taking part in an activity or event”. Likewise, it can also mean “the fact of sharing or the act of receiving or having a part of something.” It derives from old French participacion which in turn comes from late Latin participationem, which means “partaking” (Harper, 2000).  References to participation can be found in many fields, including social sciences, economics, politics, and culture. It is often related to the idea of citizenship and its different representations in society. Hence, it could be explained as an umbrella concept, in which several others can be encompassed, including methodologies, philosophical discourses, and tools. Despite the complexity in providing a holistic definition, the intrinsic relation between participation and power is widely recognised. Its ultimate objective is to empower those involved in the process (Nikkhah & Redzuan, 2009). An early application of participatory approaches was the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) which exerted a significant influence in developing new discourses and practices of urban settings (Chambers, 1994; Friedmann, 1994). In the late 1970s increasing attention was paid to the concept by scholars, and several associated principles and terminologies evolved, such as the participation in design and planning with the Scandinavian approach of cooperative design (Bφdker et al., 1995; Gregory, 2003). Participation in design or participatory design is a process and strategy that entails all stakeholders (e.g. partners, citizens, and end-users) partaking in the design process. It is a democratic process for design based on the assumption that users should be involved in the designs they will go on to use (Bannon & Ehn, 2012; Cipan, 2019; Sanoff, 2000, 2006, 2007). Likewise, participatory planning is an alternative paradigm that emerged in response to the rationalistic and centralized – top-down – approaches. Participatory planning aims to integrate the technical expertise with the preferences and knowledge of community members (e.g., citizens, non-governmental organizations, and social movements) directly and centrally in the planning and development processes, producing outcomes that respond to the community's needs (Lane, 2005). Understanding participation through the roles of participants is a vital concept. The work of Sherry Arnstein’s (1969) Ladder of Citizen Participation has long been the cornerstone to understand participation from the perspective of the redistribution of power between the haves and the have-nots. Her most influential typological categorisation work yet distinguishes eight degrees of participation as seen in Figure 1: manipulation, therapy, placation, consultation, informing, citizen control, delegated power and partnership. Applied to a participatory planning context, this classification refers to the range of influence that participants can have in the decision-making process. In this case, no-participation is defined as designers deciding based upon assumptions of the users’ needs and full-participation refers to users defining the quality criteria themselves (Geddes et al., 2019). A more recent classification framework that also grounds the conceptual approach to the design practice and its complex reality has been developed by Archon Fung (2006) upon three key dimensions: who participates; how participants communicate with one another and make decisions together, and how discussions are linked with policy or public action. This three-dimensional approach which Fung describes as a democracy cube (Figure 2), constitutes a more analytic space where any mechanism of participation can be located. Such frameworks of thinking allow for more creative interpretations of the interrelations between participants, participation tools (including immersive digital tools) and contemporary approaches to policymaking. Aligned with Arnstein’s views when describing the lower rungs of the ladder (i.e., nonparticipation and tokenism), other authors have highlighted the perils of incorporating participatory processes as part of pre-defined agendas, as box-ticking exercises, or for political manipulation. By turning to eye-catching epithets to describe it (Participation: The New Tyranny? by Cooke & Kothari, 2001; or The Nightmare of Participation by Miessen, 2010), these authors attempt to raise awareness on the overuse of the term participation and the possible disempowering effects that can bring upon the participating communities, such as frustration and lack of trust. Examples that must exhort practitioners to reassess their role and focus on eliminating rather than reinforcing inequalities (Cooke & Kothari, 2001).

Created on 17-02-2022 | Update on 08-03-2022

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Social Sustainability

Author: A.Panagidis (ESR8)

Area: Community participation

From the three pillars of sustainable development, economic, environmental and social, the latter  involving social equity and the sustainability of communities, has  been especially neglected. Ongoing problems caused by conflicting economic, environmental and social goals with regard to the processes of urbanisation continue. underpinning economic growth that contradict principles of environmental and social justice (Boström, 2012; Cuthill, 2010; Winston, 2009). Research on sustainable development highlights the need for further investigation of social sustainability (Murphy, 2012; Vallance et al., 2011). Social sustainability has been interpreted as an umbrella term encompassing many other related concepts; “social equity and justice, social capital, social cohesion, social exclusion, environmental justice, quality of life, and urban liveability” (Shirazi & Keivani, 2019, p. 4). A vast number of studies have been dedicated to defining social sustainability by developing theoretical frameworks and indicators particularly relevant to urban development and housing discourse (Cuthill, 2010; Dempsey et al., 2011; Murphy, 2012; Woodcraft, 2012). However, with a lack of consensus on the way of utilising these frameworks in a practical way, especially when applied to planning, social sustainability has remained difficult to evaluate or measure. Consequently, planning experts, housing providers and inhabitants alike understand social sustainability as a normative concept, according to established social norms, and less as an opportunity to critically examine existing institutions. Vallance et al (2011) provide three categories to analyse social sustainability, development, bridge and maintenance sustainability: (a) social development improves conditions of poverty and inequity, from the provision of basic needs to the redistribution of power to influence existing development paradigms; (b) the conditions necessary to bridge social with ecological sustainability, overcoming currently disconnected social and ecological concerns; and (c) the social practices, cultural preferences as well as the environments which are maintained over time. Maintenance social sustainability particularly deals with how people interpret what is to be maintained and includes “new housing developments, the layout of streets, open spaces, residential densities, the location of services, an awareness of habitual movements in place, and how they connect with housing cultures, preferences, practices and values, particularly those for low-density, suburban lifestyles” (Vallance et al., 2011, p. 345). Therefore, the notion of maintenance is especially important in defining social sustainability by directly investigating the established institutions, or “sets of norms” that constitute the social practices and rules, that in turn, affect responsibilities for planning urban spaces. A conceptual framework that appears frequently in social sustainability literature is that of Dempsey et al. (2011)⁠ following Bramley et al. (2009), defining social sustainability according to the variables of social equity and sustainability of community and their relationship to urban form, significantly at the local scale of the neighbourhood. In terms of the built environment, social equity (used interchangeably with social justice) is understood as the accessibility and equal opportunities to frequently used services, facilities, decent and affordable housing, and good public transport. In this description of local, as opposed to regional services, proximity and accessibility are important. Equitable access to such local services effectively connects housing to key aspects of everyday life and to the wider urban infrastructures that support it. Sustainability of community is associated with the abilities of society to develop networks of collective organisation and action and is dependent on social interaction. The associated term social capital has also been used extensively to describe social norms and networks that can be witnessed particularly at the community level to facilitate collective action (Woolcock, 2001, p. 70). They might include a diversity of issues such as resident interaction, reciprocity, cooperation and trust expressed by common exchanges between residents, civic engagement, lower crime rates and other positive neighbourhood qualities that are dependent on sharing a commitment to place (Foster, 2006; Putnam, 1995; Temkin & Rohe, 1998). In fact, “the heightened sense of ownership and belonging to a locale” is considered to encourage the development of social relations (Hamiduddin & Adelfio, 2019, p. 188). However, the gap between theoretical discussions about social sustainability and their practical application has continued. For example, the emphasis of social sustainability as a target outcome rather than as a process has been prioritised in technocratic approaches to planning new housing developments and to measuring their success by factors which are tangible and easier to count and audit. Private housing developers that deal with urban regeneration make bold claims to social sustainability yet profound questions are raised regarding the effects of gentrification (Dixon, 2019). Accordingly, the attempted methods of public participation as planning tools for integrating the ‘social’ have been found to be less effective - their potential being undercut due to the reality that decision-making power has remained at the top (Eizenberg & Jabareen, 2017). Therefore, social sustainability is not a fixed concept, it is contingent on the interdependence of the procedural aspects (how to achieve social sustainability) and substantive aspects (what are the outcomes of social sustainability goals) (Boström, 2012). From this point of view, social sustainability reveals its process-oriented nature and the need to establish processes of practicing social sustainability that begin with the participation of citizens in decision-making processes in producing equitable (i.e. socially sustainable) development. As a dimension of sustainable development that is harder to quantify than the economic or environmental aspects, the operationalisation of social sustainability goals into spatial, actionable principles has remained a burgeoning area of research. In such research, methods for enhancing citizen participation are a particularly important concern in order to engage and empower people with “non-expert” knowledge to collaborate with academic researchers.

