How can we create more sustainable and just cities for all? The involvement and empowerment of communities is fundamental to respond to the challenges of sustainable urban development, and scientific research cannot be exempt from that. At CEDEUS, we understand sustainable urban development as a process through which communities – both current and future generations – flourish harmoniously.
In this sense, we are aware that it is not enough to understand the processes that shape urban spaces and their interactions, but it is essential to generate spaces of convergence and participation that link researchers and the different actors that have a presence in the territory, where civil society is a key actor in urban decision-making.
Citizen participation is a process that recognizes the importance of people’s involvement in the planning and design process of cities, through instances such as town halls, work tables, participatory budgets and other forms of collaborative or communicative planning. In addition, it is a key aspect for urban sustainability, as it is not only a means to achieve better solutions to public management problems; in itself it has the value of strengthening democracy and the potential to develop social cohesion in the communities that are involved in this type of process, aspects necessary for sustainability.
Despite advances in urban public policies, the planning and design of sustainable cities requires progress towards a type of citizen participation that promotes the co-construction of more inclusive and just cities, there is still much to be done. And, research centers of excellence, such as CEDEUS. and institutes that elaborate applied research, and that support the elaboration of public policies, we must contribute to this process.
For the State and society to recognize individuals and communities as indispensable and co-responsible agents in the direct solution and transformation of urban dynamics, early participation in the development of projects and policies is key, in order to involve people and civil society organizations in the processes of recognition of needs and the formulation of ideas for the solution of their problems. So is the inclusion of those actors belonging to groups that have been constantly excluded from the planning process and decision-making/opinions, such as women, children, adolescents, indigenous population, migrants, etc.
In the ten years that we have been as a center, we have integrated scientific research with urban planning in participatory projects and methodologies in the Metropolitan Region. The relevance of these methodologies and their contribution to urban public policies is exemplified in works such as the workshops “Mi barrio Ideal” and “Mi barrio, mis derechos”. From didactic and participatory activities, we managed to raise the visions, desires and designs of children and adolescents, integrating the perspective of childhood in the transformation of public spaces in vulnerable neighborhoods, where the Regeneration Program of Housing Complexes of the Ministry of Housing and Urbanism is executed.
This experience of working with children and adolescents has been one of the projects that has motivated us to write the “Manual of participatory research methodologies”, in which we share various tools that can be adopted and adapted for community work in a practical and applied way. Thus, to be a contribution both in the academic world, in various organizations (public and private) as well as by any member or organization of civil society.
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