null Co-creation of a new role for citizens' initiatives in area development: not easy, but certainly possible!

Co-creation of a new role for citizens' initiatives in area development: not easy, but certainly possible!
In a paper published in the Journal of Environmental Planning and Management in March 2018, Saskia Bisschops and Raoul Beunen, both from the Management, Science and Technology faculty of the Open Universiteit show that citizens' initiatives, together with municipalities and other stakeholders, are certainly capable of co-creating a new division of roles. But also that the road to that is not always easy.

Citizens' Initiative Gouda

The paper is based on an extensive case study of the citizens' initiative GOUDasfalt  in Gouda. Together with the municipality and other stakeholders, a group of citizens is transforming a former industrial site near the centre of Gouda into an attractive city bank on the Hollandse IJssel. As they themselves say: "a place where innovative, creative and social entrepreneurs do beautiful things with and for the inhabitants of city and country".


Saskia Bisschops: "Based on the research, it can be concluded that the role of the citizens' initiative GOUDasfalt is firmly anchored in local practice that virtually no new planning rules have been created. The solution for the organic development of the site has been found through a new interpretation of existing regulations a transformation brought about. What is visible, however, are several subtle changes within existing planning rules. Further research should increase the understanding of the effect of these gradual changes on a possibly more substantial transformation in the system of rules and guidelines for area development.

The advent of the new environmental law (Omgevingswet) makes studying these processes of change even more interesting. On the one hand because the law carries the promise that citizens must be given a more prominent role in area development. On the other hand, the notion of interested parties seems to be limited by the legislator and thus possibly the actual impact.

More information

An extensive Dutch-language article by Saskia Bisschops was published on
A concise English-language summary is available on Raoul Beunen's blog.
The paper can be downloaded as an  Open Access article.