Participatory Design and Diversity: Addressing Vulnerabilities through Social Infrastructure in a Lebanese Town Hosting Displaced People

Andreo Rigon, Joano Dabaj, and Hanna Baumann1


The number of forced migrants is at a global record high. Whether they have been displaced internally or across a national border, they mostly settle in urban areas. Where they represent a significant number, they can quickly change urban dynamics, from labour and housing markets to infrastructures and services. Moreover, refugees often settle in the poorest cities or parts of cities where rent and other living costs are lower. This means they live side-by-side with the most vulnerable and poorest local populations. This may generate tensions that build upon a number of other axes of difference, including religion, ethnicity, nationality, age and gender. These tensions can be exacerbated if international aid is directed at displaced people, such as refugees, while vulnerable host communities are not supported to a similar degree (see, for instance, Aukot, 2003). Hence, an approach that is sensitive to different groups’ various needs and the socio-spatial impact of identities is crucial.

This chapter reflects on the potential of a participatory methodology developed and tested in Bar Elias, a Lebanese town which received a large influx of Syrian refugees. The chapter shows how participatory design can create spaces that address the needs of vulnerable groups from all backgrounds, and how the process of co-designing physical infrastructures can transfomi social relations and build a human infrastructure able to negotiate and activate change processes. With the increasing protracted nature of displacement situations, humanitarian actors are rethinking the humanitarian-development nexus in the attempt to shift from short-tenn emergency support to long-tenn development planning. In this context, humanitarian interventions benefiting both host and refugee communities have the potential to change narratives of refugees as a burden because their presence can help transfomi cities with new infrastructures for all, and address the concerns of a number of marginal groups. In part to avoid aid-induced tensions, the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan endorsed by the Lebanese government and funded by international donors targets Syrian refugees and vulnerable members of the host Lebanese community equally (LCRP, 2019, p. 10). However, as identities play a key role in the use of these infrastructures, it is essential that they are planned, designed, and implemented in a manner that is sensitive to issues of diversity and thereby ensures the benefits are enjoyed by the most vulnerable residents. This is the challenge addressed by the participatory infrastructural design project discussed.

Urban Displacement

Global forced displacement reached a new high in 2018 with nearly 71 million people, 26 million of whom are displaced outside the borders of their country (UNHCR, 2019). The duration of displacement is also increasing, with protracted refugee situations across the globe now lasting an estimated average of 26 years (UNHCR, 2017) while 80% of refugees are in a protracted situation (UNHCR, 2019). 60% of refugees and an even higher percentage of internally displaced people live in urban areas (UNHCR, 2017). Most refugees move to neighbouring developing countries and many of these live in urban areas, often in the poorest cities, towns, and neighbourhoods, living side by side with the most vulnerable host populations. While the change of displacement setting from refugee camps to cities is part of a longer shift in the nature of displacement, UNHCR has only developed its thinking on urban refuge in the last decade (UNHCR, 2009). This chapter contributes to the ongoing discussion on best ways of promoting urban hosting and refugee integration. Cities are expanding their services to the displaced and, in partnership with humanitarian agencies, creating policies and programmes targeting the needs of all residents (Saliba, 2018). This means a reorientation of humanitarian practice to grapple with the humanitarian-development nexus as well as closer and more strategic work with municipalities to develop area-based approaches to improve urban infrastructures. However, such approaches consider the overall development of a geographical area and thus risk to make invisible the specific needs of the most marginalized residents, whether refugees or hosts. This is where a diversity lens becomes important, as we discuss below.

Human and Social Infrastructures

The role of infrastructures in urban wellbeing is widely discussed in academic and policy literature, including in literature on urban displacement, albeit often from a mere technical perspective (Haysorn, 2013; World Bank, 2017). Infrastructures have the capacity to address vulnerabilities or to create new ones. In fact, the construction of new infrastructures is a major driver of urban displacement across the Global South (Farha, 2011). At the same time, mass displacement requires new ways of thinking about, and designing, infrastructures in hosting countries. In this paper, we start from the basic meaning of infrastructures as the underlying foundations of a society. They play a role in shaping how people “relate to the city and to each other”, transforming social relations (Rodgers & O’Neill, 2012, p. 404). This is even more important for infrastructures that enable social activities, such as education and public space. Their design and accessibility may help create cohesion and justice - or foster exclusion and “infrastructural violence”, the latter generated by structural patterns of exclusions of specific individuals and groups consolidated, reproduced, and reinforced through infrastructures (Rodgers & O’Neill, 2012). The distribution and functioning of infrastructures thus play a key role in producing spatial justice or injustice (Soja, 2009).

Infrastructural interventions can create local employment, build local skills, and improve living conditions of both host and refugee communities. If fairly distributed, these economic benefits can contribute to social cohesion as local residents perceive a material benefit from the refugee presence. However, in their approach to infrastructures, most humanitarian agencies ignore important aspects of the design and implementation processes. Residents are a vital part of dynamic and functioning urban infrastructure systems, and yet they are seldom involved in decisions about them in the Global South.

Another relevant dimension of infrastructures regards the important role of building a “human infrastructure”,2 made of social relations and people’s capacities that can facilitate collective decision-making. Our use of human infrastructure refers to social relations but also to a capacity to engage with the other, to the tools enabling people to collectively analyse problems and respond to them. Such human infrastructure becomes all the more important in contexts characterised by conflict built on different dimensions of identity.

Diversity and Intersectionality

We all have multiple simultaneous identities, such as gender, class, race, and ethnicity, citizenship status (legal status), age, ability, and sexuality. Some of these identities are individual and other collective, and they are fluid, and in constant change (Bauman, 2000; Hall 1992). A fundamental way to understand how these identities shape different experiences, needs, and aspirations is the concept of intersectionality, that is, how the combination of multiple dimensions of identity creates unique experiences, especially of oppression or discrimination. Different aspects of individual and collective social identities play a crucial role in social processes, shaping life chances. The relationships between these different identities are intertwined with power. There are consolidated hierarchies and power relations amongst these identities, which makes them relational - this includes relations between men and women, black and white people, etc. These unequal relations between identities contribute to inequalities and marginalization processes. These identities and the relationships between them change in different contexts and over time, which means they are socially constructed, and thus they can be socially deconstructed. Therefore, addressing these inequalities requires a relational, contextual, and intersectional approach focused on transforming power relations that are at the core of social identities, making the recognition of diversity a political process. These were the considerations that underpinned the way our co-design process in Bar Elias was conceived, and which were directly addressed with participants throughout.

Different Approaches to Participatory Methodologies

Our methodology combines different participatory approaches. They share a number of elements, but we present them separately for analytical clarity. Each approach is often understood in slightly different ways within different disciplines and there are complex epistemological and methodological debates underpinning them. We focus only on the aspects of these methodologies that are relevant to our work.

In the 1980s, the failure of large-scale, state-driven, and top-down approaches - which ignored the priorities and needs of the poor - accelerated a debate on participator)' development with the idea of putting the last first in the planning of development interventions (Chambers, 1983). The key idea was to learn from the poor, who are the experts regarding their complex social reality, in order to design more appropriate programmes. Within humanitarian assistance, participatory approaches were also conceived to rethink the role of beneficiaries from passive recipients of aid to active agents in charge of shaping their future.

An important and problematic issue relating to participatory approaches is their often- idealised view of harmonious “natural” communities, a view which suffers from a lack of understanding of power structures (Guijt & Shah, 1998). Participation is the outcome of a political process influenced by participants’ inequalities in terms of access to resources and power (Mayoux, 1995, p. 245). A number of criticisms have been raised about how participatory methodologies have unwittingly built upon pre-existing power structures, often reinforcing them (Mosse, 2005) to the advantage of the ‘learning elites’ (Wilson, 2006). These learning elites are formed by local people who have learnt how to manage the discourse of participation and its language, and are able to exploit these skills to gain (or maintain) privileged access to development resources. However, under some conditions, participatory processes can also have an emancipator)' potential which may “enable those excluded (...) to exercise agency through the institutions, spaces and strategies they make and shape for themselves” (Cornwall, 2002, p. 78). It is in this context that a diversity lens became a central concern of this team in the attempt to shape participatory methodologies capable of dealing with local power imbalances.