Created on 03-06-2022 | Update on 08-06-2022

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Sustainability

Author: E.Roussou (ESR9)

Area: Community participation

Sustainability is primarily defined as 'the idea that goods and services should be produced in ways that do not use resources that cannot be replaced and that do not damage the environment' (Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus, n.d.) and is often used interchangeably with the term “sustainable development”(Aras & Crowther, 2009). As defined by the UN, sustainable development is the effort to “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (United Nations, 1987) and is often interpreted as the strategies adopted towards sustainability with the latter being the overall goal/vision (Diesendorf, 2000). Both of these relatively general and often ambiguous terms have been a focal point for the past 20 years for researchers, policy makers, corporations as well as local communities, and activist groups, among others, (Purvis et al., 2019). The ambiguity and vagueness that characterise both of these terms have contributed to their leap into the global mainstream as well as the broad political consensus regarding their value and significance (Mebratu, 1998; Purvis et al., 2019), rendering them one of the dominant discourses in environmental, socio-political and economic issues (Tulloch, 2013). It is, however, highly contested whether their institutionalisation is a positive development. Tulloch, and Tulloch & Nielson (2013; 2014) argue that these terms -as they are currently understood- are the outcome of the “[colonisation of] environmentalist thought and action” which, during the 1960s and 1970s, argued that economic growth and ecological sustainability within the capitalist system were contradictory pursuits. This “colonisation” resulted in the disempowerment of such discourses and their subsequent “[subordination] to neoliberal hegemony” (Tulloch & Neilson, 2014, p. 26). Thus, sustainability and sustainable development, when articulated within neoliberalism, not only reinforce such disempowerment, through practices such as greenwashing, but also fail to address the intrinsic issues of a system that operates on, safeguards, and prioritises economic profit over social and ecological well-being (Jakobsen, 2022). Murray Bookchin (1982), in “The Ecology of Freedom” contends that social and environmental issues are profoundly entangled, and their origin can be traced to the notions of hierarchy and domination. Bookchin perceives the exploitative relationship with nature as a direct outcome of the development of hierarchies within early human societies and their proliferation ever since. In order to re-radicalise sustainability, we need to undertake the utopian task of revisiting our intra-relating, breaking down these hierarchical relations, and re-stitching our social fabric. The intra-relating between and within the molecules of a society (i.e. the different communities it consists of) determines how sustainability is understood and practised (or performed), both within these communities and within the society they form. In other words, a reconfigured, non-hierarchical, non-dominating intra-relationship is the element that can allow for an equitable, long-term setting for human activity in symbiosis with nature (Dempsey et al., 2011, p. 290). By encouraging, striving for, and providing the necessary space for all voices to be heard, for friction and empathy to occur, the aforementioned long-term setting for human activity based on a non-hierarchical, non-dominating intra-relating is strengthened, which augments the need for various forms of community participation in decision-making, from consulting to controlling. From the standpoint of spatial design and architecture, community participation is already acknowledged as being of inherent value in empowering communities (Jenkins & Forsyth, 2009), while inclusion in all facets of creation, and community control in management and maintenance can improve well-being and social reproduction (Newton & Rocco, 2022; Turner, 1982). However, much like sustainability, community participation has been co-opted by the neoliberal hegemony; often used as a “front” for legitimising political agendas or as panacea to all design problems, community participation has been heavily losing its significance as a force of social change (Smith & Iversen, 2018), thus becoming a depoliticised, romanticised prop. Marcus Miessen (2011) has developed a critical standpoint towards what is being labelled as participation; instead of a systematic effort to find common ground and/or reach consensus, participation through a cross-benching approach could be a way to create enclaves of disruption, i.e. processes where hierarchy and power relations are questioned, design becomes post-consensual spatial agency and participation turns into a fertile ground for internal struggle and contestation. Through this cross-benching premise, community participation is transformed into a re-politicised spatial force. In this context, design serves as a tool of expressing new imaginaries that stand against the reproduction of the neoliberal spatial discourse. Thus, sustainability through community participation could be defined as the politicised effort to question, deconstruct and dismantle the concept of dominance by reconfiguring the process of intra-relating between humans and non-humans alike.

Created on 08-06-2022 | Update on 09-06-2022

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Urban Commons

Author: A.Pappa (ESR13)

