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Ten Types of Emerging City Makers

This paper was presented at the Relating Systems thinking and Design 6 conference in Oslo, 2017. For papers presented by others in Oslo see the RSD6 website. For the PDF of the full paper, click this link: Ten Types of Emerging City Makers. For the slides of the presentation at the conference, see this link: Landscape of Emerging City Makers: the case of Rotterdam.


Today, citizens and professionals form different types of coalitions in order to overcome the challenges arising in cities, contributing to new ways of city making. These coalitions consist of new and emerging groups that represent an innovative form of urban insurgent activism, aimed at transformation and calling for new answers to citizens’ needs. These groups are not often categorized and captured in the particular, or beyond a general description. This paper, based on data collected in the city of Rotterdam, presents a characterization of ten types emerging types of city makers in the context of urban sustainability transitions. This categorization must enable a better understanding of the transformative capacity of these new city makers, necessary for flourishing and sustainable communities. The paper concludes that these new types of city makers generally bring value to cities; however, this value could be enriched through more participatory networks that stimulate crossovers and accelerate the transition towards sustainable futures. These approaches need yet to be developed; here systems thinking and design could greatly contribute to the development of these new systemic and participatory approaches. However, in order to develop these new ways of ‘participatory city making’ it is important to understand with whom and for whom these approaches need to be developed. Therefore, this landscape of emerging city can be seen as an important starting point to stimulate the development of more participatory approaches in city making in the future; and with that feed the debate of how these design approaches can enable systemic change.

Types and Roles of City Makers

Traditionally, there are different type of actors identified in city making. However, this makes the divide between citizens and government quite rigid. Therefore, we made another categorisation based on roles. These roles are much more about what people actually do in city making, regardless their formal function of civil servant, private entrepreneur, social initiative taker or single citizen. The roles we identified are: the makers, the uniters, the organizers and the activists.

Lab Director
Ingrid Mulder