- Participatory Local Democracy: The Key to Urban Liveability & Investment in South Africa and the Netherlands    click here to open paper content1706 kb
by    Geerse, Andries & van Geest, Tom | andries@stedenbouwkundige.nl   click here to send an email to the auther(s) of this paper
Short Outline
Our approach to community participation, demonstrated through two of our
projects in South Africa and the Netherlands, direct local investment
without big government or developers. Instead people are empowered to
control their own urban future.
This article will present our approach to meaningful, effective community
participation, focusing on two of our projects, one in South Africa and one
in the Netherlands.

Since the advent of democracy in 1994, middle class South Africans have
increasingly demanded a voice in local issues. Like urban communities
across the country, the municipality of Camdeboo struggles to providing
affordable housing for this “gap market” of mostly young professionals who
do not qualify for free government housing but also cannot afford private
market housing. Working together with our municipal client and other
partners, we facilitated a series of workshops attended by over 140 future
residents, community leaders and local entrepreneurs. These demonstrated
how to productively engage the local population in neighbourhood design,
from the strategic level down to the architectural level. The project also
demonstrated how participation can effectively direct limited resources, in
this case $70 million, to what matters most to the community.

With our clients in the Netherlands we use a similar approach. In the
Harbour Quarter of the municipality of Deventer, we in fact use the same
techniques but with a different outcome: attracting investment and
stimulating organic development of initiatives in working, living, culture
and sustainability. While the historic buildings of the Harbour Quarter
provide fertile ground for new initiatives, seeding true organic growth
demands that local inhabitants and entrepreneurs be the drivers. Through
this participatory process, potential initiators are identified and
engaged. Then by focusing on each of their unique needs, we create room for
their ideas and spur their creativity in this $350 million development.
Community engagement therefore becomes a tool to facilitate innovation and
leverage investment.

These projects demonstrate a different way of directing community
investment—without the direction of big developers or big government.
Instead, people are empowered to direct investments in their community so
that they control the liveability and investments in their urban future.
community participation, local investment, neighbourhood design, organic growth, sustainability
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