Participatory Action Research seeks to transform power relations by challenging conventional processes of knowledge production (Gaventa & Cornwall, 2008). It is a process used by people who try to collectively address issues within their communities and organizations. Cycles of research, action, and reflection are deployed to engage with issues that are significant for those who participate in the process and become co-researchers. Such approaches challenge positivism and acknowledge the importance of the perspectives of the co-researchers in understanding their reality and acting (Reason & Bradbury, 2008). The outcomes of such research are therefore strongly shaped by the selection of participants.

Participatorу design or co-design builds on key elements of participatory action research. Throughout the research process, participants iteratively construct the emerging design which constitutes the research results, while at the same time producing more findings through participants’ co-interpretation and use of these results. The process uses participants’ tacit knowledge to explore invisible issues. In the urban context, participatory design builds on the assumption of the social production of space and thus mobilises social relations to rethink space production. Another important aspect is participatory design “as community building” (Frediani, French, & Ferrera, 2011): establishing new relationships, mutual understanding, and collective knowledge. In the process, participator)' design builds capacities of residents to work together to analyse their social reality, imagine a different scenario, and plan for it. However, a number of questions remain open around what capacity, whose capacity, and capacity for what, processes of participatory design can build. To avoid the process of participator)' design reinforcing specific voices and further building the capacity of locally dominant individuals and groups, we argue for a diversity lens to ensure the involvement of diverse groups.

Citizen science is based on the belief that collaborative research creates more meaningful outcomes, both for the academy and the communities involved. This involves training a group of residents to become coresearchers. As in participatory action research, their involvement is not limited to data collection, but they help frame the questions and analyse the results (Heckler et al., 2018). As a multi-disciplinary team with a long experience in participatory approaches in very different contexts and type of projects, we have developed the methodological approach discussed in this chapter which synthesises elements from these approaches.

Research Methodology

The participatory spatial intervention in Bar Elias sought to test novel ways in which refugees and host communities could work together to design infrastructural interventions that would address the vulnerabilities of all residents. The process started on the ground in August 2018 with the recruitment of seven citizen scientists amongst the town’s residents and concluded in August 2019 with the monitoring of the use of the completed physical interventions. We used the process itself and the information collected in the preparation of a design brief as data for this paper. As this process was set up as a research project about the intervention, we complemented the data with interviews with citizen scientists and workshop participants at various stages of the process, and interviews conducted by citizen scientists with residents. We also collected regular observations and short street interviews with users of the interventions built by the project. It is important to highlight that this intervention is based on the longterm community-led work in the town of CatalyticAction, a not-for-profit design studio which has built relationships of trust prior to the short project discussed here. It also forms part of a wider academic engagement with the town; the citizen scientists are now working with other researchers. The intervention was funded by the British Academy project “Public services and vulnerability in the Lebanese context of large-scale displacement”, which is funded by the Grand Challenge Research Fund, part of the UK Overseas Development Aid.

The Town of Bar Elias

Lebanon is the country hosting the highest number of refugees per capita worldwide — every fourth resident is a refugee. Bar Elias is a town located halfway between Beirut and Damascus, respectively Lebanon’s and Syria’s capitals, and part of the Beqaa valley where most of

TABLE 14.1 Project timeline

August 2018

• Recruitment of local researchers from across different local communities

September 2018

  • • DPU SummerLab Workshop “Public Realm and Spaces of Refuge”
  • • Identification of intervention location

October 2018

  • • Local researchers recruit workshop participants
  • • Participatory planning workshop

November 2018

• Shops mapping assessment

December 2018

  • • Preliminary design
  • • Design consultations with municipality and community
  • • Letter of intent from municipality

January 2019

  • • Final design
  • • Design consultation
  • • Permits obtained

February 2019

  • • Detailed design
  • • Procurement

March 2019

• Procurement

April 2019

• Planning the community engaged construction

May 2019

• Community engaged construction of interventions

June - August 2019

• Monitor usage and impact of interventions

the 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon are settled. The municipality of Bar Elias has welcomed displaced Syrians since the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, given the town’s close proximity to the Syrian border, existing social and family networks, and its majority Sunni religious affiliation. However, this influx has put pressure on public services and Bar Elias has witnessed rapid transformations in response to the needs of the different communities living there, estimated to be 70,000 Lebanese, 7,000 Palestinian Refugees, and between 31,000 and 45,000 displaced Syrians (Ullrich, 2018). Humanitarian agencies consider Bar Elias one of the most vulnerable localities in Lebanon and to be under ‘high pressure’ due to the high ratio of refugees to hosts (Inter-Agency Coordination Lebanon, 2015).

The majority of refugee households in the Веера area live in non-pennanent or non-residential shelters (UNICEF, UNHCR, & WFP, 2020). Over 100 informal tented settlements, where Syr- iaas face substandard housing conditions with limited space, have proliferated on agricultural fields and empty lots around Bar Elias (UNHCR, 2016). Despite the dire living conditions of many refugees in Lebanon, the fact that infrastructural services have been insufficient in Lebanon since the end of the civil war in 1990 (Verdeil, 2018), government statements and residents’ opinions reflect the sense that infrastructural services are overstretched due to the presence of displaced Syr- iaas (Ministry of Environment, 2014; ARK, 2017). While tensions between hosts and refugees appear to be comparatively low in Bar Elias - partially explained by the long history of existing relationships and cross-border exchange and migration - there is nonetheless competition over resources and conflict over the rapid change in the town (Ullrich, 2018). The participatory design process sought to engage all groups living in Bar Elias in order to address the needs of the most vulnerable in a manner sensitive to these tensions.

Making a Physical Intervention

Following an open call disseminated through local networks and institutions, 18 candidates for citizen scientist positions were shortlisted. Seven were recruited and trained to work as citizen scientists: three Palestinians (one female, two male), two Syrians (one female, one male) and two Lebanese (one female, one male). After a one-week workshop with citizens, scientists and local and international students to reflect on public spaces in Bar Elias, the site for the participatory spatial intervention was identified: the entrance road to the town, which was the only place used by all three communities. This road is characterised by the presence of many businesses, services, including health centres, and wide footpaths, making it an important social hub, actively used at different times.

The key activity to shape the intervention was a participatory design workshop, delivered as an intensive six-day process. In discussion with the team, citizen scientists helped identify 12 other people to ensure the creation of a group representing the diversity of Bar Elias residents across a number of dimensions, including nationality, gender, age, and socio-economic status. The 12 participants ranged in age from 19 to 65: two Palestinians (both female), four Syrian (two female, two male), and six Lebanese (three female, three male).

The workshop took place in a community centre located adjacent to the intervention site. The participants were introduced to participatory design and spatial interventions through the discussion of a wide range of examples from around the world. Each example showed how an intervention responded to particular needs, allowed for different activities to take place, created a specific impact in its context, and worked differently for different individuals and groups. Participants reflected on how the principles underpinning some of the examples might work in Bar Elias. In particular, the group considered the potential impact of any such change on different individuals and groups and on the relationships between them. The participants were then divided into three groups, each assigned a different research method (space use observation, participatory mapping, and semi-structured interviews) to initiate the study of the intervention site and residents’ vulnerabilities at various scales. After a stint of data collection, each group met to reflect on how best to reach a diversity of research participants, particularly in terms of gender, age, nationality, ability but also occupation and relationship with the road (e.g., passers-by, shop owners). Workshop participants considered how different methods shape the type of data collected and how each method was suited to understanding specific aspects. Reflections involved thinking about the complementarity and the possibility of triangulating data collected with different methods, and identifying the knowledge gaps that still existed.

