Six Ways to Democratise City Planning — New DemocracyNext Report

The Hague, Netherlands — DemocracyNext, a research and action institute founded by former OECD analysts at the forefront of international design of Citizens’ Assemblies, today released a new paper outlining six ways to democratise city planning. 

Currently, 4.4 billion people live in cities. By 2050, that number is projected to double. Balancing a diversity of people’s needs and preferences, concerns for environmental and social justice, a flourishing living planet, sustainability and resilience, communities’ health and well-being, as well as a desire for beauty, joy, and belonging is no easy feat. 

Many of these things are interconnected and are directly and deeply impacted by urban planning and the multiple other decisions we take about our built environment. Who makes these decisions, and how they are made matter greatly. The report authors argue that the ‘who’ and the ‘how’ of urban planning decision making need to change, and that Citizens’ Assemblies should play a vital role in this transformation.

As documented by the OECD, cities around the world have increasingly experimented with Citizens' Assemblies to address the toughest questions related to the environment and urban planning. Given this growing wave, the paper’s authors offer cities several concrete ways to systematically apply Citizens' Assemblies to urban planning decision-making processes in an ongoing manner.

The  paper is the product of hundreds of conversations with stakeholders in the field over the past nine months. Its contents were co-developed with an International Task Force of 15 multi-disciplinary experts, including those with expertise in political science and law, a former chief city planner, experts in deliberative democracy, urban developers and investors, architects, and urbanists.

Following its launch in English, Spanish, and French, DemocracyNext seeks to partner with an initial cohort of three cities, to be selected through an open application process, who are interested in contextualising and implementing the proposals. To learn more, join virtual events on 13 and 14 February hosted by DemocracyNext CEO and Founder Claudia Chwalisz, and Project Lead for Urban Design and Planning James MacDonald-Nelson, who will discuss the proposal and take questions. During both launch events, they will be joined by Task Force members to speak about their experience in developing this work. 

Register for Tuesday 13 February (8:00-9:30 PST, 11:00-12:30 EST, 16:00-17:30 GMT, 17:00-18:30 CET)
Register for Wednesday 14 February (8:30-10:00 GMT, 9:30-11:00 CET, 13:30-15:00 IST, 19:30-21:00 AEDT)

The “Six ways to democratise city planning: Enabling thriving and healthy cities” paper proposals are addressed to several of the stakeholders involved: regional and city governments, housing developers, community boards, and civil society organisations. The paper’s authors define and distinguish between a City-wide Assembly, Community Assemblies, and Ad-hoc Assemblies, and suggest ways to use them at specific junctures in urban planning processes.

A Citizens’ Assembly is a group of people selected by sortition (lottery) who are broadly representative of a community. They spend significant time learning and collaborating through facilitated deliberation to find common ground, and form collective recommendations for policy makers, decision makers, and the community. In the OECD’s database of around 700 Citizens’ Assemblies that have taken place in the past four decades around the world, the three most commonly tackled issues were related to the environment, urban planning, and strategic planning. Specific issues had to do with climate change, infrastructure investment, long-term city plans, air pollution, mental health and well-being, amongst others.

To read the executive summary of the report, click here (PDF).

To download the full report, click here (PDF).

Find the project page here.

DemocracyNext is a non-profit, non-partisan research and action institute founded by the people who developed the OECD Deliberative Democracy Toolbox and co-authored the OECD’s seminal Deliberative Wave report. We work to shift who has power and how decisions are taken in government and other institutions of daily life. We are an international knowledge hub on deliberative democracy that creates tools and resources to build the field and experiments with innovative approaches. We advise on the design and establishment of new democratic institutions, processes, and spaces, including Citizens’ Assemblies. We want more people to see the democratic potential of sortition (selecting decision makers by lottery), deliberation, and participation for strengthening trust, reducing polarisation, and improving decision making. We believe that these principles enable us to be with complexity, channel our collective wisdom, and find common ground. 


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