Collaborative urban development

How does it work

How we approach an urban transformation challenge strongly depends on how the ownership in the area is distributed. If you own the land and real estate yourself or perhaps with three or four big parties, you can set up a relatively comprehensible consortium and process to work towards your future vision.

However, today we see a lot of urban areas in need of transformation that have a very complex and dispersed ownership situation. Just think about the large monofunctional office districts scattered around our cities worldwide. In areas like these, we’re easily talking about fifty to a hundred different owners, in all sizes and shapes. There are so many different actors, perspectives and interests we have to not only deal with passively but engage actively in order to achieve any tangible results. In these areas there is a lot less control over the exact outcomes and timelines of the urban transformation.

You can only achieve sustainable goals here, if you profoundly acknowledge the urban complexity and unpredictability and manage to embed that in the core of your processes and your team, structurally working with your environment and being sensitive and responsive to what is happening around you.

This is what we call collaborative urban development – and this is what Transformcity developed a unique methodology for. Our methodology is very lean and takes the complex and unpredictable urban situation as a starting point and builds on that incrementally, while engaging more and more different stakeholders as collaboration partners. In a way you work in constant loops of observing and analysing, then envisioning and back-casting and then actively designing, prototyping, engaging, testing and adjusting based on real practical results and feedback. With every loop, you can increase the scale and impact and progress towards your big goals.

Meanwhile you communicate your progress with the local community and the outside world and grow an increasingly strong collective and fan base with a shared sense of ownership – and the combined decision-making, execution and investment power needed to keep the area attractive, liveable and sustainable also in the future.

We created a simple layered framework to structure all activities into one integral and ongoing strategy. The framework combines activities focusing on:

> software (community engagement + external branding and pr)

> hardware (physical interventions + spatial plans and designs)

> orgware (financing + coalitions and governance)

It has an additional layer for supporting tools and technologies throughout the process to catalyse, augment and sustainably safeguard your local progress and results.

Needless to say, this framework has no strategic power of its own. It is a container that gives you an overview and adds structure to your strategy. The actual strategy is in the content and in how you connect your activities to give them direction.

We have developed our methodology in Amsterdam and first tested and finetuned it there. Since then, we have been working with various public and private clients in the urban domain. Of course, every area is different and the content of your strategy will depend on all kinds of local specificities. However, we can conclude that the main principles and ingredients apply to many different urban transformation areas that have complex ownership and stakeholder situations.

Therefore, we started to comprehensively break down our full methodology and toolkit and make it available here online. We will lay out the basic principles and ingredients of our framework and step by step explain how to build your own locally specific strategy – and effectively translate it into actionable workflows for your organisation.

We dive into the essential software, hardware and orgware components. We map all the tools we used and analyse their key success factors. We give a lot of hands-on tips and tricks illustrated by inspirational examples from our practice, so other projects can get maximum benefit from it – whether you use it to set up a new project from scratch or use it as a double-check and cherry-pick some ingredients to finetune and boost the impact of your own project.

In the upcoming months we will launch the different packages. Please register for our newsletter to stay updated or request a free intake if you’d prefer our custom advice or support!

Methodology | Transformcity