In and beyond Europe today we witness strengthened structural spatial divisions within city neighbourhoods, with increased inequality and sharper lines of division. Neighbourhoods are increasingly diverse in socio-economic, social and ethnic terms, but many differences also exist in lifestyles, attitudes and activities. Continuing immigration and increasing socio-economic and ethnic concentration in neighbourhoods question social cohesion in local societies worldwide.

In Europe, high rates of unemployment, austerity and poverty make diverse neighbourhoods and local societies increasingly complex and contested. The polarisation of urban space exacerbates and ethnic concentration in neighbourhoods overlaps with situations of social exclusion and deprivation.

Against this backdrop, we witness a stalled urban regeneration investment as well as the welfare state provisions across many European cities and disadvantaged neighbourhoods, 

with finance enormously inhibited outside core economic areas following the 2007 financial crisis; more importantly, dissimilar top-down revitalisation strategies have resulted in new urban dynamics and urban tensions, gentrification processes and social exclusion.

In this context, urban neighbourhoods have become a privileged unit of policy intervention where community-based initiatives have been experimented with the aim to produce social cohesion and transforming power relations and socio-spatial inequalities. Social innovation has become a buzzword often associated to community-led regeneration processes.

But the efficacy of community-based initiatives inspired by a social innovative approach needs to be further assessed in a condition when the State is constantly retreating.


Research Questions

Governance innovation/institutional learning

Public institutions in Europe are increasingly challenged to find new ways to provide public value in an open, transparent way. In a growing number of small and large cities across Europe, citizens are engaged and mobilized in neighboourhood to demonstrate their ability in creating new solutions to respond to emergent needs. NEIGHBOURCHANGE will look at how local institutions change their governance frameworks as well as functioning being confronted with community based initiatives and with the impact of the welfare state constraints in the provision of urban services. The Project will also look at how community based organizations’ action change, being confronted with changing institutions and social needs.

istitutional learning

Socio-spatial inequalities:

Whether and how community-based initiatives inspired by an innovative social approach targeting deprived neighbourhoods can intervene on increasing socio-spatial inequalities; on which elements should be based the evaluation of their impact.

Citizen-driven innovation increases the possibilities for a broader range of people to become directly involved in all stages of social action, but social and spatial barriers are strongly preventing community participation of most vulnerable groups, particularly in those contexts affected by socio-economic and ethnic differences. NEIGHBOURCHANGE aims at look into the inclusion/exclusion dynamics, focusing on the elements that can promote more inclusive strategies of co-creation and positively intervene on socio-spatial inequalities.


Planning theory and practice

Urban planning theory is confronted with the necessity to re-consider the role of experts in the planning action:  citizens are engaged and mobilized to demonstrate their ability in creating innovative solutions for important social issues, urban action is more and more a co-creation process that is changing the urban planning practices as well as the role (and expertise) of urban planners. Community planning and community organizing becomes key features to design more inclusive societies. NEIGHBOURCHANGE aims at understanding to what extent a more inclusive and affordable neighbourhood change can be promoted through a complex set of path-dependent and contextual community development strategies instead of pure state-led or market driven approaches and top down approaches that have in many cases resulted in new urban dynamics and urban tensions, gentrification processes and social exclusion.

Illustrazione urban planner