Through a joint analysis, the identified vulnerabilities were aggregated and organized around three core areas: socio-economic vulnerabilities; lack of safe and public spaces for all; pollution and health vulnerabilities. Each group was tasked with exploring one of these areas by developing a problem tree, which identified the causes and the effects of these vulnerabilities. These were discussed by all participants to identify interconnections and consider how people are differently affected by infrastructural deficits, based on their identities and existing vulnerabilities.

Participants were then asked to build a vision of the town by imagining their perfect day in Bar Elias with family and friends through the use of different formats, including poetry and drawing. From individual visions, each group developed a shared vision, careful to respect

Participatory' design session Source

FIGURE 14.1 Participatory' design session Source: CatalyticAction individual differences. An individual and collective process of visioning in a safe space can stimulate marginalized groups’ aspirations, which are often lowered by their situation.

The next step was the formulation of solutions to address the causes of the vulnerabilities previously identified and exploring the effects of these solutions through ‘solution trees’ paralleling the ‘problem trees’. Participants were also encouraged to think about who would and would not benefit from the solutions proposed. The process was devised so that the solutions also contribute towards the achievement of the wider vision.

To see how solutions could be translated into practice in a specific space and reflect on the design process, workshop participants visited a participatory designed playground and a park next to the intervention site which had fallen into disrepair. The visits entailed discussions on the role of participatory design and helped participants to think through the connections between the physical spaces and the social processes that shaped them, and which they in turn enabled.

Each participant was given a satellite map and pictures of all the sections of the intervention site, and invited to draw their proposed interventions first individually, and then in groups. Each group developed and presented a design brief - a detailed analysis and set of guidelines about the interventions proposed. In an internal exhibition, participants were asked to review other groups’ work, ask questions, and write down their comments to jointly discuss afterwards. The aim of the open discussion was to prepare a joint design brief with some proposed interventions, which had to be explicit about which individuals and groups were likely to benefit or not.

The proposed interventions included improved safety mechanisms such as traffic lights, pedestrian crossings and access ramps, as well as resting areas through the construction of street shading, benches, bus and taxi stop shelters, and drinking water points. There were also proposals for beautification, greening and signage that would build a sense of shared local identity and responsibility. Making the road more child-friendly with colours and games on the sidewalks was also proposed. Wider programmatic proposals included the activation of the derelict park with a playground, and structured activities that would allow it to serve as an inter-communal meeting space. Other proposed activities were awareness-raising campaigns and educational outreach to communities living in different contexts of Bar Elias, tackling issues that affected everyone, such as pollution.

Although each group started considering a different type of vulnerability, many of the interventions suggested were similar, indicating that an intervention can tackle more than one type of vulnerability. Another important point was made regarding the different impacts of an intervention on different individuals and groups. Following the internal discussion and development of a joint design brief, the latter was presented to the public in an interactive exhibition on the main road. During this exhibition, after Friday prayers (one of the busiest times) passers-by and participants’ friends and families provided feedback. The written and oral comments from dozens of respondents, including the mayor, were collectively analysed by workshop participants and incorporated into a final design brief.

Citizen scientists had further training on intersectionality which was complemented by a role play in which they were asked to assume a different identity and consider how ‘their’ position along various axes of difference would impact their capabilities and choices. This enabled a discussion on how the intersection of different identities shapes the life chances and agency of people in the context of Bar Elias, and allowed the citizen scientists to recognise and explain to others the complexities of diversity throughout the phases of the interventions and its monitoring. Citizen scientists were also involved in a mapping exercise of all businesses along the road and of the specific uses of each part of the sidewalks.

The final design brief and this additional information were then used by CatalyticAction, to prepare a preliminary design of the physical interventions which was presented to participants and the public for another round of feedback. This was also presented to the mayor and the public works department of Bar Elias. After reviewing their feedback, CatalyticAction developed a detailed technical design, obtained permits from the municipality, and started the procurement process.

With the help of citizen scientists, local subcontractors were hired for the skilled work required in building the interventions: a Palestinian concrete foreman, a Syrian welder, a Lebanese Carpenter, and a Syrian gardener. 15 Syrian and Palestinian general construction labourers resident in Bar Elias as well as seven women (two Palestinians, three Syrians, and two Lebanese) were hired in the building works. Moreover, local community members participated in activities around the revitalisation of the park, the painting of benches and murals. Recycled materials were collected across schools across Lebanon and then used in the construction of shade structures.

The final intervention included public spaces for gathering - most prominently, a large circular seating area built on a wide pavement next to the polyclinic, where patients often wait for their appointments but which previously lacked shade and benches. To create sufficient shade and some rain protection, a rectangular metal screen covers the seating area and contains Arabic phrases about the values and hopes for Bar Elias that emerged during the participatory design workshop. The area contains play features for children and the benches are also covered in colourful mosaics made from discarded tiles by two local artists. Seating was added along the sidewalk together with smaller shades. Four further benches were added next to taxi stands on both sides of the road and trees were planted along the sidewalks, creating much-needed shade for pedestrians and shopkeepers.

The sidewalk along the Bar Elias entrance road is up to 60cm high in some places, leading to many pedestrians walking on the road, exposing themselves to speeding cars. In order to facilitate better access, ramps were built onto the sidewalks. Speed bumps were installed on the road to discourage speeding. Floor games were painted along the sidewalks, adding colours and playfulness. Street signs were added to locate important areas and spotlights installed overlooking the main seating area and a public garden, making it safer at night.

A park that had fallen into disrepair was part of a collective clean-up session. A local gardener was employed, new trees were planted, and wooden benches installed, as well as a rehabilitated entrance and paved path. During the implementation, different community activities took place, collecting and reusing plastics to make shade structures, painting the wooden benches and a mural that encourages cycling in the city. On a busy night of Ramadan, the project was inaugurated in an interactive performance attended by children and their parents.

Refugees and Residents as Agents of Urban Transformation Researching Power Relations

Researching power relations and their relationship with vulnerabilities and infrastructure is a challenging task, even more so in a sectarian country, with a history of civil war across religious and political divides. Examining and discussing these issues can be problematic as these identities are socially constructed and eliciting discussion of these divisions contributes to validating them (Brubaker, 2006). Therefore, it is better to observe how they emerge empirically in social interaction, without starting from preconceived ideas of the relevance of specific identities over others. A diversity-sensitive participatory design intervention as a research methodology to identify and study power relations offers a privileged observation point to explore these relations through practice and to face the related challenges.

For example, one resident of Bar Elias refused to have an access ramp built on the pavement in front of his building. Despite municipal approval and the fact the intervention was on public space, the municipality could not challenge the power this man asserted. An infrastructure like the planned set of disability ramps loses a lot of its utility if the accessible path is interrupted by a missing ramp. Therefore, the power of one man can undermine a collective effort.

Another important issue raised by many users of the public spaces was how more powerful groups could shape the interventions for their own benefit. In particular, the concern was that motorbikes would use the ramps to drive on the footpaths to escape traffic, show off, or park, furthering the risks to other users. This sparked a reflection on appropriation and the need for education and awareness to ensure these public interventions would have a positive impact.

We also found that there was much less hostility towards Syrians compared to what is generally assumed in policy literature — but we found that the dynamics of spatial segregation had severely limited interactions between hosts and Syrians, thus reducing reciprocal trust. Because of this, the presence of a diverse group of trained local citizen scientists was fundamental to working through local tensions and mediating conflict when it was needed.

Transforming Social Relations through the Process of Co-Design

There are two intertwined ways through which the intervention transformed social relations: through the impact of the physical intervention, and through the social process of co-design itself. Many efforts were made to create an environment where all felt able to participate. Each workshop participant had at least a connection with someone else in the group which helped them to feel safe. The seven citizen scientists working in the groups had strong relationships with the five facilitators, enabling an open communication channel to voice any concern and discuss tensions. The design workshop and the overall process created a disruptive space of freedom for participants as well as a process of personal transformation in which, for the first time, Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians of different age groups, genders, education level, and class were able to work together as equals. Elderly people said they felt young again because they were directly addressed by younger participants without the formality of the strong age hierarchy present in society that can isolate them. At the same time, less educated group members felt their voice was heard by more educated residents.