Area: Community participation

Urban commons are shared resources in the city that are managed by their users in a collaborative and non-profit-oriented way. The concept is based on the idea that urban resources and services that represent fundamental rights in the city should be accessible to and governed by the urban dwellers, to support the social capital and the sustainability of the urban communities. Hence, their value lies mostly in the social benefit produced during their use and they are therefore different from commodities that follow traditional market principles of profit maximisation and private ownership (Dellenbaugh-Losse et al., 2015). The concept of urban commons is an extrapolation in the urban context of the notion of commons which historically refers to natural resources available to all and not owned by any individual, such as air, water and land. The commons discourse became significantly popular thanks to the fundamental contribution of Elinor Ostrom (1990) and particularly after she was awarded the Nobel in Economics in 2009. Ostrom presented cases and design principals for the collective management of common resources by those that use and benefit from them, challenging the predominant negative connotations that had peaked with Garret Hardin’s (1968) Tragedy of the Commons where he analysed the impossible sustainability of common pool resources due to individual benefits. During the last fifteen years, a vast body of academic literature on urban commons has been produced, linking the notion to other urban theories, such as the right to the city (Harvey, 2008; Lefebvre, 1996), biopolitics (Angelis & Stavrides, 2009; Hardt & Negri, 2009; Linebaugh, 2008; Parr, 2015; Stavrides, 2015, 2016), peer-to-peer urbanism and sharing economy (Dellenbaugh-Losse et al., 2015; Iaione, 2015; Iaione et al., 2019; McLaren & Agyeman, 2015; Shareable, 2018). The notion of the urban commons encompasses resources, people and social practices (Dellenbaugh-Losse et al., 2015): Commons resources are urban assets of various types, characteristics and scales (Dellenbaugh-Losse et al., 2015). Examples of commons resources include physical spaces, such as community gardens, street furniture and playgrounds; intangible elements such as culture and public art; services such as safety; digital spaces, such as internet access. Urban commons literature and practices have attempted to determine several typological categorisations of the urban commons resources, the most notable being that of Hess (2008), who classified them as cultural, knowledge, markets, global, traditional, infrastructure, neighbourhood, medical and health commons. The commoners are the group that uses and manages the urban commons resources. It is a self-defined and organically formed group of individuals whose role is to collectively negotiate the boundaries and the rules of the management of the commons resources (Dellenbaugh-Losse et al., 2015). In a neighbourhood setting, for example, the commoners may be individual residents, or community groups, cooperatives, NGOs and local authorities. De Angelis and Stavrides (2010) points out that commoners might include diverse groups or communities that are not necessarily homogenous. Commoning refers to the collaborative participatory process of accessing, negotiating and governing the commons resources. The term was introduced by Peter Linebaugh (2008) and refers to the “social process that creates and reproduces the commons” (Angelis & Stavrides, 2010). Commoning is a form of public involvement for the public good (Lohmann, 2016). Commoning implies a commitment to solidarity and cooperation, to the creation of added value to the community, to democracy and inclusiveness and is connected to a hacking culture(Dellenbaugh-Losse et al., 2015). Hence, commoning practices can include various activities such as co-creation, capacity building and placemaking, support through learning, innovation, performing art, protest, urban gardening and commuting. In contemporary societies in crisis, the urban commons theory is often used as a counter-movement to the commodification of urban life and as a response to complex issues, proving essential for the well-being of marginalised communities and for the provision of affordable and sustainable housing. Urban commons management conveys the re-appropriation of urban values (Borch & Kornberger, 2015) breaking silos of expertise and knowledge by adopting a collaborative approach to defining and solving the problems at stake. The practice of urban commons helps to build values of openness, experimentation, creativity, trust, solidarity and commitment within stakeholder groups.

Created on 14-10-2022 | Update on 18-10-2022

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Life Cycle Costing

Author: A.Elghandour (ESR4)

Area: Design, planning and building

Life Cycle Costing (LCC) is a method used to estimate the overall cost of a building during its different life cycle stages, whether from cradle to grave or within a predetermined timeframe (Nucci et al., 2016; Wouterszoon Jansen et al., 2020). The Standardised Method of Life Cycle Costing (SMLCC) identifies LCC in line with the International Standard ISO 15686-5:2008 as "Methodology for the systematic economic evaluation of life cycle costs over a period of analysis, as defined in the agreed scope." (RICS, 2016). This evaluation can provide a useful breakdown of all costs associated with designing, constructing, operating, maintaining and disposing of this building (Dwaikat & Ali, 2018). Life cycle costs of an asset can be divided into two categories: (1) Initial costs, which are all the costs incurred before the occupation of the house, such as capital investment costs, purchase costs, and construction and installation costs (Goh & Sun, 2016; Kubba, 2010); (2) Future costs, which are those that occur after the occupancy phase of the dwelling. The future costs may involve operational costs, maintenance, occupancy and capital replacement (RICS, 2016). They may also include financing, resale, salvage, and end-of-life costs (Karatas & El-Rayes, 2014; Kubba, 2010; Rad et al., 2021). The costs to be included in a LCC analysis vary depending on its objective, scope and time period. Both the LCC objective and scope also determine whether the assessment will be conducted for the whole building, or for a certain building component or equipment (Liu & Qian, 2019; RICS, 2016). When LCC combines initial and future costs, it needs to consider the time value of money (Islam et al., 2015; Korpi & Ala-Risku, 2008). To do so, future costs need to be discounted to present value using what is known as "Discount Rate" (Islam et al., 2015; Korpi & Ala-Risku, 2008). LCC responds to the needs of the Architectural Engineering Construction (AEC) industry to recognise that value on the long term, as opposed to initial price, should be the focus of project financial assessments (Higham et al., 2015). LCC can be seen as a suitable management method to assess costs and available resources for housing projects, regardless of whether they are new or already exist. LCC looks beyond initial capital investment as it takes future operating and maintenance costs into account (Goh & Sun, 2016). Operating an asset over a 30-year lifespan could cost up to four times as much as the initial design and construction costs (Zanni et al., 2019). The costs associated with energy consumption often represent a large proportion of a building’s life cycle costs. For instance, the cumulative value of utility bills is almost half of the cost of a total building life cycle over a 50-year period in some countries (Ahmad & Thaheem, 2018; Inchauste et al., 2018). Prioritising initial cost reduction when selecting a design alternative, regardless of future costs, may not lead to an economically efficient building in the long run (Rad et al., 2021). LCC is a valuable appraising technique for an existing building to predict and assess "whether a project meets the client's performance requirements" (ISO, 2008). Similarly, during the design stages, LCC analysis can be applied to predict the long-term cost performance of a new building or a refurbishing project (Islam et al., 2015; RICS, 2016). Conducting LCC supports the decision-making in the design development stages has a number of benefits (Kubba, 2010). Decisions on building programme requirements, specifications, and systems can affect up to 80% of its environmental performance and operating costs (Bogenstätter, 2000; Goh & Sun, 2016). The absence of comprehensive information about the building's operational performance may result in uninformed decision-making that impacts its life cycle costs and future performance (Alsaadani & Bleil De Souza, 2018; Zanni et al., 2019). LCC can improve the selection of materials in order to reduce negative environmental impact and positively contribute to resourcing efficiency (Rad et al., 2021; Wouterszoon Jansen et al., 2020), in particular when combined with Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). LCA is concerned with the environmental aspects and impacts and the use of resources throughout a product's life cycle (ISO, 2006). Together, LCC and LCA contribute to adopt more comprehensive decisions to promote the sustainability of buildings (Kim, 2014). Therefore, both are part of the requirements of some green building certificates, such as LEED (Hajare & Elwakil, 2020).     LCC can be used to compare design, material, and/or equipment alternatives to find economically compelling solutions that respond to building performance goals, such as maximising human comfort and enhancing energy efficiency (Karatas & El-Rayes, 2014; Rad et al., 2021). Such solutions may have high initial costs but would decrease recurring future cost obligations by selecting the alternative that maximises net savings (Atmaca, 2016; Kubba, 2010; Zanni et al., 2019). LCC is particularly relevant for decisions on energy efficiency measures investments for both new buildings and building retrofitting. Such investments have been argued to be a dominant factor in lowering a building's life cycle cost (Fantozzi et al., 2019; Kazem et al., 2021). The financial effectiveness of such measures on decreasing energy-related operating costs, can be investigated using LCC analysis to compare air-condition systems, glazing options, etc. (Aktacir et al., 2006; Rad et al., 2021). Thus, LCC can be seen as a risk mitigation strategy for owners and occupants to overcome challenges associated with increasing energy prices (Kubba, 2010). The price of investing in energy-efficient measures increase over time. Therefore, LCC has the potential to significantly contribute to tackling housing affordability issues by not only making design decisions based on the building's initial costs but also its impact on future costs – for example energy bills - that will be paid by occupants (Cambier et al., 2021). The input data for a LCC analysis are useful for stakeholders involved in procurement and tendering processes as well as the long-term management of built assets (Korpi & Ala-Risku, 2008). Depending on the LCC scope, these data are extracted from information on installation, operating and maintenance costs and schedules as well as the life cycle performance and the quantity of materials, components and systems, (Goh & Sun, 2016) These information is then translated into cost data along with each element life expectancy in a typical life cycle cost plan (ISO, 2008). Such a process assists the procurement decisions whether for buildings, materials, or systems and/or hiring contractors and labour, in addition to supporting future decisions when needed (RICS, 2016). All this information can be organised using Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology (Kim, 2014; RICS, 2016). BIM is used to organise and structure building information in a digital model. In some countries, it has become mandatory that any procured project by a public sector be delivered in a BIM model to make informed decisions about that project (Government, 2012). Thus, conducting LCC aligns with the adoption purposes of BIM to facilitate the communication and  transfer of building information and data among various stakeholders (Juan & Hsing, 2017; Marzouk et al., 2018). However, conducting LCC is still challenging and not widely adopted in practice. The reliability and various formats of building related-data are some of the main barriers hindering the adoption of LCCs (Goh & Sun, 2016; Islam et al., 2015; Kehily & Underwood, 2017; Zanni et al., 2019).

