PLUS: Project Approach


1. Background to the Project

The quality of life in the towns and cities of Europe depends to a considerable extent on the quality of urban governance. Policy makers at all levels of government recognise that enhancing the quality of life requires a more sustainable approach to urban governance.

The economic, social and environmental challenges facing European urban areas are intertwined and effective approaches to meeting these challenges require improvements in governance and local citizen empowerment. Strong leadership and effective public involvement are complementary and both need to be developed if the quality of urban living in Europe is to be enhanced.

Sustainable urban development is a fundamental objective of the European Union. The EU policy document, Sustainable urban development in the European Union: a framework for action (1998) refers to four interdependent policy aims:

  • strengthening economic prosperity and employment in towns and cities;

  • promoting equality, social inclusion and regeneration in urban areas;

  • protecting and improving the urban environment;

  • contributing to good urban governance and local empowerment.

It is clear that the effectiveness of urban governance is of key importance in the achievement of sustainable city development. In order to realise effective urban governance it is crucial that city governments develop institutional forms and styles of leadership that promote decisiveness, facilitate the use of local knowledge and enhance public support.

Certain cities have made progress towards these ends. They appear to be achieving more sustainable urban policies by combining strong urban leadership with expanded involvement of citizens in local decision making.

2. Research Project Aims

The objective of this project is to accumulate and disseminate practical knowledge about the complementarity of political leadership and citizen involvement in cities which are active in promoting sustainable development. This will be achieved by:

  • analysing, comparing and contrasting alternative approaches to urban leadership and community involvement in local decision-making in nine countries;

  • promoting better urban leadership and more effective citizen involvement;

  • studying urban governance in the fields of economic competitiveness and social inclusion;

  • bringing together academics and policy makers;

  • producing practitioner oriented outputs.

Engagement with end users and public authorities is built in throughout the project.

3. A New Approach to Studying City Management

In the past there has been research on urban leadership and there has been research on citizen involvement. An innovative feature of this project is that it examines both leadership and citizen involvement in the same project. Comparative analysis of 18 carefully chosen cities - two from each of the nine countries - is being undertaken using a common evaluative framework. The research will focus on two policy fields which are crucial to the quality of life in towns and cities: economic competitiveness and social inclusion.

This research project is founded on the assumption that the achievement of effective urban governance and thus of sustainable policies is strongly dependent on the complementarity of urban leadership and community involvement. This complementarity is dependent on the institutional settings and contexts of local governments and the result of the initiative and action of local actors. The figure below shows how the performance of city management stems from both contextual and local factors.

Analytical Framework for Understanding and Evaluating City Management

* CULCI: combination of urban leadership and community involvement