As multiple as UIA cities and their contexts are, as manifold are their approaches. Experience from GUARDIAN (Riba-roja de Túria) has shown that complex situations with many different stakeholders require a careful selection of participation forms, involved groups, timing and intensity. Involving them too early without having clearly defined roles for different citizens and their intervention options would risk to raise wrong expectations. Some experience in the past has shown that such insufficient preparation of the process result in disappointment from citizens and dropping engagement. For example, Amsterdam once experienced resistance against participation events as citizens had felt that these were just organised to inform them and their input would not be included.
Therefore, projects must actively involve citizens in the development and implementation of solutions, thus, enabling them to have a real impact. OASIS (Paris) has invited ambassador students to re-design their playgrounds in playful co-creation workshops. Together with teachers they went through a detailed analysis of the different areas of the yard and came up with a first use map. IGNITION (Greater Manchester) has organised an Eco- Street competition where local communities could submit their ideas to green their back-alley ways or neighbourhood squares. IGNITION supported them with small grants and technical advice. Both examples have created greater awareness and engagement due to a feeling of ownership for the places.
Effective citizens engagement needs to be embedded in a supportive framework in terms of knowledge, awareness, willingness, trust and an open-minded attitude, financial incentives and a budget for collaboration, legal conditions, among others. It is important to start the participatory process early and put the focus on the needs of the citizens rather than on the municipality’s project goals. Language and knowledge need to be adapted so that the different groups can understand. Appointing a guardian or neighbourhood ambassador to work with the different groups is also an effective tool. It is important to give them a clear mandate and budget.
Legal and administrative barriers at local, regional, or national level can hamper local adaptation planning. For example, CartujaQanat (Seville) needed to experiment with different forms of public private partnership models. The new partnership framework agreement fitting to Seville’s circumstances including the University, the city, the managing company for the science park and others will foster ongoing commitment to the management of the newly created space and explicitly ensure broad citizen engagement in different forms to create climate-resilient lively public space that belongs to citizens.