Created on 05-12-2022 | Update on 20-05-2023

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Community-led housing

Author: Z.Tzika (ESR10)

Area: Community participation

Community-led housing involves residents, often organised into community groups, actively participating in planning, designing, financing and managing housing projects to meet their specific needs and preferences. This active involvement nurtures a sense of community ownership and control. This sense of community encompasses  feelings of belonging, shared identity, and mutual support among the residents of a community-led housing initiatives. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with the term "collaborative housing". Collaborative housing also refers to a participatory approach to housing development; however, the focus is on collaboration with the different stakeholders and encompasses various non-profit housing delivery models. While self-organised collective housing efforts are nothing new, a new wave of such initiatives has emerged in Europe since the 2000s (Lang et al., 2018; Tummers, 2016). In recent decades, market-provided housing has been the predominant model in Europe, often prioritising economic gain over the right to adequate shelter. The primary housing options from a tenure perspective are home ownership and rent, which are not always affordable for low-income groups (OECD, 2020, 2020). As a result, many communities are coming together to create secure and affordable housing solutions (Jarvis, 2015). However, the motivations behind these initiatives can vary among the involved groups and may reflect economic, ideological, social or ecological ideals (Caldenby et al., 2020). Some of these motivations include creating affordable homes, exploring more sustainable living practices, and fostering a sense of community and social cohesion. In contrast to other forms of collective housing, community-led housing schemes do not merely emphasize resource or living space sharing: they empower the community to play a proactive role in shaping their built and living environment. According to the Co-operative Councils Innovative Network (2018), community-led housing are developments that meet the following criteria: There is meaningful community engagement throughout the process, even if they did not initiate or build the scheme. The community has a long-term formal role in the ownership or management of the homes. The benefits of the scheme to the local area and/or specified community group are clearly defined and legally protected in perpetuity. Community-led housing can take diverse forms, contingent upon the extent of involvement from the participating communities and the specific type of development. These manifestations range from grassroots groups independently initiating projects to meet their housing needs, to community organizations spearheading housing initiatives. Additionally, developers, such as local authorities or housing associations, can initiate partnerships to provide housing solutions with a community-led component (Lang et al., 2020). Furthermore, concerning the development model, community-led housing can encompass constructing new homes, repurposing vacant homes and managing existing housing units. Each of these approaches has the potential to significantly influence the broader neighbourhood context (Fromm, 2012). The forms of community-led housing include: Housing cooperatives: These are groups of people who provide and collectively manage, homes for themselves as tenants or shared owners, based on democratic membership principles. Cohousing: These consist of like-minded people who come together to provide self-contained private homes for themselves while collectively managing their scheme and often sharing activities, including communal spaces. Cohousing can be developer-led, so it is important to examine whether cases meet the broad definition given above, rather than simply use the term cohousing as a marketing device. Community Land Trusts (CLTs): These are not-for-profit corporations that hold land as a community asset and serve as long-term providers of rental housing or shared ownership. Self-help housing: Small, community-based organisations bringing empty properties back into use, often without mainstream funding and with a strong emphasis on construction skills training and support. Tenant-Managed Organisations: They provide social housing tenants with collective responsibility for managing and maintaining the homes through an agreement with their council or housing association.   These models are adaptable and not mutually exclusive; for example, a co-housing group could choose to establish either a cooperative or a Community Land Trust (CLT). It is important to note that there are variations in how these models are applied in different contexts and countries. For local authorities, community-led housing offers several advantages. It improves the housing supply and the availability of affordable homes, diversifying the housing market while ensuring the long-term affordability of housing units. Additionally, community-led housing supports urban regeneration efforts and repurposes vacant homes. It has the potential to empower communities so that they become more self-sufficient. By involving residents in addressing their housing needs, these initiatives provide opportunities for vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, mono-parental families, etc., to live in supportive communities. Such housing schemes can be developed in various contexts, offering solutions for different housing challenges, including informal settlements, former refugee camps, and the heavily owner-occupied housing markets of South and Eastern Europe.

Created on 05-10-2023 | Update on 30-10-2023

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Collaborative Governance

Author: A.Panagidis (ESR8)

Area: Community participation

With the world becoming increasingly urbanized and city planning facing numerous complex challenges, urban governance is being downscaled and decentralized, from the national level to the local level. Local authorities are now assuming more prominent roles in structuring urban development plans at the city or neighbourhood level. Various interpretations of governance exist (see, for example housing governance on this vocabulary). However, the definition proposed by Ansell and Gash (2008) – describing governance as the “regimes of laws, rules, judicial decisions, and administrative practices that constrain, prescribe, and enable the provision of publicly supported goods and services” – remains pertinent in discussions about housing, energy, and urban development. Governance involves the negotiation and reconfiguration of institutions – representing “a set of norms” (Savini, 2019)– leading to claims of urban citizenship and power struggles. These processes aim to establish location-specific governance practices, as noted by Baker and Mehmood (2015) and Zavos et al. (2017). In European urban planning, innovative governance models are emerging, integrating housing and spatial planning with increased resident decision-making control (Nuissl & Heinrichs, 2011; Scheller & Thörn, 2018; Van Straalen et al., 2017). Consequently, exploring collaborative urban governance is crucial. Ansell and Gash (2008, p. 544) define collaborative governance as “a governing arrangement where one or more public agencies directly engage non-state stakeholders in a collective decision-making process that is formal, consensus-oriented, and deliberative and that aims to make or implement public policy or manage public programs or assets”- The shift towards neighbourhood-level governance is pivotal in nurturing a "politics of locality" (Ghose, 2005). Despite power disparities, new opportunities for active citizenry emerge, especially in housing, neighbourhood revitalization, and service delivery. Governance now extends beyond governmental tiers, incorporating the civic sphere and community-driven initiatives, bridging gaps left by formal state-driven sectors. Collaborative governance develops over time, benefiting from shared vision, dialogue, consensus-building, and understanding diverse roles and responsibilities (Innes & Booher, 2003). This integration emphasizes alternative governance forms, focusing on "territorially-focused collective action" (Healey, 2006, p. 305) and self-organization, contrasting the top-down, modernist model. Collaborative governance, akin to collaborative planning, emphasizes rights-claiming processes, granting decision-making authority to non-experts. Ghose (2005, p.64) contends that “in order to participate in the power hierarchies […] one has to understand how to perform actively as a citizen in order to claim a right to the city”. Therefore, collaborative governance is a process characterized by shared responsibilities, where shared knowledge serves as the primary currency. This shared knowledge is emphasized as crucial in challenging the authority of experts, as noted by Emerson et al. (2012).

