Engaging with local communities

Co-creation and co-design processes are gaining traction in urban regeneration projects across the globe. A study of three different urban regeneration projects in three countries shows the flexibility and value of this method. Successful implementation of equitable and inclusive public space also depends on a multi-sectorial approach.

The three cities in the study were Dhaka in Bangladesh, Maputo in Mozambique, and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. The research group consisted of an architectural firm, and academics from three universities in the relevant countries.

Seven challenges emerged: inclusive mobility, housing, climate change, local economy, governance, gender and participatory planning. The one thing the case studies have in common is the value of engaging local communities.

Aerial view of Dhaka city in Bangladesh showing densely packed apartment buildings.

The case studies offer different situations for learning and are explained in detail. The participative process revealed a stark imbalance in the inclusion of girls, women and marginalised groups in planning processes. The researchers repeat the call by others to include a diversity of user groups in co-creation methods.

Rapid urbanisation and inadequate public transport in the Global South has lead to half the people having their mobility restricted. This means they are less likely to access employment, education and recreational facilities.

Public space is often a place for trade and commerce in the Global South. Informal economies sustain livelihoods where there is little demand for labour. While this type of economic activity can revive public space, it can also foster unjust distribution of public space.

The title of the article is, Creating Resilient Public Spaces – a Global Perspective on the Conditions for Integrated Urban Development.

From the abstract

Inclusive and sustainable design is crucial for creating equitable and climate-resilient urban environments. This paper presents a research project that involved case studies in three cities on three continents – Dhaka, Maputo, and Santo Domingo.

A participatory design process was implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 and 2022 through academic urban living labs in our partner cities. Urban design solutions for regenerating public space were co-created with local communities.

This approach aimed to ensure that the proposals were holistic and responsive to the specific needs and aspirations of the local communities. The case studies encompassed sites reflecting diverse urban contexts. The urban lake of Shahjahanpur Jheel in Dhaka, public spaces surrounding the centre of Maputo, and a central expressway in Santo Domingo.

Researchers identified the needs and aspirations of local populations for these places. Co-creation opportunities and place-making events empowered residents and local entrepreneurs to take an active role in the transformation of their neighbourhoods.

Established participation tools were adapted to each local context and new techniques were developed for specific user groups. Young professionals were included in the design process through cooperation with local universities. Academic partnerships and the cooperation with local city administrations also supported capacity building and
knowledge exchange.

The results of the process included integrated urban strategies, urban designs, architectural solutions, and cost estimates for implementation. We identified seven overarching challenges that need to be addressed. They were, inclusive mobility, housing, climate change adaptation, local economy, governance, and gender-sensitive and participatory planning.

This paper presents how the challenges were identified and addressed through the applied research approach for the design of public spaces in Dhaka, Maputo and Santo Domingo.

Healthy and inclusive neighbourhoods in Florence

Participatory action research was at the centre of a project for the Municipality of Florence in Italy. The focus was on green and public spaces and involved several different stakeholder groups. The outcome was the creation of a “health map” with design ideas to enhance the neighbourhood.

Co-planning activities involved citizens and researchers used different methods and tools at different times.


As recognised in the scientific literature, the topic of healthy cities needs to be addressed at the neighbourhood scale, as health has a place-based dimension. The contribution is based on the Quartieri Sani Hub (Healthy Neighbourhoods Hub) ongoing research, aiming to investigate the issue of health and wellbeing through an integrated approach based on spatial and social knowledge, in order to define strategies and design scenarios for an inclusive and healthy neighborhood.

The paper presents the methodological approach defined within this research project for merging different aspects of the healthy city, leading to the definition of a transdisciplinary and multi-scalar conceptual framework in which the characteristics of the built environment that promote healthy lifestyles are systemised.

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