Building participation in agendas for sustainable cities: analysis of four experiences in Brazil


If there is a rapid gateway in the debate on the common future of humanity, it is the recognition that the population will grow until the middle of this century to levels never seen before, and that the urban life will find itself increasingly limited by ecological systems. It is like saying that the known problems now multiply in scale and add yet unprecedented complications.

But the city is also a powerful platform for meetings. As urban planner Richard Florida has illustrated, it is a hardware capable of running the software of creativity. Regions such as Latin America and the Caribbean, experiencing the phenomenon of urbanization at an even faster pace, with rates of 80% in some countries, offer innovation spillways in the field of urban planning, along with the developed world.

It is in this context that social participation must be understood in the route that lead to sustainable development. Not as a formality, an obstacle or a demagogy, but as the recognition of the impossibility of proposing effective solutions without access to the vast pool of intelligence that is forged in the innumerable ways of living the city and overcoming everyday challenges. Even more so when the objectives of the sustainable city are consistent with the assumptions of efficiency and environmental health with social inclusion. There is nothing more contradictory than imagining promoting equitable access to resources and opportunities without a process that emulate this same objective, expanding the arena of political action, including diverse voices and interests in the pursuit of common priorities.

As a result of a seven-month course that sought to understand the components of urban sustainability, this project focuses on new governance models and social technologies to build agendas for sustainable cities. The observation of four practical cases in which co-creation environments were created allows us to collect some learning and design challenges for a long-term trajectory. 

The results are also an invitation to reflect on how to put these lessons into practice and how to make them into actions - and transformations - in the real life of continuous construction and reconstruction of the cities we want.