The group also became aware of unequal gender relations in their attempt to gather data. For example, one woman who was very eager to talk, was stopped from being interviewed by her husband. The next day, the group saw her in a shop and interviewed her. Gender equality was advanced through insurgent practice. The municipality had explicitly said that they would not accept any project directly aiming at changing gender relations. Some women would not normally have been permitted to take part in such a process, but the involvement of two well-recognised universities allowed the work to be framed as educational, helping legitimise their participation to their fathers or husbands. This enabled them to engage in social interactions with residents of the city they would not normally have met or spoken to, including carrying out small-group or paired research activities with people from another gender and nationality. A woman revealed that for the first time, she felt she was not just a mother, but her voice was considered to carry the same weight as those of other participants:

What I learned is that women can have an active role in this. Women’s place is not just at home. I can give an opinion and can have an active role in municipality-level issues. I learnt about collaborating with other people. I had a lot of fun doing it and met a lot of strangers from other countries.

The project also hired women in the construction process, disrupting a sector dominated by men. The empowerment also came because the two architects who facilitated most of the process were two Lebanese women who publicly negotiated with the male mayor and other male directors at the municipality, as well as managing and paying male contractors on site. In the design workshop, out of five facilitators, three were women and they were the only ones speaking Arabic, the language of the workshop. Their association with an international university and organization gave these women the opportunity to lead the process but they had to gain the trust of many actors through the quality of their work. As any process that challenges existing power relations, there were backlashes. For example, the participation in the process led to tensions in one participant’s marital relations. Moreover, there were requests, which the team politely rejected, for the citizen scientists’ remuneration to be made through their fathers or, at least, for the amount paid to be revealed to a male guardian.

For some Syrians, the process allowed them to become part of the town by contributing to shaping it, and to some extent exercising agency and urban citizenship. This created a feeling of inclusion but it was also a means for them to reciprocate for the hospitality they had received.

Participants realized that interventions for the most vulnerable can also significantly benefit less vulnerable groups, thus being win-win solutions. One of the ways to deal with internal conflict or different priorities between different groups and individuals was to explicitly focus on the most vulnerable, as everyone agreed it was important the intervention benefit those individuals first. This led the group to identify wheelchair users who were begging or selling small items. As the high pavements were not accessible to them, they did so while navigating the road between parked cars and other moving vehicles, exposing themselves to danger. This led the participants to develop the idea of access ramps.

During the design consultations, the group reflected about how, despite the intervention being thought primarily for people with disabilities, a number of other groups found it extremely useful. As footpaths were very high, the ramps allowed elderly people, caregivers with prams, and street vendors pushing trolleys to benefit, reducing their vulnerability to speeding cars.

Finally, the project also had a pedagogical impact on the municipality. The presentation of the proposed design was accompanied by a video documenting the participatory process. While municipality members were initially sceptical, they felt involved, the results ultimately pleased them, and they realized the intervention also had support from local residents. Thus, the municipality showed an openness to replicating a similar approach in the future, albeit only with external support.

Transforming Social Relations through the Physical Intervention

The physical intervention converted a public space into a social place, breaking barriers across nationality, gender and age. As this road was the only public space used by people from all nationalities in a town with strong spatial segregation, the intervention attempted to expand the uses of the space and the length of time that people utilised this space. The shading extended the hours of potential use during the hot months. The play elements incentivised parents to stay longer and entertained children while parents were shopping. Moreover, the social interaction between children from different nationalities encourages parents to talk to each other, building new relationships. Play is also extremely important for children’s development, yet many refugee children do not have access to education and live in crowded environments where play space is limited. Mainstreaming play into urban public spaces, including streets, is a way of creating play opportunities for the most disadvantaged children in a way compatible with parents’ errands and schedules.

These interventions contribute to changing the narrative from refugees constituting burdens to refugees as residents who are helping transform Bar Elias from a small town into a city. The demographic increase created the critical mass for the town to become a city — however, what locals considered ‘neglect’ meant it did not look like a city, despite the changing size already sparking a process of change, with more banks, medical institutions and shops opening. However, in the words of one citizen scientist, there were clear demands for enhancing city-like qualities: “We need an entrance road that shows that we are a city. And we need those improvements because we are the same as any other city”. A Lebanese participant complained and compared Bar Elias to the nearby town of Anjar: “Bar Elias is 1000 years old but is neglected. Anjar is only 40 years old, it was nothing 40 years ago, but now the people of Anjar are united to improve the city”. Local residents expressed their hope that the intervention would give Bar Elias an entrance to be proud of. They knew that the intervention was planned jointly with Syrians and was only possible through international aid aimed at forced migrants; thus they were aware of the core contribution of Syrians in positively transforming the city. The aesthetic of the interventions along the main entrance was therefore very important to foster pride in the city and reverse the narrative of neglect. This was done in such a way to build an identity based on the town’s history of emigration, immigration, exchanges, and welcoming of the strangers through the use of signage, phrases integrated into shading, murals, other design elements, and mosaics made by local artists.

Unexpectedly, the intervention catalysed complementary actions from other actors, which amplified the impact and the scale of the intervention, which had limited funding. The municipality sent their machinery to support the construction process and provided workers to clear the rubble in the dilapidated park, as well as water containers to water the new plants and trees. It drilled a water well in the park for irrigation and agreed to take responsibility for maintaining the garden. The staff of the local polyclinic were so happy with the new benches that they expanded the intervention themselves by adding more benches and planters, while the hospital manager met our team and offered support. An NGO contacted CatalyticAction to work together on designing a playground in the park. Moreover, shortly after the project’s inauguration, the municipality decided to build a large entrance arch at the beginning of the road, further enhancing the welcoming and identity-enforcing elements of the intervention.

In October 2019, Lebanon faced a wave of unprecedented protests that rapidly spread across the country. Triggered by a proposed bill to tax internet calls, they rapidly grew to demand a radical change in the political system. The infrastructure created through this participatory intervention became the focal point for the protests in Bar Elias, with a tent hosting protest-related events. This means that the intervention was successful in transforming the entrance road into an active social place and meeting space, the landmark of the city. The participatory process had built the infrastructure that enabled the revolution in Bar Elias.

The process of creating the intervention built a human infrastructure made up of residents of the city from different identities who are able to participate in and initiate city-making processes that take into account and analyse the diversity of residents’ needs and aspirations. This is a network of people and capacities that operates for the city beyond sectarian divisions and other dimensions of segregation. A workshop participant said:

Before, I was enclosed, I only knew people from Syria and my neighbourhood. During the workshop, I opened up to a lot of people: Syrians, Lebanese and Palestinians, and when I pass through the street, we say hi to each other. So it brought us together.

Another commented: “I enjoy that there is still communication and that I am part of something that I can help with but that will also help me”. Another said: “It increased my sense of awareness. I met people who are older than me, I met people who are younger than me and all of them taught me stuff I didn’t know before”. The network of participants was formalised through a WhatsApp group and by posting on Facebook. These social media channels have been a way for participants to remain in touch, especially the elderly with young people with whom they would not normally stay in touch. Participants in the initial participatory workshop remained involved in the wider process by keeping in touch with citizen scientists who continued to shape the following steps of the intervention. This was particularly useful as workshop participants informed other residents of the intervention’s development, preventing misinformation and concerns from spreading. Many expressed their desire to continue being involved in decisionmaking about their town and described a number of ways in which they used the skills learned for other activities, including in student groups, in a newly initiated political initiative for the municipal elections, or to mobilise neighbours to develop an unused space near their home.


