The “co-creation of cities” : a new form of citizen engagement ?

With 9 billion inhabitants in 2050, 70% of whom will live in cities, all major metropolises are facing questions about the development of urban areas. The world’s largest cities are experiencing housing crises, as an explosion in rental prices and demand, which arises questions about the future of our cities.

Therefore, more and more local governments tend to focus on designing co-creation processes and looking for ways to support and enhance this new form of citizen engagement. This means seeing citizens as co-creators of local governance, recognizing that citizens have both knowledge and resources that can help solve complex problems.

Thus, we are moving from a representative democracy, in which citizens are primarily seen as voters and occasionally invited to hearings orchestrated by government officials, to a more interactive democracy, in which citizens are more actively and directly involved in co-creating solutions to difficult problems.

The "co-creation of cities" : a new form of citizen engagement ?

Source: *Table 1 is based on Lowndes et al., 2001; Fung, 2007; Smith, 2008; Nabatchi & Leighninger, 2015 and Sørensen & Torfing, 2016

Local authorities are realizing that citizens not only have a voice that needs to be heard in elections and consultations, but that they also have knowledge, resources and ideas that can be mobilized to address society’s problems and challenges. Citizens are increasingly seen as co-creators of public governance, invited to participate in defining the problems to be solved and in designing and implementing new and bold solutions.

Why co-creation?

Because engaging citizens to co-create solutions can help governments identify gaps in government service delivery, and more accurately identify citizens’ needs and refine government products and services. Indeed, citizen engagement is an important tool for generating political input, building political support, mobilizing societal resources, and finding creative solutions to the problems and challenges facing governments.

Why is this so? Because citizens know best what their city lacks and needs. A smart municipality will therefore choose to listen to citizens who do not usually voice their concerns or ideas.

The "co-creation of cities" : a new form of citizen engagement ?

However, co-creation is not only used to develop new and creative solutions in situations where resources are abundant. It can also be a viable strategy for making difficult choices and setting priorities in situations of severe budget constraints. Therefore, local municipalities are looking for new ways to engage citizens in co-creation processes and new ways to support these processes through institutional design and leadership.

In sum, engaging citizens in co-creating solutions has several democratic benefits:

  • Firstly, it has a virtue of influence: engaging its citizens means allowing them to intervene in the decision-making process, and thus to exert influence on it.
  • Secondly, it has a virtue of inclusion: it contributes to the inclusion of all citizens in the political process
  • Also, it has an educational virtue: it promotes civic skills and virtues: citizens improve their civic and global skills when they participate in the public decision-making process
  • It also has a deliberative virtue on rational decisions based on public debate (deliberation)
  • Finally, it enhances the legitimacy of decisions.

How to engage citizens?

“Civic Tech”, of which WeSolve is a part, is a solution for strengthening democracy and involving citizens in the life of the city.

Indeed, “digital tools can promote citizen participation, particularly because they allow for the renewal of forms of political mediation. They allow for remote participation (…), one does not need to participate at the same time“. In general, “these two aspects alone make it possible to overcome a certain number of constraints that are often a hindrance” (Clément Mabi, vice-president of “Démocratie ouverte” and specialist in Civic Tech and online mobilizations).

Clearly, Civic Tech aims to revitalize and transform our social institutions and can allow the democratic system to catch its breath.

We can solve problems together by co-creating our future spaces !

The "co-creation of cities" : a new form of citizen engagement ?

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