A framework to scale citizen participation in urban development: Learning from experiences of multi-stakeholder collaboration

Diana Mitlin


This working paper summarises our understanding of a framework to support the scaling of participatory development in low-income urban neighbourhoods in the global South. The discussion addresses constraints that have previously been identified both in the academic literature and through social movements and support agencies seeking citizen inclusion. Our study demonstrates the importance of working with all key stakeholders, including organised communities, urban social movements, academics, professionals and City authorities. This working paper draws on experiences in three African cities and summarises a framework to support the scaling of citizen participation.

Our proposed framework is multi-sectoral, multi-spatial and multi-temporal. It seeks to contribute to a more finely grained understanding of what is required to achieve the scaling of participation. As efforts to realise the SDGs continue, this discussion contributes to their realisation through outlining experiences both to address the needs of those living in low-income, often informal, urban neighbourhoods in the global South and the governance deficit.

Our findings show how pressure for enhanced citizen participation, in the urban South, takes place within and alongside formal and informal planning and policies, and these processes must be considered together. For citizen organisations, the shift to thinking and working at the city is significant. Movements reach out to residents who are not taking part in neighbourhood organisations and seek to work in new neighbourhoods. In addition, movements are more ambitious in the changes they seek. At the level of the city, contestation and collaboration take place simultaneously and movements shift between these strategies to secure recognition and material improvements. Academic departments potentially contribute to securing more representative governance practices that address the needs and interests of informal settlement residents. We also argue that understanding social movement strategies and actions requires us to recognise that these may be represented in ways that advance their acceptance by the state.


Citizen-participation, Urban Development, Multi-stakeholder collaboration, Scaling-up

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