The experience of Bar Elias shows that combining action-research, citizen science, participator)' design and a diversity lens not only contributes to the design of infrastructures that respond to residents’ needs but that it can transform social relations and build a human infrastructure able to negotiate and activate important change processes, while diffusing social tensions. Such an approach is especially important in unequal and conflictual settings, where a relational, contextual and intersectional approach can reveal the complexities of power relations and inequalities. It can create an urban citizenship, a “participatory citizenship” born out of the “community building” element of participatory design. Such citizenship is able to reduce social tensions and build new solidarities between different groups while constructively engaging with authorities. This was the case in Lebanon, where this new urban participator)' citizenship transcended the limits of traditional state citizenship in a context where the state is unable to respond to the needs of citizens while at the same time denying rights to a wide range of residents, constraining their agency through uncertain legal status. The exercise of this urban participatory citizenship enhances the agency of all residents by breaking invisible social and spatial borders that segregate society across a number of social identities.

The methodology utilised in Bar Elias offers tools for other settings where social tensions exist, including urban neighbourhoods affected by internal displacement. In particular, it helps address the complexity of the humanitarian-development nexus by combining an immediate response to current vulnerabilities with a significant step towards the long-term vision of the town as articulated by both locals and newcomers.


  • 1 The authors wish to thank the citizen scientists Amro Al-Mays, Nour Hamadi, Mchdi Al-Homsi, Maysam Salah, Ali Al-Rhayel, Moayad Hamdallah, and Asmaa Al-Hajj Khalil, as well as the residents of Bar Elias, the municipality of Bar Elias, and the entire staff of CatalyticAction charity, lead partner on the Participatory Spatial Intervention. The authors thank the Principal Investigator, Henrietta Moore, Co-Investigator Howayda Al-Harithy from the American University' of Beirut, who advised the process, and other Co-Investigators, Camillo Boano, Nick Tyler, and Nikolay Mintchev. Thanks also go to the British Academy for their support and willingness to fund an unconventional project.
  • 2 This here is not to be confused with what economists call human infrastructure, but closer to Simone’s understanding (2004).


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Recognizing Intersectional Identities in Inclusive Urban Development

Caren Levy, Andrea Rigon, and Vanesa Castan Broto


This book asks three sets of questions to examine community diversity and inclusive urban development (Box 1). These questions guide the intellectual project of the book, motivating each contributor’s reflection on the collective argument. We conclude our journey with another reflection, a critique of the kind of answers that this book offers. This critique emerges from a discussion led by Caren Levy that revealed, first of all, that these questions are anything but independent: they relate to the multiple and overlapping layers of concern that shape inclusive urban development.


  • • How do urban development interventions affect different groups and individuals? How fairly are the benefits of the interventions distributed within urban communities? How are notions of homogeneous, static communities reproduced in urban planning and development practices, and with what consequences? What are the constraints and power relations that make it difficult for urban planning and development practice to achieve fairer outcomes through the adoption of an intersectional diversity approach?
  • • To what extent does urban development practice take into account the diversity of needs and aspirations of different groups and individuals? How can diversity and intersectionality theory contribute to understanding urban communities and the diversity of needs and aspirations of individuals and groups?
  • • What new alternatives for urban development practice emerge from critiques of community representation and intersectional analysis? Are there new methodologies that enable fairer forms of representation and meaningful participation of marginalized groups and individuals?

This book engages with the tensions inherent in any intervention to improve the lives and wellbeing of people. Many such interventions happen under the banner of overseas development assistance as projects of bi- or multilateral cooperation. Others follow different forms of state and spatial planning and, as such, are often part of the process of state consolidation and expansion in marginalized areas. Many such interventions also emerge within communities, activists, and self-organizing groups who seek to challenge the state of aff airs to reclaim freedom, dignity, and autonomy. The identity paradox discussed in the Introduction (Chapter 1) follows an unresolvable tension in inclusive urban development between individual and collective identities. Such tension persists regardless of who sets the urban development process in motion, whether it is led by communities or by other actors.

The success of social mobilization often depends on the activation of collective identities as a means to counter threats of dispossession. A new sense of community emerges through collective action, as action serves to reimagine and reassemble existing identities. Marginalized people often find that taking part in collective action can improve their lives considerably. Many processes of collective identity fonnation are empowering. Collective identity becomes something valuable, a tool to prevent damage to community members and, sometimes, to deliver tangible improvements in their quality of life. For example, Afenah’s and Butcher’s accounts of community mobilization in Accra and Kathmandu explore the tension between collective identity and intra-settlement diversity. They show the success of the mobilization of a “slum community” to deliver political goals. In these examples, settlements gained recognition through community mobilization, protecting people from eviction, and improving urban services. Mobilization led to instances of personal transformation through identity formation based on belonging to that settlement and participating in the process of political mobilization. However, these processes of mobilization did not include everyone. Those people whose interests did not fit the common political project saw themselves excluded — both from mobilization processes and their benefits.

Communities may project unidimensional expressions of collective identity as a means to gain external recognition within existing political systems. Local leaders shape community identities based on their hopes, interests, and, of course, their own individual identity. While this strategy may be useful to achieve a given aim, unidimensional expressions of collective identity exclude some social groups and, over time, reduce the scope for collective action to address the concerns of all community members. Overlooking community diversity also leads to an unequal distribution of development benefits (see, for example, the contributions by Ramalho & Chant, Horn, Brown-Lusango, and Beebeejaun). There are, however, opportunities for communities to address internal diversity within the processes of mobilization. Several chapters in this book (Walker & Ossul, Rigon, Dabaj & Baumann, and Castan Broto & Robin) explore methodological approaches to do just that.

We argued in Chapter 1 that an intervention has an intent to improve a situation. The focus on such will to improve evokes what Tania Murray Li (2007) has described as a gap between prescription and achievement in development projects. Drawing on her research in Indonesia, Li’s analysis ‘makes improvement strange’ as it looks into how development projects translate the messy landscapes of rural life into a linear narrative that enables the characterization of a problem together with a portfolio of responses. Her research underscores that a project’s capacity to deliver ‘improvement’ depends on political and economic structures that the project itself can hardly challenge. An emphasis on expert knowledge, procedures, and calculations distracts from the collective goals of emancipation and liberation. Inclusive urban planning requires a reflection on who should be at the helm when delivering such improvement projects.

We explore three themes to deepen our understanding. First, we propose a definition of community identity as a moving target, emphasizing both the fluidity of identity and the simultaneity of multiple identities. An intersectional approach is a means to engage with a dynamic understanding of identity, its constraints, and potentials. Second, we outline the complex rendering of power within communities. Following the motto “presence is not the same as voice”, we argue that inclusion in urban development requires opening arenas for people to influence and change decisions. Third, we examine the contributions in this book to extract examples of tactics that support inclusive urban development. These are, for all, tactics that help to build solidarity across difference.

Community Identity as a Moving Target

The problem of community diversity is often reduced to a matter of composition, which inevitably leads to mapping multiple layers of otherness. Such mapping takes two forms:

  • 1. Mapping to identify vulnerabilities targeted through the intervention and prevent further hann.
  • 2. Mapping to analyze the synergies between different identity groups to deliver multilayered interventions and promote structural change.

The focus on one specific fonn of vulnerability is common. For example, understanding the vulnerability of adolescent girls can lead to targeted interventions in water and sanitation (Ramalho & Chant). In Zimbabwe, nationals of foreign descent claim policy measures that address their systematic exclusion from land reform processes (Museveni & Chibvamushire). Indigenous women and young people in La Paz are both excluded from political systems of indigenous representation, creating opportunities for jointly challenging the current political process (Horn). Other actions focus on the synergies between different social groups, such as in the case of Lebanon, where work on a public street benefited people with physical disabilities, the elderly, and the carers of young children and their children (Rigon, Dabaj, & Baumann).

Nevertheless, this understanding of the composition of the community reflects a somewhat inadequate notion of identity that does not capture the processes and dynamics that shape communities. Identity is not a label pinned down to an individual alone. Instead, identities are relational. They are enacted, performed, and shared across communities. Thinking of the community’s composition is also inadequate. The community cannot be simply divided into different parts. The idea of composition assumes that the community consists of a set of relatively homogeneous and bounded groups with different needs and responses. The notion of composition also does not explicitly recognize relations of power embedded in relationships within and between social categories of identity. Such ideas will prevent us from understanding community diversity.

