4 Ways to Improve Your City Through Community Participation

parCitypatory is four years old today, which is why I am sharing four starting points as ideas for participating in your own city.

parCitypatory is 4 years old today! In order to celebrate, the site got a new look. Let me know what you think! I also compiled a list of 4 starting points for participating in your city for you – some are very simple and quick, some will take more time, but they should all inspire you to create a more participatory city and change your community!

1) Improve your street

It doesn’t take a lot to get started with designing a better environment. How about applying for a play-street, organising a neighbourhood dinner in your garden or starting a sharing scheme? You could also start a free library or use an old phone booth to exchange books or clothes, or even start by setting up a Facebook/WhatsApp group just for your street and post a flyer with the link to all mail boxes.

Street art is a great way to improve your street and to get to know your neighbours. Source: own picture

For more inspiration on street art, have a look at this list of articles I wrote in 2016, all centred around street art.

2) Improve your neighbourhood

Livable neighbourhoods also mean that you know and trust your neighbours. A neighbourhood watch is a nice way of looking out for each other. You could also start a project like a clean-up, the greening of a pocket space or look into getting a parklet, like this one in Gdansk:

Parklets are pop-up parks that take up parts of the side walk or parking space to the side of a street. Some of them are mobile and can easily be moved around the neighbourhood, like this example from Gdansk. Source: own picture

Further ideas for improving your neighbourhood include neighbourhood meet-ups, festivals, establishing a new neighbourhood newspaper or trying to get to know your neighbours with creative methods, such as using chalk to collect ideas or using stickers to see what suggestions for improvement the neighbours have.

Of course, it is important to have motivated neighbours and some kind of a neighbourhood spirit. But your intervention can also help to bring the neighbourhood closely together! Supporting local artists or setting up a bike/car sharing system are very helpful for that, too.

Some participatory urban planning methods you could try are listed in these articles – I can help you with these methods, if you’d like!

3) Improve your park and public spaces

We all need green space, especially in times like this! Parks and urban gardens, as well as public spaces, are where the community can come together. I am sure you can quickly come up with a few ideas on how to improve the spaces around you. One popular example is urban gardening. Community gardens are easy to set up, as explained here, and a great project for you and your neighbours.

This community garden in Summit Street, Brooklyn, is a buzzing hub of activity all day long. Source: own picture

In parks and public spaces, all of us have countless opportunities to participate in civic life. By enjoying the existing spaces and helping to improve them where necessary, you are making a very valuable contribution to the vitality, safety and liveability of your surroundings. This brings us straight to the last point: increasing your participation in the politics around participation and urban planning in your town or city.

4) Increase your participation in politics

In order to create bigger change, for example in order to introduce participatory budgeting to your city, you will need to use your political influence as a citizen. While this is sadly not easily down in many cities, higher numbers are always helpful. With the support of friends and neighbours, you can make your voice heard in local government.

This way of changing your city for the better might seem particularly daunting, but there are many small steps you can take. As an artist, you can use media creatively and contribute to a stronger sense of identity in your city. You can look into other projects that were started by citizens, such as the High Line Park in New York City, and then rally support for your own idea.

Neighbourhood organisations managed to repurpose these old rails in Manhattan, NYC, to create the High Line with the support of the City of New York. Source: own picture.

To get started, you could consider speaking in city hall, start an online petition, write letters to local politicians, attend public meetings or organise events like a demonstration or rally. Getting in touch with the press or with urban journalists like me can be very helpful in creating attention for your statements. Finally, you can also make your voice heard by supporting immigrants, homeless or other people in need of help in your city. Demand support from local government and use your voice to help others!

If you like these ideas for improving your city, but are not sure how to start, get in touch with me! As a consultant on participation in cities, I am happy to support your project with my expertise and help you implement and evaluate it.

Do you like the work that I do? Consider supporting the blog by buying me a tea! I’m so thankful for your support!


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