Created on 26-10-2023 | Update on 08-12-2023

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Placemaking

Author: A.Pappa (ESR13)

Area: Community participation

Placemaking in the urban realm is a holistic approach that foments the collaborative transformation of public spaces into vibrant, inclusive and engaging places. The core objective of placemaking is reflected in David Engwicht’s analogy: “placemaking is like turning a house into a home” (Placemaking.Education, no date), that is, to transform a mere physical location or space into an emotionally resonant and socially connected place. Placemaking encompasses not only the planning and design of spaces but also their sustainable management (Project for Public Spaces, 2016). The placemaking theory has been developed on the principle that urban and architectural projects should prioritize people and their emotions over cars and shopping centres. This idea originated in groundbreaking work of intellectuals from the 1960s, such as Jane Jacobs[1] and William H. Whyte[2]. Building upon their work, the term ‘placemaking’ started being used in the 1970s by architects and planners to describe the process of transforming public spaces into enjoyable destinations. Since then, a number of placemaking organisations, most notably the pioneering Project for Public Spaces (PPS)[3], have played a pivotal role in guiding community leaders toward the value of reinvesting in existing communities instead of pursuing endless urban sprawl. These organisations have raised awareness that this approach is both economically and environmentally more sustainable (Ellery, Ellery and Borkowsky, 2021). Over the last few decades, placemaking has been extensively used to describe various approaches in urban development, ranging from community-driven emancipatory practices, such as reclaiming underused neighbourhood spaces, to top-down strategic plans for neighbourhood revitalisations. Theoretical discussions have attempted to categorize placemaking processes with regards to ignition, goal, scale, budget and involvement, among others (Courage et al., 2021). One widely adopted classification among placemaking scholars is Wyckoff’s (2014) distinction of four types:    Standard Placemaking (or simply placemaking) aims at creating quality places and reviving existing public spaces. This approach is pursued by the public, non-profit, or private sector, employing community participation into a variety of projects and activities. These projects are often incremental, such as street and façade improvements, residential rehabs, which may encompass public spaces and small-scale projects. Tactical Placemaking focuses on creating quality places using a deliberate approach to change, developed in phases that begin with quick, short-term commitments and realistic expectations. Over time, short-term activities and projects achieve gradual transformations in public spaces. Tactical placemaking can be initiated by local development strategies or from bottom-up. It includes activities such as parking space conversions, self-guided historic walks, outdoor music events, and temporary conversion of buildings. Creative Placemaking utilises arts and cultural activities to strategically shape the identity of a neighbourhood, city, or region. The processes include revitalisation of buildings, structures and streetscapes, often improving the local business viability and public safety. Strategic Placemaking is targeted at achieving specific goals, such as raising the economic, social and cultural prosperity of a community in addition to creating quality places. This can be achieved by interventions that attract talented workers in certain locations, such as mixed-use places that are pedestrian-oriented, bike-friendly, as well as supporting recreation, arts and housing options. Naturally, implementing placemaking processes come with their own risks. Similar to other forms of civic participation, placemaking can sometimes become a buzzword for urban renewal programmes, especially when used to drive economic development of an area through spatial upgrade. When the goal is to replace an existing place with one considered an improvement, it is likely that the affected people may experience negative effects, such as direct or indirect displacement. In this regard, as placemaking strategies, aimed at revitalising underutilised spaces into vibrant places, consequently enhancing the location’s attractiveness and value, are often criticised for potentially fuelling gentrification trends rather than alleviating them (Placemaking Europe, 2019).   [1] In her work, epitomised in her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), Jacobs introduced the idea of “eyes on the street” that advocates for citizen ownership on the street. [2] Whyte’s groundbreaking work The social Life of Small Urban Spaces (1980), summarises his extensive research on the Street Life Project in New York, in which he recorded the human behaviour in the urban setting, concluding to the essential elements for creating social life in public spaces. (see more at Projects for Public Spaces, William H. Whyte) [3] Organisation led by Fred Kent and consisted of an interdisciplinary team, has been advancing placemaking processes since 1975 originally in the US and recently globally. Developing roadmaps and toolboxes that place community participation at the centre of action they have engaged with more than 35000 communities in 52 countries (About — Project for Public Spaces, no date), while at the same time sharing their placemaking experiences and principles (see Project for Public Spaces Inc., 2015) through networking activities and courses.

Created on 08-11-2023 | Update on 15-11-2023

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Public-civic Partnership

Author: A.Pappa (ESR13)

Area: Community participation

Public-civic partnerships (PCPs) or public-community collaborations, as discussed by Hopman et al., (2021), are forms of cooperation between the state and civil society. They involve transferring the ownership and control of urban resources to the hands of citizens. In this context, they can be viewed as commons-led institutional models, offering a ground of commoning the city. Consequently, they are also referred to as public commons partnerships (Milburn & Russell, 2019). Public-civic partnerships offer alternatives to the traditional binary state and market dynamic seen in the public-private partnership (PPP) model, which gained prominence after 2000 as a new form of cooperation between the state and the private sector. PPPs are characterized by long-term arrangements in which private sector contractors take on design, construction, operational, and sometimes financial responsibilities, becoming providers of traditionally public services (European Commision, 2003). However, PPP models have faced criticism for privatizing public goods, services and spaces, often prioritising private investment over public interests (Horvat, 2019).   On the contrary, PCPs propose an alternative approach. Instead of relying on private investors for the development of crucial urban infrastructure, public bodies collaborate with communities to design, produce and govern this infrastructure as commons. By doing so, PCPs drive systemic change,  offering innovative methods to democratize urban governance. They empower communities to transparently work with the public sector, determining the future of public assets such as food, care, water, energy, housing, and urban development (Heron, Milburn & Russell, 2021; Hopman et al., 2021). In recent years, cities such as Barcelona, Bologna, Naples, Ghent and Amsterdam, among others, have been developing commons-oriented strategies and municipal networks that enable and promote PCPs. These initiatives are often facilitated through contracts or ‘collaboration pacts’ (Foster & Iaione, 2016) among different stakeholders, notably from the civic and social sectors. The regulatory frameworks and operationalisation details, such as the legal form of the partnering entities, the duration of ownership transfers, and approved interventions in public spaces, vary from case to case (Bianchi, 2022). Experiences from the implementation of these policies show that several influential factors affect the development of PCPs. These are ideological, legal, political and economic in nature and include political will, existing laws, development strategies. material and funding sources, access to information, cooperation opportunities between the public and civic sectors, and further education of both realms on cooperation models (Cultural Creative Spaces & Cities, 2018). Among the several types of resources shared through PCPs, many municipal strategies facilitate the sharing of public spaces, which has significant implications from a sustainable local development point of view. These strategies involve the temporary or long-term transfer of ownership of municipal spaces, including empty buildings and building parts, streets and open spaces, and industrial heritage sites, to citizens or various associations formed between them and other sectors. Through these partnerships, sites are regenerated, transformed, and used for the benefit of the neighbourhood, while the public sector retains a supportive role. Throughout this process, several places and services, such as communal gardens, neighbourhood parks, solidary kitchens, caregiving and solidarity services, as well as community, educational and cultural centres, are created locally, by and for the residents.    

