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Special Issue "Co-Creating and Co-Designing Community-Linked Sustainable Urban Developments"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Urban and Rural Development".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Wendy Tan
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
1. Department of Civil Engineering, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Bergen, Norway
2. Department of Landscape Architecture and Spatial Planning, Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen, The Netherlands
Interests: Transport planning and policy; Sustainble mobility; Institutional change and innovation; Mobility inequality
Dr. Anne Magrethe Wagner
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
Interests: Urban transformation; Public space; co-design; Participatory design; Everyday life; Material practice; Temporary use
Mr. Mustafa Hasanov
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Social Sciences, Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen, The Netherlands
Interests: self-organization, citizen participation, urban governance, community energy initiatives; community food initiatives; food sharing; participatory research methods

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Communities of citizens, market parties, and civil society actors are increasingly seen as engines of change in a recent phenomenon of citizen participation in urban developments. These non-traditional players and stakeholders are stepping up in diverse and varied constellations to transform their immediate environments with their communities. This is in line with various key sustainable development goals (5, 10, 11, and 16). The resulting incremental urban developments are typically powered by the linking of social capital and resources of the local community to fill the gap of diminishing public services or to answer neglected demand for alternative development solutions ranging from affordable and self-build housing to community gardens to crowdfunded mobility and energy infrastructures. Some of these communities have been invited by their local government to participate. By contrast, some have initiated processes of co-creation and co-design themselves, bypassing planning bureaucracies. This phenomenon has challenged how conventional planning power structures and hierarchies might adapt to the dynamic and ever-changing needs of citizens and market parties in search of livability, wellbeing, and sustainable development.

For this Special Issue, we invite submissions addressing but not limited to the following questions:

  1. Who makes up these communities? Are they functioning as a unit or a diverse mix of various voices? Are the planning and development policies in place facilitating or creating barriers for inclusive and diverse communities? Or are they so opaque that professional expertise is required to translate societal goals towards implementation?
  2. Can innovation and learning be co-created and choreographed in these processes? Is the label of experimentation or living labs a boon or a cross to bear for these communities? Do pioneering communities and their project suffer the curse of being set up to fail to provide lessons for others?
  3. What are the boundaries for co-creation and co-design in these projects and processes? Is there a steep learning curve involved? Are current planning narratives overly concerned on the process or the product of co-creation and co-design?

Papers are encouraged to engage in discussions built upon empirical evidence analysis, contribute to theoretical development and innovative methodology, and provide specific and actionable advice for urban planning practice and policy. We also welcome papers that address how co-creating and co-designing community-linked sustainable urban developments interlocks with other domains in advcning responsible research and innovation.

Dr. Wendy Tan
Dr. Anne Magrethe Wagner
Mr. Mustafa Hasanov
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1900 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • co-creation and co-design
  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • inclusivity and diversity
  • citizen participation
  • legitimacy and ethics
  • urban governance
  • sustainable development goals
  • social learning and innovation

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Urban Planning and European Innovation Policy: Achieving Sustainability, Social Inclusion, and Economic Growth?
Sustainability 2021, 13(3), 1137; - 22 Jan 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1007
Innovation has become a guiding principle for European Union policy. Funding schemes, research, and planning across all Member States are expected to be innovative. This article provides a critical analysis of the drivers and effects of this evolution. While positive results have been [...] Read more.
Innovation has become a guiding principle for European Union policy. Funding schemes, research, and planning across all Member States are expected to be innovative. This article provides a critical analysis of the drivers and effects of this evolution. While positive results have been achieved due to innovation policies, this article proposes that taking a wider critical perspective reveals important caveats. The article zooms in on the EU’s innovation policies by analysing policy documents, projects funded, and on-the-ground impact on three citizen initiatives. The analysis asks whether and how the EU’s self-set goals of sustainability, social inclusion, and economic growth are approached and met in them. The findings suggest a problematic funnelling process. First, an emphasis on innovation is created with the objective of systematically unblocking resistance to the development and implementation of novelties in the name of competitiveness, job creation, and economic growth. Second, the idea of innovation is very loosely defined, while, when translated into urban planning, it is interpreted narrowly in terms of efficiency and behavioural change, digitalization, and smart technologies. As a result, (narrowly defined) innovation-led economic growth begins to supersede alternative values and visions for the future of European cities and regions. This can represent a problem for EU Member States as it creates a very limited, risk-based, and divisive direction of development. To contribute to the (re-)establishment of alternatives, this article finally offers policy recommendations primarily concerned with the reinstatement of the public interest beyond innovation-centred planning perspectives. Full article
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