Sociologist Stuart Hall (1992) spoke of the crisis of identity as a moment of destabilization of identity as the foundation of a sense of the self and society. The very assumption of stability was, in itself, the cause of the crisis. First, the subject is fragmented, never defined by a single identity. Instead, the subject consists of multiple, contradictory identities often ambiguous and unresolved. Second, whatever identity associations we live with, these are in constant flux. They rarely conform to a single, unified whole because they are in practice articulated as different expressions rarely amenable to analysis. Simultaneity and fluidity characterize community identity.


Simultaneity refers to the coincidence of different events at a point in time. Identities are simultaneous because of their concurrent manifestation. Hence, identities cannot be delineated and dissected in isolation. Social groups need to act in consonance with the expectations of a given identity for it to be recognized, even where this identity is “constituted through contested practices” that may become visible in processes of social mobilization (Benhabib, 2002, p. 111). For example, urban indigenous communities in Bolivia have mobilized their indigenous identity “to co-produce an alternative city plan with indigenous civil society groups from across the city” (Horn). Horn notes that

(U)rban indigenous communities in La Paz are not only composed of different members with distinct interests and needs but also characterized by uneven power relations... In recent years, young indigenous women... have indeed started raising their voice and confronted problems of sexism, domestic violence, and abuse within their own indigenous communities.

Community organization processes depend on the identification of a common interest that enables groups to gel, organize themselves, develop institutions to support collective action, and identify strategic action. However, as Hall (1992) highlighted, such common interest cannot only build on a notion of a master identity, whether this to identify vulnerabilities or to enable mobilization.

Everybody experiences the simultaneity of identity as a routine, daily occurrence. However, thinking simultaneity in the context of urban development is very difficult. For example, citizens of Old Fadama in Accra mobilize gender, age, property ownership, and ethnicity simultaneously to access horizontal and vertical social networks (Afenah). Planning and delivering action will depend on managing such simultaneity because efforts to highlight certain aspects of identity are at best partial - and “run the risk of freezing existing group differences” (Benhabib, 2002, p. ix). While we can name the challenge and theorize it, in practice, simultaneity becomes something which clouds rather than illuminates judgment. Inter- sectionality draws attention to the specific experience of oppression beyond fixed labels and, in doing so, it works with rather than against simultaneity.


Identities are also fluid; they are ever-changing. As Butler (1993) argues, identities are enacted in performances. The chapters in this book emphasize the kinds of performance through collective action that enable claiming identities for political purposes, in the context of communities with large needs to improve their autonomy and wellbeing, for example, in Accra, Ghana (Afenah) or Kathmandu, Nepal (Butcher). Community diversity is not the outcome of diagnosis, even when such a diagnosis is participatory and led by communities themselves. The fluidity of identity forces us to look beyond simplistic understandings of intersectionality as an analysis of overlapping identity labels. Intersectionality calls for an analysts of the pre-existing social norms against which those labels are appropriated, performed, and attributed. For example, in Zambia, the government labelled farmworkers of foreign descent as foreigners unproductive and not welcomed in resettlement programs. This policy led to farmworkers’ impoverishment, and many ended up living in informal settlements with precarious livelihoods and limited access to services (Museveni and Chibvamushire).

When something is continually changing, being individually or collectively performed in each event (self-directed or in response to external events), it becomes a moving target. As a moving target, community diversity eludes characterization. People continuously reimagine themselves and build their identities within the messiness of life. Opportunities for adapting identities to changing circumstances abound. However, an overall emphasis on fluidity may overlook the sediments of identity as they manifest within systems of oppression. Intersectionality points to this challenge: identities are never entirely apprehended, nor are they entirely flexible. People may shift their identities to fit a given position within existing structures of oppression or association. Still, those shifts depend on the given conditions within which those identities are expressed.

Collective action opens up opportunities to express individual identity, but it may also appropriate those aspects of identity that enable mobilization. Collective action is exposed to two different types of risks: one related to the organization of collective leadership (which influences what issues are prioritized) and one related to the potential omission of those who are in practice for various reasons excluded from the process. For example, Cawood & Rabby note that in the case of the provision of WASH infrastructure in Dhaka’s bostis,

(D)espite NGO efforts to target women and extreme poor households, all president, vice president, and secretary positions in the WASH CBOs (with the exception of the UPPR CDCs which had a female-only mandate) were taken by local male leaders and house owners engaged in politics for the ruling party.

Brown-Luthango highlights that given their invisibility' “in the backyards of formal homes” in Cape Town, backyarders struggle to either create their own movement or join other fonns of collective action in the city.

Expressing identity is akin to a process of discovery, not only the discovery of identity in oneself but rather the discovery of collective potential embedded in shared projects of conviviality. Inclusive urban development must go beyond recognizing identity markers of vulnerability: Inclusive urban development must acknowledge the fluidity of identity as a moving target and support people as they articulate their social life in response to a shifting sense of self.

Presence is Not the Same as Voice

Reflecting on participation, Caren Levy always remarks that presence is not the same as voice (Goetz & Gaventa, 2001). Communities can represent themselves, but representing themselves in the sense of being there is not the same as having voice. Having voice means having the capacity to contribute to and influence decisions that affect the community. For example, having women in the audience is not sufficient to hear their perspective, because they may not even speak, to begin with, let alone express their concerns freely. Safe spaces may help to voice concerns, although their scope may be limited. For example, some projects provide adolescent girls in Kenya’s slums with safe spaces with peers to gain skills and knowledge (Ramalho & Chant). Carefully managed, sensitive research may also help to raise issues anonymously that otherwise would be invisible within urban development. These strategies, however careful, however sensitive, may be insufficient to address the profound inequities that condition actions and results.

Voice is often mediated through structures of representation, in which community leaders tend to overrepresent particular interests and end up amplifying some voices over others. Community leaders should give all community members a voice. Their legitimacy often depends on their ability to do so. However, the exclusion of certain groups or individuals is common, and, without power, those excluded may not find alternatives to gain a voice. Marginalized individuals often find that they lack the relationships, the access, the time, and capacity to express their voice in decision-making fora.

Addressing inequities may require more persistence and courage than any intervention would ever allow. Sarah Ahmed (2016) has discussed this in her analysis of‘diversity work’ within higher education institutions in the UK. Institutional change, she says, requires pointing out the fundamental hierarchies and forms of abuse in everyday life. Ahmed explains that change towards more inclusive institutions is not effective until those concerned accept it and act upon it, regardless of whether those changes are ‘officially’ recognized and, for example, recorded in minutes. There is no institutional change if people’s actions do not change. Ahmed explains how inclusive policy is delivered while institutions fail to accommodate demands for exclusion and their members make jokes that demean the very social groups who are excluded. Institutional inertia prevents change. For Ahmed, these experiences mean an encounter with a wall, as solid and as binding as a concrete one. Such ‘walls’, however metaphorical they are, appear in many situations within and beyond research and urban development institutions. Musevenzi & Chibvamushure demonstrate the powerful barriers at work preventing the mobilizations of farmworkers of foreign descent in the peri-urban areas of Zimbabwe, as they encounter an historically racialized fonn of tied fann labor alongside current discriminatory government practices. This is echoed in the more than three decade experience of gender mainstreaming at global, national, and local levels, a practice that grew out of identifying those very walls that worked against the inclusion and liberation of those experiencing oppression and discrimination (see for example, Levy, 1998).

The chapters contain many examples of how such walls emerge. Some cases relate to the encounter with those walls of ongoing discrimination in urban development in locations as diverse as La Paz (Horn), Kathmandu (Butcher), Niger Delta (Alozie), and Dhaka (Cawood & Rabby). Others reveal that those walls require maintenance, such as, for example, the constant intervention of the state as a discriminatory wall-maker in Hong Kong (Beebeejaun) or in Zimbabwe (Musevenzi & Chibvamushure).