Created on 08-11-2023 | Update on 15-11-2023

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Social Value

Author: L.Ricaurte (ESR15)

Area: Community participation

Social value (SV) is a wide-ranging concept that encompasses the wider economic, social and environmental well-being impacts of a specific activity. Given its applicability across various sectors, diverse interpretations and definitions exist, often leading to its interchangeable use with other terms, such as social impact. This interchangeability makes it difficult to establish a universally accepted definition that satisfies all stakeholders, contributing to the term’s adaptability and to a variety of methods for identification, monitoring, measurement and demonstration. Nevertheless, common themes emerge from literature definitions. First, SV involves maximizing benefits for communities and society beyond an organisation's primary goals, which requires innovation and a focus that goes beyond financial values. It is often referred to as the added value of an intervention. Second, the short-, medium- and long-term effects of activities, as well as their broader community reach, need to be assessed in terms of a life-cycle project perspective. Thirdly, SV aligns with the triple bottom line of sustainability, which underlines social, environmental and economic considerations in well-being. In the UK, SV gained prominence with the introduction of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012. This legislation mandates organisations commissioning public services to consider and account for the wider impacts of their operations (UK Government 2012; UKGBC, 2020, 2021). The Act has provided incentives to quantitatively measure the impact of projects on communities and standardise approaches in the built environment, a sector that has been significantly influenced by this regulatory framework. Organisations such as the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) have played a crucial role in shaping a common agenda through reports such as Delivering Social Value: Measurement (2020) and Framework for Defining Social Value (2021), which set out the steps needed to determine social value. Recognising that SV is strongly influenced by contextual factors, these publications emphasize the challenge for formulating an all-encompassing definition. Instead, they advocate for focusing efforts on developing context-specific steps and methods for measurement.     However, the existing literature is mainly concerned with SV during the procurement and construction phases, overlooking the SV of buildings during the use phase and the potential opportunities and benefits they offer to users. This bias is due to the construction sector's rapid response to the Act and its easier access to certain types of information. This influences the prominence of certain data in project’s impact assessments and SV reports, such as employment opportunities, training, placements, and support of local supply chains through procurement. More intangible outcomes such as community cohesion, quality of life improvements, enhanced social capital, cultural preservation, empowerment and long-term social benefits are rarely featured as they are deemed more challenging to quantify due to their subjective or qualitative nature. Similarly, there remains a lack of clarity and consensus regarding a standardised approach to assessing the added value created. The challenge stems from diverse interpretations of value among stakeholders, influenced by their unique interests and activities. Communicating something inherently subjective becomes particularly daunting due to these varying perspectives. Additionally, translating all outcomes into financial metrics is also problematic. This is primarily due to the unique circumstances that characterise each development and community, making it impractical to hastily establish targets and universal benchmarks for their assessment. (Raiden et al., 2018; Raiden & King, 2021a, 2023). This complexity is recognised by Social Value UK (2023: n.p.), stating: “Social value is a broader understanding of value. It moves beyond using money as the main indicator of value, instead putting the emphasis on engaging people to understand the impact of decisions on their lives.” Moreover, the growing significance and momentum that SV is gaining are evident in the emergence of analogous legislations that have appeared in recent years and that have a direct influence on shaping how the built environment sector operates in their respective countries. Noteworthy examples of social value-related regulations include the Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015 in Wales; the Procurement Reform Act 2014 in Scotland; the social procurement frameworks in Australia; the Community Benefit Agreements in Canada; the Government Procurement Rules in New Zealand; and the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria considered in various countries around the world, among others.   Identifying and measuring social value SV should be an integral aspect of project development and, therefore, must be considered from the early stages of its conception, taking into account the entire lifecycle. The literature highlights a three-step process for this: 1) identifying stakeholders, 2) understanding their interests, and 3) agreeing on intended outcomes (UKGBC 2020, 2021). More recently, Raiden & King (2021b) linked the creation of SV to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the context of the built environment, SV can contribute to reporting on the SDGs, elevating the value the sector creates to society onto the international agenda (Caprotti et al., 2017; United Nations, 2017). While SDG 11 “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”, is often placed within the remit of the built environment, SV programmes developed by social housing providers, for example, extend the sector’s impact beyond SDG 11, covering a broader range of areas  (Clarion Housing Group, 2023; Peabody, 2023). This aspect is also echoed in the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Sustainable Outcomes Guide, which links the SDGs to specific outcomes, including the creation of SV (Clark & HOK, 2019). Over the past decade, various methodologies have been proposed to undertake the intricate task of assessing value beyond financial metrics, drawing inspiration from the work of social enterprises. Among the most prominent and widely adopted by diverse stakeholders in the sector are the Social Return on Investment (SROI), Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) — sometimes referred to as SCBA when given the social epithet—, and the well-being valuation approach. (Fujiwara & Campbell, 2011; Trotter et al., 2014; Watson et al., 2016; Watson & Whitley, 2017). The widespread implementation of these approaches can be explained by the development of tools such as the UK Social Value Bank, linked to the well-being valuation method. This tool, used to monetise ‘social impacts’, is endorsed by influential stakeholders in the UK’s housing sector, including HACT (2023), or the Social Value Portal and National TOMs (Themes, Outcomes and Measures) (Social Value Portal 2023). In the measuring of SV, these methodologies unanimously emphasize the importance of avoiding overclaiming or double-counting outcomes and discounting the so-called deadweight, which refers to the value that would have been created anyway if the intervention had not taken place, either through inertia or the actions of other actors. While the development of these approaches to measuring SV is pivotal for advancing the social value agenda, some critics contend that there is an imbalance in presenting easily quantifiable outcomes, such as the number of apprenticeships and jobs created, compared to the long-term impact on the lives of residents and communities affected by projects. This discrepancy arises because these easily quantifiable metrics are relatively simpler to convert into financial estimates. Steve Taylor (2021), in an article for The Developer, pointed out that the methods employed to measure social value, coupled with the excessive attention given to monetisation and assigning financial proxy values to everything, may come at the expense of playing down the bearing of hard-to-measure well-being outcomes: “As long as measurement of social value is forced into the economist’s straightjacket of cost-benefit analysis, such disconnects will persist. The alternative is to ask what outcomes people and communities actually want to see, to incorporate their own experiences and perspectives, increase the weighting of qualitative outcomes and wrap up data in narratives that show, holistically, how the pieces fit together. We loosen the constraints of monetisation by mitigating the fixed sense of value as a noun; switching focus to its role as an active verb – to ‘value’ – measuring what people impacted by changes to their built environment consider important or beneficial.” The process of comprehensively measuring and reporting on SV can be challenging, time-consuming and resource-intensive. It is therefore important that stakeholders truly understand the importance of this endeavour and appreciate the responsibilities it entails. Recently, Raiden and King (2021a, 2023) have highlighted the use of a mixed-methods approach for assessing SV, proposing it as a strategy that can offer a more thorough understanding of the contributions of actors in the field. They argue that an assessment incorporating qualitative methods alongside the already utilized quantitative methods can provide a better picture of the added value created by the sector. These advancements contribute to the overarching goal of showcasing value and tracking the effects of investments and initiatives on people's well-being. Nevertheless, a lingering question persists regarding the feasibility of converting all outcomes into monetary values. Social value in architecture and housing design In the field of architecture, the RIBA, in collaboration with the University of Reading, took a significant step by publishing the Social Value Toolkit for Architecture (Samuel, 2020). This document provides a set of recommendations and examples, emphasizing why architects should consider the SV they create and providing guidance on how to identify and evaluate projects, incorporating techniques such as Post-Occupancy Evaluation. This is a remarkable first step in involving architects in the SV debate and drawing attention to the importance of design and the role of architecture in creating value (Samuel, 2018). More recently, Samuel (2022:76) proposed a definition of SV in housing that places the well-being of residents at the centre of the discussion. Accordingly, SV lies in “fostering positive emotions, whether through connections with nature or offering opportunities for an active lifestyle, connecting people and the environment in appropriate ways, and providing freedom and flexibility to pursue different lifestyles (autonomy).” In this context, it is also relevant to highlight the work of the Quality of Life Foundation (QoLF) & URBED, who published The Quality of Life Framework (URBED, 2021). This evidence-based framework identifies six themes in the built environment crucial for assessing relationships between places and people:  control, health, nature, wonder, movement, and community. More recently, Dissart & Ricaurte (2023) have proposed the capability approach as a more comprehensive conceptual basis for the SV of housing. This approach expands the work of the QoLF, focusing the discussion on the effective freedoms and opportunities that the built environment, specifically housing, offers its inhabitants. It serves as a means to gauge the effectiveness of housing solutions and construe SV.

