Street-Level Democracy? Urban professionals as participatory innovators in neighbourhood planning processes

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In 2017 the municipality of Amsterdam launched a programme to combat a housing shortage and realise ambitious societal goals for 32 of its most deprived neighbourhoods. After decades of urban renewal projects, these areas still scored poorly on most socio-economic indicators. The programme aims to develop more affordable housing for low- and middleincome households, to revitalise the existing public spaces of these neighbourhoods and to improve the residents’ socio-economic position. In addition, , the progressive municipal council installed in 2018 intends to democratise urban renewal processes with the aim of increasing community involvement. The first phases of the urban renewal programme have now been completed and the ‘streetlevel bureaucrats’ involved adopted the democratization agenda. The focus has shifted to the challenges these bureaucrats face. To identify the key challenges confronting them during the participation process, 30 qualitative interviews were conducted. In partnership with the municipality, the AUAS also developed a community of learning with street-level bureaucrats who work in the designated neighbourhoods by organising monthly learning sessions. These street-level bureaucrats work at the nexus of new participatory ambitions and ossified municipal bureaucracies. They are constantly searching for shortcuts within planning procedures to ensure that citizens’ needs and ideas are incorporated in the plans they develop. Their disruptive interventions potentially reveal effective pathways for democratic community-based development.
street-level bureaucrats, deprived neighbourhood, disruptive interventions, urban renewal