Build a Better Democracy Through Public Participation

In the first entry in a series exploring the connection between the processes and products of Placemaking and city governance, PPS explores how "Place Governance" can increase leadership, equity, and cohesion among citizens.

"Place Governance" is what the Project for Public Spaces (PPS) calls the citizen-centered model for "[solving] human problems with design solutions" that's begun to emerge around placemaking in cities around the world. "In Place Governance," the essay contends, "officials endeavor to draw more people into the civic decision-making process." And, "by positioning public spaces at the heart of action-oriented community dialog," this process can lead to a shift in thinking about citizenship by "re-framing [it] as an on-going, creative collaboration between neighbors."

"If the dominant framework for understanding citizenship today is passive, with citizens ‘receiving’ government services and being ‘given’ rights, then we need to develop affirmative cultures around citizen action," says PPS. To create stronger cities through economic development and community cohesion, citizen action cannot be limited to engagement. "You need civic engagement plus the belief that you can make a difference in order for it to create greater attachment," adds Katherine Loflin, who has studied the topic for the Knight Foundation’s Soul of the Community Study. 

"Equitable places are not given, they are made, collaboratively," concludes PPS. "Everyone has a part to play, from the top down, and from the bottom up."

Editor's Note: For more reading on this subject see a master's thesis, titled "The effects of participatory practices on the processes and products of architecture and urban design", that's collecting dust on a shelf at the UCLA library (wink, wink).

Full Story: Stronger Citizens, Stronger Cities: Changing Governance Through a Focus on Place

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