Created on 16-11-2023 | Update on 08-12-2023

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Capability Approach

Author: Z.Tzika (ESR10)

Area: Community participation

The Capability Approach (CA), initially introduced by economist and philosopher Amartya Sen (1999) and subsequently developed by Martha Nussbaum (2011), provides a framework for evaluating individual or collective well-being and societal progress beyond traditional economic measures. As Coates and Anand (2015) pointed out, Sen’s approach aims to rectify certain deficiencies in conventional welfare economics. It contrasts what individuals and collectives are free to do (capabilities) and what they actually accomplish (functionings). This accomplishment depends on their means, such as resources and public goods, and their ability to convert means into outcomes, which is contingent upon certain conditions such as personal, sociopolitical, and environmental factors (conversion factors) (Robeyns & Byskov, 2023). When applied within the realm of housing, CA assumes that merely providing shelter is not enough and that spaces for living must be created. It emphasises the importance of examining the broader capabilities and freedoms that housing enables individuals or communities to achieve, thereby framing housing as a basic need and a means to human development. This approach can serve as a method of appraising both housing outcomes and means. The rationale behind adopting such an approach in housing, as articulated by some scholars, is to move beyond evaluating it solely through quantitative metrics, such as housing supply or homeownership rates. Instead, the emphasis is on considering qualitative aspects that better capture individuals' lived experiences (Clapham et al., 2019). In line with the CA approach, providing affordable and sustainable housing should encompass the development of people's capabilities, enabling them to create their living environments and promoting overall well-being. Recognising that a home is more than just its material components, housing plays a crucial role in enhancing people's abilities to lead fulfilling lives and actively participate in society. This perspective incorporates various dimensions that housing should address that go beyond mere shelter, such as security, community integration, neighbourhood relationships, and self-esteem. This comprehension of housing aligns with the literature on social sustainability, which sheds light on aspects that transcend the material and technical attributes of housing.   Beyond focusing solely on housing outcomes, the capabilities approach extends its scope to the means employed to achieve them (Frediani, 2019). One important aspect is the emphasis on the agency in shaping one’s housing conditions. It recognizes the diverse needs, preferences, and capabilities of individuals, advocating for their active participation and the implementation of supportive policies that empower them to choose where and how they live. This approach moves beyond the one-size-fits-all model, acknowledging the importance of providing diverse housing options that cater to the varied needs of individuals and groups. These needs encompass considerations such as location, size, typology, accessibility, cultural preferences, and the balance between private and communal spaces or shared facilities. Scholars have consistently underscored the relevance of this approach, particularly when coupled with the active participation and involvement of individuals and communities in decision-making about their housing. Prioritising their perspectives and needs fosters the valued aspects of housing, leading to personal, collective and structural empowerment (Clark et al., 2019). Moreover, CA highlights the need to address social inequalities in housing. It recognizes that disparities in access to housing resources, including affordability, quality, and location, can limit individuals' capabilities and opportunities. Marginalized groups, such as low-income households, ethnic minorities, or people with disabilities, often face systemic barriers that impede their access to adequate housing, hindering their overall well-being and social participation. Furthermore, within housing participation processes, recognising differences at various levels - from access to resources to the conditions and circumstances of the people participating- is crucial to creating more meaningful, equitable and democratic processes. Considering these aspects, the CA advocates for participatory processes and policies promoting fair and equitable housing opportunities for various social groups. Implementing the CA in the field of housing can take place across various disciplines, including policymaking, architectural practice, and community involvement.  It is an approach that establishes a multidimensional evaluation space, placing inhabitants at the centre. This represents a multi-faceted strategy engaging various stakeholders to improve the capabilities of individuals or communities. Governments, policymakers, urban planners, and community organizations play vital roles in creating environments that support individuals' capabilities through housing. This could entail designing inclusive housing policies, investing in affordable housing initiatives, ensuring that urban planning considers diverse needs, and fostering community engagement to create supportive and cohesive neighbourhoods.