Communities as Active Agents of Change

Communities raise, once and again, against those walls. Communities have enormous energy to organize themselves and mobilize around identities, as shown, for example, in the 30-year mobilization of the women’s federation of the urban poor, Mahila Ekata Samaj, in Bansighat, Kathmandu, Nepal (Butcher) or among the Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor in Old Fadama, Accra, Ghana (Afenah).

The extent of change depends on how organized people are and to what extent they already mobilize around identities. The community is an active agent that shapes local capacities and future visions, even if the structures of community organizations are not visible or tangible. International development professionals often label social groups as a means to deliver a more nuanced analysis of the impacts of development interventions. For example, Cawood & Rabby (Chapter 8) examine the problems raised by the serial creation of CBOs to implement WASH interventions in Dhaka’s boslis. This case shows that identity labels are often meaningless for those who bear them and sometimes hurt them. In fact, such labels may be already present in the structure of social relations, differentiating people and creating oppression and inequality, as shown in the cases of Zimbabwe (Chapter 7) and Hong Kong (Chapter 5). Many of these labeling practices need to be resisted and contested.

Nevertheless, as explained above, communities and activists often find that the same type of labeling advances their case, enabling and supporting actions that question and destabilize the political and economic structures at the root of inequity. Community organization can deliver for autonomy and dignity. The cases of Nepal (Butcher), Bolivia (Horn), and Ghana (Afenah) demonstrate this in meticulous detail, engaging with emerging contradictions in each case. Bonding on the basis of a given identity will exclude other people whose identities are not so prominent or not well organized. For example, Butcher shows that newer settlers or renters in the western side the of Bansighat settlement, in Kathmandu, Nepal, were not always able to access the same advantages brought through a pro-poor community-managed water intervention.

If the process of constructing an alliance based upon solidarity may produce exclusions, building solidarity requires making sure that there is a critical engagement with that process, that the process is kept in check. How communities come together must permanently be under examination. As bell hooks powerfully stated in her 1981 book, Ain’t I a woman, solidarity across social movements is likely to advance the fight against discrimination, furthering different agendas at the same time. Solidarity across movements may also be a means to identify instances of manipulation. For example, the identities of young men in Niger Delta were manipulated by local politicians and militants’ leaders into using intimidation and violence to influence electoral results, demolishing their legitimacy within their communities (Alozie, Chapter 10). Community action should enable building solidarity across difference, with solidarity built around the conscious recognition of diversity.

Inclusive urban development should nurture community organization strategies as a vehicle for promoting change. Practices of urban development require, thus, mapping the conditions for mobilization against oppression alongside the walls to be faced in the expression of collective action. The web of social relations shaping the community must be mapped at different scapes. The formal and infonnal governance structures that operate within a community interact and depend on how the community interacts with other actors, such as governmental institutions or private investors.

Communities are part of social lives, networks, and forms of cultural exchange. Social relations are part of the gel that brings people together as much as they support the walls collective action aims to bring down. Social relations precede urban development. Communities are diverse, but their diversity is not passive. They express their identity in engagement with political organizations, action groups, and different forms of leadership. In the Hanna Nassif settlement in Dar es Salaam, residents joined a community development association to make direct contributions to the upgrade project, including land, labor, and 20% of their daily wage (Kombe, Kyessi, Lumbumba, Chapter 11). Whatever relations connect and disconnect people, they cannot be broken down into a composition analysis or an analysis of social norms without missing essential aspects of what it is to live in a given community. Shared experiences promote solidarity: The shared experience of living through hardship, for example, in an informal settlement. The recognition of shared drivers of oppression and exclusion. The connection via shared institutions and collective practices. All these experiences are part of the global experience of community diversity.

Power in Communities

Power is inherent to life in communities. Community organizers may see themselves with a desire to neutralize those who hold power within the community to amplify other voices and recognize diversity. Hierarchies may result in the prioritization of some options over others within participatory processes. Social groups in control may stir the direction of interventions and direct action to address particular interests. Elite capture occurs whenever elites appropriate the benefits of community development or profit from its impacts. The contributions to this book acknowledge the complex and fundamental role of leaders of community governance structures (Kombe et al., Chapter 11) but also show processes of elite capture (Afenah, Butcher).

However, neutralizing power does not always benefit the processes of community mobilization. Powerful groups and individuals find different ways to legitimize their power, some of which may be more conducive to building solidarity than others. Elites often depend on markers of difference such as class, resources, hereditary power, caste, or ethnic group to establish their power. However, many people within communities may have other sources of power related to their competence and their ability to draw and maintain social networks. Recognizing the basis of people’s power requires committing to reciprocal recognition (Levy, 2015).

At the other end of the spectrum, we need to understand why some social groups lack power. Focusing on the most marginalized may matter in terms of outcomes. Urban development that serves the needs of the most marginalized and vulnerable is likely to suit the needs of the majority of residents. In Lebanon, for example, focusing on the needs of people with disabilities served to deliver public spaces for everyone (Rigon et al., Chapter 14). Feminist planners have long made this observation. When planning practices overlook women’s needs, the outcome is urban environments that exclude women alongside children, the elderly, and the poor. Many communities know this and factor this approach in collective action.

At the same time, some of those social groups which are powerless and vulnerable may rely on practices that make them invisible as a means for protection. People may prefer to remain invisible instead if they think their needs clash with those addressed in a collective project of mobilization - or if they judge that expressing their needs could lead to some form of violence against them. Building solidarity across difference provides ample opportunities for a continuous revision of collective objectives, ensuring protection for those voices rarely heard.

For example, NGO models to deliver water services may tag on pre-existing identities to structure their models of delivery, generating a parallel process of exclusion (e.g. Cawood & Rabby, Butcher). NGOs judge such models less useful in more ethnically diverse areas, for example, to deliver water services to migrants. In Dar es Salaam, the urban development processes tended to exclude women (Kombe et al.). Women themselves demonstrated that they had their own agency and put pressure on the project to participate.

Robin & Castan Broto (Chapter 13) and Cawood & Rabby (Chapter 8) acknowledge that the process of building community governance structures is fundamentally political. A refusal to recognize how the politics of mobilization and action unfold increases the risk of further exclusion and exacerbates intra-community inequities. Inclusive urban development calls for deliberately political engagements with the process of community mobilization.

Building Solidarity across Difference

Inclusive urban development depends on a collective negotiation of a common future in proximity, in line with the tradition of collaborative planning (Healey, 1997). Urban development practice can be a means for building voices along with each other, to enable a collective dialogue. Acknowledging multiple voices requires labour to acknowledge and assemble them, but representing those voices is not sufficient. Urban development practice also requires opening arenas for dialogue, engaging with a disconcerting chorus, and weaving it together into a shared account of development. Inclusive urban development is a craft, earned through openness, attention, and most of all, painstaking engagement with detailed stories of often frail presents and aspirations of better futures.

Nancy Fraser (2012) discusses Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel ‘Never let me go’. This dystopian novel follows the lives of clones that will be donors of organs. The novel never presents them as clones. As the book explores their lives, the reader shares in their experiences and bonds with them. Fraser argues that no discussion of the category of ‘clone’ is required to understand the fundamental injustice embedded in that system. The injustice is immediately apparent. It becomes a realization that cannot be swept aside, in the same way, that multi- criteria decision-making and other multi-perspective tools cannot sweep aside the injustice embedded in a decision to sit an industrial facility or to implement an urban regeneration project. Rational arguments impose on and seek to distract attention away from the emotional and political aspects of urban development.

Intersectionality means bringing concerns with justice to the core of urban development. Intersectionality calls for two parallel strategies. On the one hand, intersectionality invokes a need to understand the community and, in particular, the collective mobilization strategies they have at their disposal. On the other hand, intersectionality calls for a deliberate engagement with the institutional frameworks and practices, along with the power structures that reproduce injustice and oppression. Inclusive urban development is a means to both mobilize communities and change the socio-economic conditions that oppress them.

Tactics to Address Intersectional Identities

The collection of examples and case studies in this book brings to the fore that there are multiple tactics to incorporate an intersectionality perspective to deliver inclusive urban development. Table 15.1 provides an overview of the tactics explored in these contributions.

