Green neighbourhoods and participatory democracy: Processes to more fully engage communities in sustainability planning, design, policy and projects

Issues: What is a ‘Green Neighbourhood’? How can already built-out urban neighbourhoods plan for sustainability and become green neighbourhoods? How to design participation processes that more fully engage communities, including young people, in the 4 Ps: planning, policy development, projects and processes of change related to sustainable development? What role can participatory democracy play in engendering local leadership for sustainable development?

Objectives

-Inform participants about the Montreal Urban Ecology Centre and its work on neighbourhood sustainability planning, ‘Green Neighbourhoods’, and participatory democracy.

-Discuss and re-work guiding principles of ‘Green Neighbourhoods’.

-Test a set of group involvement techniques, such as participation response system and open space technology, to set the discussion agenda and to gauge priorities for participatory decision-making processes and green neighbourhoods

Process and activities

The workshop session will include a brief presentation on the participatory democracy and green neighbourhood work of the Montreal Urban Ecology Centre. Workshop participants will share responsibility in session learning by participating in a series of interactive activities during the workshop, such as: group analysis of proposed green neighbourhood guiding principles; agenda-setting with open space technology; and the use of an electronic participant response system to a series of questions which will provide immediate statistical results by charting the groups’ responses.

Following is a more detailed description of the Green Neighbourhood project of the Montreal Urban Ecology Centre, which will be explored and critiqued during the workshop session.

What is the Green Neighbourhood project about?

Sedentary lifestyles, particularly among young people, constitute a major factor in the obesity epidemic affecting Quebecers and threatening their health. The adoption of more active lifestyles is therefore important to prevent weight problems among young people.

The Green Neighbourhood project will contribute to improving the built environment for urban active transport, especially for young people, through developing green and healthy neighborhoods that favor active transport. Green neighbourhoods are defined as those places where public spaces and streets are for people; where active transport is safe and convenient; where people have a sense of connection with one another and with nature; and where there is a ‘sense of place’. By making changes to the built environment and ‘greening’ street infrastructure, new standards and practices will be developed that promote more healthy lifestyles in urban neighbourhoods.

The project includes the creation of tools, based on best practices, to support citizens and community stakeholders who want to change their everyday neighbourhood environments. Project tools will also be provided to municipal officials and professionals who are engaged in neighbourhood redevelopment processes that favor active transport. A public awareness campaign and advocacy for change are included in the project. Five neighbourhoods will be selected as pilot areas where a Green Neighbourhood planning process will be undertaken in partnership with citizens, youth, policy-makers and other stakeholders. The proposed approach is based on the idea of the neighborhood as the anchoring place to foster change in everyday lifestyles of young people, and project success is dependent on wide and meaningful public participation.