Created on 18-01-2024 | Update on 25-01-2024

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Spatial Agency

Author: E.Roussou (ESR9)

Area: Community participation

 “Spatial agency”, a term popularised by Jeremy Till, Tatjana Schneider, and Nishat Awan (Awan et al., 2011; Schneider & Till, 2009) emerged from two growing demands: firstly, the need to decentralise the normative practice and role of architecture within spatial production, and secondly to expand the profession, by elevating diverse human and non-human actors, and various practices that move beyond the confines of what is typically understood as architecture (Lorne, 2017). Ignited by Cedric Price’s call for disrupting the idea that a building is the direct and solely available solution to spatial matters (Matthews, 2006), and drawing upon Lefebvre’s notion of “right to the city” (Lorne, 2017; Purcell, 2014), spatial agency aims to challenge the hegemonic status quo in spatial production by shifting the focus from the urban environment as a collection of tangible objects, to a dynamic socio-political process, and an entanglement of actors and practices that shape it and are shaped in return. Spatial agency Space, according to Lefebvre is a social product (1991, p. 360). This acknowledgment primarily highlights three facts: (1) there is no neutrality when it comes to the production of space. Space is the result of an agonistic relation between the components of the conceptual triad of space[1], resulting from the various conflicts and clashes between social groups with different interests, values, and backgrounds (Awan et al., 2011; Lefebvre, 1991). (2) There is a clear distinction and yet a “contradictory unity” between the exchange value, i.e. the usefulness of a commodity in terms of its capacity to generate economic revenue within the market, and the use value, i.e. the usefulness of a commodity in terms of its effective response to an actual need (Pitts, 2021, p. 36). Within the current economic system, more often than not, the exchange value overpowers the use value (Purcell, 2014). (3) To ensure that the use value of a given space is guaranteed, spatial production should not be the sole domain of experts and those who hold power, but rather citizens and stakeholders should engage in “real and active participation” (Lefebvre, 1991, p. 145; Purcell, 2014). Spatial agency All of the above attempt to answer the question on who should have agency over spatial production, beyond the mandates of the current economic system. Anthony Giddens defined “agency” as a notion in a perpetuate dialectic relation with “structure” (1987, p. 220). While agency is the capacity of an individual to decide and act freely, structure outlines the framework of rules, constraints and limitations that shape a society, and both function as interrelated notions (i.e. none may exist without the other). Awan, Till & Schneider follow Giddens’ take on agency, which dictates that no one -and nothing- is either “completely free […] or completely entrapped by structure” (2011, p. 32), but rather somewhere in between.  This means that space neither entirely shapes society, nor is it entirely defined by society, and “spatial agents” neither act in full freedom nor are they fully restrained by structure. This creates a contextual dependency (different contexts bear different “restraints”) that emphasises the situatedness of any practice within the scope of spatial agency. Spatial agency Spatial agency refers to the capacity of individuals or groups to actively shape and transform their built environment. It is a term that transcends and expands architecture, re-emphasises the need for a critical and politically conscious approach in spatial production and seeks to illustrate both an education and practice of synergies that puts “spatial judgement, mutual knowledge and critical awareness” at the forefront (Awan et al., 2011, p. 34; Lorne, 2017). Through spatial agency, one may embrace the uncertainties that emerge within the highly agonistic and dynamic nature of spatial production.       [1] The conceptual spatial triad, as iterated by Henri Lefebvre: space is not a monolith of tangible, physical elements, but rather it exists on different planes of understanding. Those planes are the perceived space (spatial practice), i.e. what one can see and feel around them, the lived space (representational space), which reflects the everydayness, the activities and the social life, and the conceived space (representations of space), i.e. the projections, plans and ideas on how a space could be used. 

Created on 30-01-2024 | Update on 21-02-2024

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Design Activism

Author: E.Roussou (ESR9)

Area: Community participation

Activism as a term illustrating the urban phenomena of citizen mobilisation and direct action(s) towards political, social and environmental change that emerged during the early 20th century (Hornby, 1995). Seen also as a “means of overcoming alienation” (Graeber, 2009, p. 231), numerous forms of activism were significantly influenced by the Situationist International, which advocated the creation of spontaneous, subversive “situations” as a response to the increasing commodification and individualisation of everyday life (Debord, 1992). In this sense, activism can be seen as a means to repoliticise and breathe meaning into an everydayness[1] characterised by passive bystanding and to create instances where people are able to redefine their agency as urban dwellers and political subjects[2] (Graeber, 2009). Design activism has been defined as any practice that “draws attention to change in the context of design through positive experimentation and action, introducing a designerly way of intervening into people’s lives” (Mallo et al., 2020, p. 102). According to Markussen (2013), it reflects the role and potential of various design fields in (1) promoting social change, (2) express values and beliefs in a tangible way and (3) question the systemic constraints that impact people’s daily lives. Due to the rising levels of precarity, caused by the increasing neoliberalisation of politics, policies and everyday life on a global scale (Brown, 2015), design activism in architecture and urban planning (often associated with DIY urbanism) has been gaining traction over the past decades among scholars and practitioners, as a transformative means of renegotiating the role of architecture and planning within the mechanisms of spatial production, as well as reasserting citizens’ agency over their urban environment (Markussen, 2023). Design activism in architecture may operate both symbolically, in order to illustrate and highlight socio-spatial injustice (e.g. Santiago Cirugeda’s[3] insect house) and pragmatically, through the creation (disruptive) of spatial configurations “across a number of people and artefacts” (Mallo et al., 2020, p. 102), in a direct-action manner, with the aim of improving people’s livelihoods. Direct action can be “any collective undertaking that is both political in intent and carried out in the knowledge that it might be met with hostility […]” (Graeber, 2009, p. 359). The element of direct action emphasises both the immersiveness, the astute responsiveness to actual circumstances and the moving away from a general, pre-defined, vague and ultimately co-opted “social good” (Fuad-Luke, 2017), towards a more situated understanding of urban space and people’s needs. Collaborative, “unalienating” acts of urban creativity, connect (architectural) design activism to practices such as participatory design, co-creation and concepts like spatial agency, all of which employ different means to reassert urban dwellers’ position as crucial and indispensable parts in decision-making processes. Scholarly criticisms towards design activism focus on its temporal and experimental nature, which renders quantifying and crystallising the long-term effect on urban landscapes and dwellers difficult (Mallo et al., 2020). Arguably, its situatedness may also pose an obstacle towards the creation of any universal toolkit, strategy or course of action that could be transferable to different contexts and employed to tackle varying circumstances. It remains, however, a vital phenomenon towards fostering agency and a shared sense of citizenship and camaraderie, repoliticising architecture and planning practices, as well as nurturing a culture of working (ant)agonistically towards incremental change in the cities, one intervention at a time.          [1] Georg Simmel described and everydayness where bystanding and lack of concern are primary “symptoms of what he called “blasé attitude”. This term emerged so as to illustrate the overstimulating everydayness of the sprawling capitalist metropolises of the late 19th - early 20th century that renders individuals idle (“The metropolis and mental life”, first published in 1903). Contrary to Simmel, Michel de Certeau posits that individuals operating under imposed regulations and conditions, may find ways to interpret them differently, even subvert them, often by unconsciously utilising systems of socio-cultural references that may deviate from the dominant one(s) (De Certeau, 1984). [2] “A subject develops an understanding of itself as a political subject only by executing decisive political actions” (Calcagno, 2008) [3] More information on this project can be found here: https://unprojects.org.au/article/architecture-on-the-fringes-of-legality-santiago-cirugeda-kyohei-sakaguchi/ & here: https://www.cca.qc.ca/actions/fr/node/82

Created on 13-02-2024 | Update on 05-03-2024

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