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Panagidis, A., Charalambous, N. (2022, December). Co-creation from the South: The case of Cyprus [Conference paper]. RE-DWELL Conference: Housing co-creation for tomorrow’s cities conference, Grenoble, France.

Posted on 21-06-2022

: Dominated by a technocratic state and a form of “Greek-Cypriot corporatism” (Mavratsas, 1998), civil society in Cyprus has been found to be underdeveloped (CIVICUS, 2011). This is reflected in the lack of citizen participation and the lack of decision-making power of the many people dwelling and working in the margins between the powerful state and the market to negotiate decisions. Informal and co-produced urban spaces (here understood as spontaneously co-produced) by actors who “do not typically fit into state-led and ‘professional’ planning schemes” (Galuszka, 2019, p. 144) are common, yet not recognised or institutionalised. These characteristics place Cyprus in the discussions around citizenship and participation in the global South.


In the meantime, new urban governance arrangements are on the agenda of many European governments promoting “active citizenship” and social innovation concerning the decision-making processes that involve citizens in the planning and provision of housing and public services (Bisschops & Beunen, 2019; Boonstra, 2015; Garcia & Haddock, 2016; Morgan, 2018). Furthermore, recent research is increasingly emphasising co-creation (Davis & Andrew, 2017; Koster, 2015) - the sharing of decision-making powers between municipalities, citizens and other actors – and this term is being applied in housing development and urban regeneration experiments at the neighbourhood scale. Innovative governance processes encouraging self-organisation to engage citizens beyond participation in planning are being investigated in settings labelled by the terms Urban Living Labs (ULLs), city labs or citizen innovation labs. In ULLs the joint knowledge and abilities of citizens, urban professionals, and local authorities is mobilised in collaborative environments where innovation can take place in real-life settings.


However, as these novel approaches are being transferred mainly from Northern cities to Southern Europe, there is a need to investigate co-creation by “seeing from the South” (Watson, 2009) as well as to avoid the mistake of applying a universal concept to contexts which to date have been perceived at the fringes of urbanity. In support of the “peripheral turn” in urban studies, it is important to challenge general guidelines that are replicated, including ULLs, and to adapt these novel governance approaches to their respective contexts (Galuszka, 2019). The ways in which civic engagement is fostered in Cyprus, especially regarding matters of urban development and informality, will form the main research question.


This paper aims to add to the theoretical discussion of co-creation, social innovation and active citizenship from a “southern” perspective, including the overlapping interpretations of the global South and Southern Europe. It will challenge existing parameters and guidelines of civic engagement and innovation in urban planning and housing by exploring the need to develop a southern perspective of co-creation. The goal is to enhance the diversity of southern perspectives of urban theory, to challenge assumptions around best practices of sustainable urban development, but also to improve the methodology of applying co-creation to tackle housing and planning issues in postcolonial contexts.

Re-Dwell 2022: Housing co-creation for tomorrow’s cities, Grenoble

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