Building institutional capacity through collaborative approaches to urban planning
Improving the qualities of places is attracting increasing policy and academic interest in contemporary Europe. This raises questions about the appropriate governance capacity to deliver such improvements. I argue that a key element of such capacity lies in the quality of local policy cultures. Some are well integrated, well connected, and well informed, and can mobilise readily to act to capture opportunities and enhance local conditions. Others are fragmented, lack the connections to sources of power and knowledge, and the mobilisation capacity, to organise to make a difference. In recent years, the emphasis in attempts to change urban governance capacity, particularly in Britain, has been on encouraging catalytic projects and partnerships. Recent experience across Europe suggests that wider transformative effects are difficult to achieve without careful consideration of the partnership form and how it connects to the wider policy culture. They may also have the effect of increasing the fragmentation of local capacity. I examine the potential of collaborative approaches in place-making initiatives in achieving more effective and durable transformations. Collaborative approaches emphasise the importance of building new policy discourses about the qualities of places, developing collaboration among stakeholders in policy development as well as delivery, widening stakeholder involvement beyond traditional power elites, recognising different forms of local knowledge, and building rich social networks as a resource of institutional capital through which new initiatives can be taken rapidly and legitimately. They shift the task of urban planning from 'building places' to fostering the institutional capacity in territorial political communities for ongoing 'place-making' activities.
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