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JPIURBAN-Urban Europe

JPI Urban Europe: Simulations for innovative mechanisms for the selforganizing City: testing new tools for valuecapturing

Awarded: NOK 1.2 mill.

The SimsCity project studies potentials for self-organization and collaboration in urban development processes. The project is designed to explore the foundations for cooperative relationships, like trust, willingness to take risks and the perception of fair distribution in collaborative projects. The purpose is to learn more about the potential for self-organization and co-creation within the field of urban development. Background In Norway, like most European cities, redevelopment is the politically favored growth model. In Europe, urban redevelopment processes have been accompanied by strong public sector involvement. But budget constraints imply that in the future initiatives from landowners, builders and civil society will play a larger role. This is why it is important to learn more about private actors self-organizing. European cities also experience significant initiatives from the public. For instance, the new local planning act in England allows residents to develop land-use plans for the area in which they reside, and in Belgium, groups of home seekers join forces to create their own co-housing schemes. At the same time, knowledge of the power of such self-organizing and cooperation cultures is scarce among planners and researchers. Research design and method To explore the potentials for self-organizing, the research project applied methods of behavioural economics to design various types of experiments. The core of the project is to outline decision-making situations, relevant and recognizable to the actors (builders, consultants, planners, residents), and convert the situations into games. The games ask the actors to do certain actions and assessments, as means to reveal actors? propensities toward cooperation and coalition building. - In one game property developers, their consultants and planners were invited to a play game about joint investment in a (fictional) development project. The game was designed so that one actor?s contribution affected the return for one selves as well as the other players. Exactly the same game was played in Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands. This gave researchers the opportunity to compare degrees of trust, risk willingness, and the inclination to enter into binding coalitions. - A second game was designed to identify perceptions of fair distribution between various actors who have joined urban development projects coalitions. The researchers constructed coalition situations where the players had different significance for the implementation of the project, and then asked the players to identify what should be fair distribution of return. The same game was performed in all four countries. This game was played by students from relevant professions in Norway, the Netherlands, England, and Belgium. - A third game was tailored to assess civil society initiatives: In Belgium, home seekers form coalitions as means to provide new homes. The research consortium jointly conducted a game designed to illuminate cultural conditions for co-housing. This game asked the players about their willingness to participate in coalitions of co-housing projects under varying conditions, including different forms of public authorities? support. This game was played with students from relevant professions, in Norway, the Netherlands, England, and Belgium. The common denominator in all games is to explore the basis for mobilization for cooperation and coalitions in urban Development situations. Findings: The main gain in the SimsCity research project relates to methodological testing. One conclusion is that experiments are well suited to highlight potentials for collaboration, self-organizing and co-creation in urban development situations. The research project identifies cultural differences within urban planning. The degree of trust is higher in Norway than in other countries. In all countries, the degree of trust is higher between equal players. In terms of risk, the ability to take risk is generally low for actors involved in urban development and lower in the Netherlands and Belgium than in Norway. In Norway, we also see that calculated risk reduces ability to cooperate less than general uncertainty. A side effect of the experiments is that game situations sharpen the players' understanding of the importance of cooperation and the potential of forming coalitions. This is worth noting for practitioners who will solve complex challenges where market actors, planners and the populace meet - as is the case in urban development. The designing of recognizable and relevant experiments across countries have also deepened the researchers understanding of dissimilarities between the countries in terms of what role the planning authority takes in urban redevelopment, and the roles of private actors and civil society. This insight is important for international scholar conversations about urban planning.


To regenerate European cities, urban transformation (like the redevelopment of brownfield sites or docklands) has become a powerful, but often also problematic strategy. Anticipating less public sector involvement, this project seeks to develop innovative development strategies and tools that promote and stimulate the collaboration of e.g. property owners, residents, retailers and companies in taking the initiative for urban transformation themselves. Examples of these strategies include business improvem ents districts and urban land readjustment. We call this the self-organizing city. The researchers will conduct experiments with planning practitioners and other stakeholders to investigate possibilities of international policy transfer within Europe, of successful strategies that are used in one country to be used in other countries as well.

Funding scheme:

JPIURBAN-Urban Europe