In most cases, more than one tactic was used in the cases cited, in some cases, one leading to the other. For example, addressing the diverse needs of young women requires institutional recognition through global agreements like the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) alongside structured lobbying to deliver planned interventions (Ramalho & Chant). Rather than a structured recipe

TABLE C.1 An inventory of tactics for inclusive urban development

Examples of suggested tactic

Chapter examples

Limits and explorations

Make visible

  • • Collective research to make visible intersectional identities, concerning urban citizens experiences of urban problems (Ramalho & Chant, Chapter 2)
  • • Collective research to make visible biases in policy and planning practices, including challenging basic assumptions and definition of variables/categories, for example, in planning (Beebeejaun, Chapter 5; Horn, Chapter 3; Museveni & Chibvamushire, Chapter 7; Robin & Castan Broto,

Chapter 13)

• Collective research to make visible the discrimination in political practices (Horn, Chapter 3; Museveni & Chibvamushire, Chapter 7)

In terms of methodology, this requires going beyond additive approaches (Ossul & Walker; Chapter 12). Self-definition is increasingly an important aspect: how do people identify themselves?

Support consciousness-raising

Participation in research or consciousness-raising groups may change the way people see themselves and their situation (Ramalho & Chant, Chapter 2; Horn, Chapter 3; Ossul & Walker, Chapter 12; Rigon, Dabaj, & Baumann, Chapter 14)

This kind of research raises questions about what is consciousness-raising and from whom to whom such transfer of consciousness emerges. It may create either forms of solidarity or further inequalities.

Strengthen social mobilization

Work within existing processes of collective organization to make claims focused on:

  • • interest-based issues (identity or ideology) (Horn, Chapter 3; Afenah, Chapter 9)
  • • spatially based issues (c.g. Geography/neigh- bourhood) (Butcher, Chapter 6)*

Distinguish between different claims, how they arc articulated within a community and how different claims strengthen or create tensions in mobilization processes

Build both presence and voice

  • • Invite individuals and groups to be part of specific events
  • • Create multiple arenas and forums for engagement
  • • Enable public articulation of issues, bringing attention, for example, to contradictory issues.

Need to consider participants time and interests, and whether they are comfortable joining the urban development processes

Support advocacy of community interests

Some powerful community actors and external actors may deliver activities to lend public support to community causes, raising the profile of issues of their interest.

Gaining legitimacy to act in the collective interest, and sometimes as an external actor.


TABLE C.1 (Cont.)

Examples of suggested tactic

Chapter examples

Limits and explorations

Deliver innovative or community-led demonstration pro- jects/plans

Development of an innovative project or a plan based on the interests and needs of particular identity groups as a demonstration and basis for negotiation with municipal planners and politicians (Horn, Chapter 3; Robin & Castan Broto, Chapter 13)

  • • Key innovations may help to challenge the status quo and redefine ‘the mainstream’
  • • Such community projects can be delivered sometimes through participation in mainstream projects from external donors (e.g. Kombc et al., Chapter 11).

This can often involve the use of participatory' and related methodologies for knowledge-making such as citizen science and participatory' design (Rigon et ah, Chapter 14)

• May raise practical issues and hence, may need at the outset protocols for conflict resolution (Robin & Castan Broto,

Chapter 13).

Start by addressing needs of most marginalized

When conflicting interests at play, community members may find agreement on interventions for the most marginalized. These interventions also benefit other less marginalized groups and tend to have positive benefits for most (Rigon ct ah. Chapter 14)

May' not work for major changes affecting most residents but can be a strategy' for communities to experience negotiating and acting together, ahead of planning more substantial interventions.

Make conflict explicit

Processes where community members and other actors involved in urban development make explicit the conflicting interests and trade-offs, moving beyond narratives of shared interests (which often reflect the interests of the more powerful and hide interests of the most marginalized) (Rigon et ah, Chapter 14; Robin & Castan Broto, Chapter 13)

May' require facilitators to represent the conflict, to ensure more disadvantaged groups maintain the structures of protection, and to open possibilities to address the conflict

Support visioning

Community processes that build a collective vision through dialogue, while respecting individual aspirations. Identify the shared collective direction for the future but also what isn’t shared (Afenah, Chapter 9; Butcher, Chapter 6; Walker & Ossul, Chapter 12; Rigon et ah, Chapter 14).

May' raise the need for protocols for inclusion of all voices and for conflict resolution (Robin &

Castan Broto, Chapter 13).

Develop capacity' and ‘human infrastructure’

Capacity building process must be reciprocal:

  • • Developing capacities of community practitioners and CBOs to engage with, take decisions and plan responsive to intersectional diversity in their communities (Rigon et ah, Chapter 14)
  • • Developing capacities of practitioners in NGOs, the state and the private sector to engage with and plan responsive to intersectional diversity

Collective decision-making and community building (Rigon et ah) are often thought of as outcomes of capacity' building processes.


TABLE C.1 (Gone.)

Examples of suggested tactic

Chapter examples

Limits and explorations

Ensure institutional recognition, including constitutional recognition of citizenship

  • • Invoking international agreements as a basis for action c.g., CEDAW
  • • Invoking international agreements signed by governments (governments may not be signatures, or may be signature to some and not all clauses)
  • • Identities recognized in policy and planning documents and discourses
  • • Policy documents are backed up by budget allocations

This can be promoted by:

  • • political constituencies to support their arguments, or
  • • donors to influence recipient government policies, or
  • • the state itself to show political commitment (real or not), to prioritize budget allocations and policy/planning decisions

Facilitate political representation and active participation in political processes at different scales

  • • Political representation in local and national government, and on related political committees (‘Nothing about us, without us’ (claim by disabled groups in Ossul & Walker, Chapter 12)
  • • Linked to active political constituency and reshaping of “established polities” (Fraser, 2005, p. 305)
  • • Tactics need to engage with the possibilities of both direct and indirect representation
  • • Tactics need to engage with formal and informal political processes

'Squires (1999) makes the distinction between ideological, interest and geographical representation

for inclusive urban development, Table 15.1 presents a group of ideas to be repurposed within a commitment to change through difference.

Caren Levy ended our discussion, quoting Ann Philipps in her insistence that “it has to be possible to be both different and equal”. Inclusive urban development aims to balance both equality and difference, something that, in practice, results in negotiation between human rights and identity rights. Identity being a moving target is not amenable to ready-made proposals to define a sound practice of inclusive urban development. If the question is what does a sound practice of inclusive urban development look like, the answer is: ‘it varies’. A range of different actions, depending on the context and the strength of collective agency and solidarity, can advance justice in urban environments. The answer can also be: ‘not anything’. Well-intention interventions that do not challenge the root causes of deprivation and inequality can often worsen the conditions of living.

Following Wallace & Gilroy (1999), interventions must incorporate diversity as a point of departure, for people to join the planning process as themselves. Whatever diversity work is and however difficult, diversity work is not enough.

Oppression requires the dehumanization of certain categories of people, and that is not something that can be politely discussed in terms of whether all the sides of the debate are represented. Challenging oppression requires asking fundamental questions, starting, for example, with the structure of the ODA industry and the urban planning tradition, and their embeddedness in systems of white privilege and colonialism.

Solidarity invokes the unity of agreement that may emerge around common interests or shared perceptions and practices. Community solidarity can support just urban futures if it can be built across difference. Solidarity necessarily requires an explicit acknowledgment of those differences. Sadly, even solidarity is often commodified. The feminist tradition has theorized solidarity as a terrain for the contestation of multiple identities. As many women movements working in projects in South America found in the 1980s when talking about solidarity, women are not just women: they are so many other things. That also applies to communities. When doing inclusive urban development, community dwellers are not only the people who live in a place: they are so many other things.

Building solidarity requires producing ideas that gel, those things that bring people together and help them click when they are apart. History shows that recognizing diversity propels social movements forward. Building solidarity across difference requires tactics that open the terrain to deliver urban justice.


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