‘Creating a Resilient and Inclusive City’: Bellagio Workshop, March 7th-9th, 2017
In cities of the global south, city hall is not fully sovereign and a variety of social actors, including national and local governments, businesses, and residents influence how and where people live. Creating a resilient and inclusive city means that all key actors must collaborate to address mounting social, economic and structural problems effectively. More specifically, our workshop focused on the concept of inclusionary infrastructure as one key version of collaboration around service delivery in urban governance. Inclusionary infrastructure refers to deliberative, participative and unruly modes of engagement by urban residents, social movements, businesses and the state in different types of spaces, including public meetings, the media, courts, and demonstrations, in order to create more equitable access to services for marginalised groups in cities.
The workshop brought together 22 researchers, government officials and activists from civil society from across the global south (Bangladesh, Brazil, India and South Africa) to reflect on their experience in building forms of collaboration to address urban service delivery for marginalised groups. Prior to the workshop, the academic participants produced papers, the government and NGO participants wrote policy documents, and the community activists produced short films. These documents and films were used as the basis for engaging at length on how different participatory, deliberative and confrontational spaces could be used to enable better service delivery, especially for marginalised groups.
Three key insights surfaced at the workshop on how to create an inclusionary infrastructure:
- It is important to cultivate formal and informal leadership in state, civil society and communities committed to building inclusive infrastructure.
- It is important to create trust through networks of collaboration across key urban actors, including across government and civil society organisations; and
- It is important to build organisations that are able to use a mosaic of methods from protest to the media and the courts to drive strategies for inclusion of marginalized groups.
A very important and pioneering element of the workshop was in the way it created the space for conversations and engagement between disparate groups – academics, activists, government, and community leaders. The workshop also used an innovative form of knowledge making using a story-telling method. This allowed diverse participants with widely ranging skill-sets to work together on a level playing field to co-construct a narrative on the workshop theme. In itself this innovative approach can be seen as a form of inclusionary infrastructure. In addition though, our collective reflection on the stories yielded additional insights into important features of inclusionary infrastructure. These were
- The enduring challenge of identifying and transforming individual challenges into collective grievances.
- The reality of multiple legitimate and democratic leaders beyond just appointed/elected officials.
- Ensuring that the voice of marginalised groups is heard in the cacophony of urban politics.
- The key role of a mosaic of political tactics, rather than just protest, as a political strategy.
- The critical value of forming alliances between organisations of the marginalised and other key social actors, especially in the state, to secure social change.
- The critical importance to move beyond social movements politics to achieve change by institutionalising accountability mechanisms.
- Addressing, at the policy level, the underlying causes of social exclusion, as well as the symptoms, like greater vulnerability to violence by those without property.
The workshop concluded by reflecting on ways to take these insights forward in respect of:
- Policy initiatives (tentative agreements on collaboration at a country-level on further policy ideas)
- Research initiatives (the publication of papers prepared for the workshop)
- Collaborations arising from group (a new CORD leadership was elected, and programme initiative begun, building on the Bellagio reflections).
- A collaboration on the creation of a curated on-line space for ‘stories from the city’ on the lived experiences of marginalisation and how it is being addressed.
An initial version of the ‘stories from the city’ will be on our website in the next two weeks, and further outcomes like publications will be added as they arise, and forwarded to the Bellagio office.