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12 Chapter 09 Public Participation

12 Chapter 09 Public Participation

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Sustainable Neighbourhoods Design Manual - produced by the Sustainability Institute 2009/2010
Sustainable Neighbourhoods Design Manual - produced by the Sustainability Institute 2009/2010

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Published by: Sustainable Neighbourhoods Network on Nov 29, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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page 137
“What hope
is there or individual reality or authenticity when the orces o violence and orthodoxy, theearthly powers o guns and bombs and manipulated public opinion make it impossible or us to be authenticand ullled human beings? The only hope is in the creation o alternative values, alternative realities. The only hope is in daring to redreamone’s place in the world – a beautiul act o imagination, and a sustained act o sel-becoming. Which is tosay that in some way or another we breach and conound the accepted rontiers o things.”
Ben Okri, A Way o Being Free, 1989
by Eve Annecke and Pierre Roux
chapter 9
Socio-ecologicalStrandS of publicparticipation
Socio-ecological participationthe context
 A socioecological approach
to sustainable neighbourhoods embeds all human activity within theeco-system o which it is part, recognising its limits and constraints. It seems the abric that knits togetherindividuals, communities, nature and sustainable resource use is intangible, uncertain and ambiguous. While
page 138
the challenges, contradictions and paradoxes within sustainable development are requently stark andconfictual, it is also within these tensions that possibilities arise or ‘doing things dierently’. This chapterwill attempt to provide pointers and various approaches to socio-ecological development within sustainableneighbourhoods. These approaches can serve as orms o scaolding which can bridge the gap betweenpolicy, current practice and the goal o sustainable living and livelihoods. This we intend to do rstly throughkey aspects o enabling capabilities within multiple participants in neighbourhoods; and, secondly byhighlighting South Arican stories o sustainability in practice.What is proposed is that learning is determined by context. Deeply embedded practice may demonstratepossibilities in one context that are dierent in another. A way o being that rests in not-knowing may wellbe better grounded in listening, learning, making connections and stitching together solutions combiningskills, knowledge and wisdom o ocials, communities, proessionals and technologies. While one-size-ts-all approaches are understandable in their attempt to standardize learning and ‘take it to scale’, theseapproaches too requently ignore complexities, provide simplistic and mechanistic solutions which denypossibilities or a local home-brew that creatively works with potentialities o specic contexts. The importance o the role o the public sector is critical in designing and building sustainable neighbourhoodsettlements. It is well recognised that the paradigm o development emphasising nancial investment or growthper individual has shited. Indeed, South Arica’s own proclamations o ‘a developmental state’ are movingencouragingly towards a more appropriate paradigm. Amartya Sen and Peter Evans argue or ‘developmentas reedom.’ Evans (2002) quotes Sen as ollows: “Development as Freedom’s basic proposition is that weshould evaluate development in terms o “the expansion o the ‘capabilities’ o people to lead the kind o livesthey value—and have reason to value” (Evans. 2002) which is Sen’s denition o reedom.Unlike increases in income, the expansion o people’s “capabilities” depends both on the elimination o oppression and on the provision o acilities like basic education, health care, and social saety nets. Basiceducation, health care, and women’s rights are themselves constitutive o development. Growth in realoutput per head is also likely to expand people’s capabilities, especially at lower levels o income, but itcannot be considered, in itsel, the ultimate yardstick o development or well-being. (Evans. 2002)Evans continues by pointing out: “The upshot o Sen’s argument … implies that choices about thoseallocations and growth strategies must be “democratic,” not just in the “thin” sense o having leadershipsuccession determined by a regular electoral process, but in the “thick” sense o messy and continuousinvolvement o the citizenry in the setting o economic priorities. And, this democratic imperative does notfow rom the act that “democracy is also a good thing.” It fows rom the act that it is not possible toevaluate economic outputs without such ull-fedged discussion and exchange.” (Evans. 2002)In continuing to grapple with Sen’s proposition, Evans makes the point that Sen’s work is still in the liberaltradition o ocusing on individuals and their relationship with a social context. Evans takes this urther bymaking collectives and collective approaches the bridge between the two: “In practice, my ability to choose
page 139
the lie I have reason to value oten hangs on the possibility o my acting together with others who havereason to value similar things. Individual capabilities depend on collective capabilities.” In act, as Sen’s ownormulations about the importance o “public discussion and interchange” imply, the capability o choosingitsel may be, in essence, a collective rather than an individual capability.” (Evans. 2002)
Socio-ecological participationthe practice
Beginning with what is
, what exists and, in particular, individuals and small groups alreadydemonstrating the will to take responsibility or change, we have chosen several multi-nodal, oten parallel,processes that seem most helpul in building thick networks o socio-ecological capabilities. These are:continuous social conversations, alliance and partnership building; appreciative inquiry; accredited capacitybuilding in community development practice; and the people’s housing process. It is recognised that thereare other processes (like micro-credit clubs linked to housing) and denitions o processes that are notexplored in this chapter. It is also recognised that many o the case studies listed below could all within morethan one category.
Continuous social conversations, alliance and partnership building
 The capacity o ocials to build capabilities in continuous social conversations, alliance and partnershipbuilding, in ormal and inormal ways, within enabling policy rameworks appears to be one o the keysto successul implementation o existing policies within sustainable neighbourhood design. Ocials whoare able to play an active role in participating with communities through providing deep knowledge o theplanning laws and processes; active participation in conversations that co-create solutions within legallimits and constraints; making connections between various participants in local spaces that generate newenergy; actively seek ways o making possible creative innovations within accountable and ethical terms o engagement between community, private and public sector partnerships contribute in major ways to buildingspaces o possibility.

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