Consultancy firms as intermediaries: their perceptions on community involvement in urban development (work in progress, please do not cite without permission)

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Consultancy firms are key-players in urban development as they are knowledge depositories, and have knowledge of regulations, real estate development, and planning processes in the western world. They are intermediaries for public and private parties and can play a role in the exchange of policy ideas and views. The responsibility of translating community interests in informal and formal agreements in urban development is increasingly outsourced to consultants. As external agents, they can shortcut institutional boundaries and find new ways to engage with communities and other stakeholders in urban development projects (UDPs). This study explores the role of consultants in urban planning practices. Specifically, their role in how to involve communities in the planning processes and how to incorporate community interests in urban development. This study is part of a broader research, aimed to investigate community-linked incremental urban development and its ability to find smart solutions to address economic, social and environmental challenges. The following research question is stated: ‘Which perceptions on community involvement in urban development do employees of consultancy firms have and how do they incorporate or forfeit community interests in urban development?’ To explore the role of consultants in urban development I have chosen for a single case-study. A single case study helps to explore in depth the perceptions of consultants on the involvement of community interests in urban development. I also explore the relationship of consultants with their clients. The relation between consultants and their clients is described ranging from the idea that consultants are neutral actors because they are hired by their clients to the idea that consultants are some kind of ‘shadow government’ or ‘consultocracy’ (Hodge and Bowman, 2006; Saint-Martin, 1998).
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Spaces of Dialog for Places of Dignity, Lisbon, 11-14th July, 2017
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