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City Partnerships For Urban Innovation - Discussion paper n° 9
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Management of Social Transformations - MOST

Discussion Paper Series - No. 9

City Partnerships For Urban Innovation


Francis Godard

Research Director
CNRS - PIR Villes

Habitat II - Istanbul
3-14 June 1996

Text initially presented within the framework of the NANTES ECOPOLIS meeting held in January, 1996



Urban innovation : towards new regulation modes of local public actions
The procedures question should not be separated from those of the actions' objectives
To reconcile the different scales of urban development : long and short temporalities ; local democracy and internationalization

Governance and partnership construction
Partnerships between local communities

Local authorities and companies : the market and politics
Cities and citizens Towards an innovation observatory : the Urban Observatory of Innovative Partnership Practices


After the "planet Earth" summit of Rio in June 1992, thanks to which questions such as durable development and relationships between local development and environment now come within the scope of world politics, after the social summit of Copenhagen in March 1995 which underlined the necessity of fighting against poverty and the risk of desintegration of the social fabric, after the women's summit in Beijing in September 1995, the "Cities' summit", which will take place in Istanbul in June 1996, puts the City at the centre of the debate on international cooperation.

The cities' policies and the role of local authorities are questions which arise at a time when new world geopolitics, including cities as new world players, is forming. Cities are places where the greatest wealth, but also the greatest poverty of the world concentrates. They are places of cultural and social integration, but also of social fractures, marginalization, exclusion and even - paradoxically - isolation. They are also the privileged field of social and political innovation and the field of a new reflection on the norms and practices of local public actions of tomorrow.

It is now an acknowledged fact that new urban governing modes are more and more characterized by the development of partnerships. These partnerships deserve to be better identified, particularly those working towards urban innovation, and it would be in the interest of the cities' representatives to benefit from the others' experiences. It is precisely the purpose of the meeting of Nantes-Ecopolis, which will contribute to implement, on a world scale, good networks where local, thematic or regional experiences can be exchanged, in the prospect of Habitat II at Istanbul.

1. Urban innovation : towards new regulation modes of local public actions

A new era of public actions to govern the cities is perhaps opening, based on new rules of cooperation between players. It is due to a new double awareness : firstly, the limits of public action modes based on a centralized and hierarchical vision of urban planning. and of the state's role ; secondly, that a strictly liberal vision of urban development tends to lead to an impasse, even to the risk of a social break and a fragmented development of cities (J.G. Padioleau, R. Demesteere. 1991).

In the 1980's, the development of "strategic town planning" (J. Borja. 1992) corresponded to the concern of implementing new principles of regulation for public actions in the field of urban development. This pragmatic step confirms the states' small capacity in leading a voluntary development and their will to mobilize less national public capital in the field of urban planning. Unlike normative and centralized town planning, strategic town planning is based on a plurality of players and proposes to create mediations, mobilize social players and allow compromises between diverging interests. It is a matter of creating favourable exchange situations according to an operating consensus, of creating a deliberation process between public and private sectors, of appreciating the economic potentialities of each situation. Strategic town planning aims at being iterative and based on interactions, as players continuously refine the problems. Pragmatic rationality is a dominant feature of the strategic approach. It relies on the finalization of negotiation procedures (G. Ascher. 1995).

Strategic town planning is an empirical way of piloting cities which is well adapted to the management of complex situations. But it cannot replace the continuing of reflection on urban innovation. Numerous questions are still unanswered. Two of them deserve to be particularly underlined.

1.1 The procedures question should not be separated from those of the actions' objectives

The innovation notion is too often understood in an over-simplistic way, that is to say as a search for a maximum efficiency to ensure the best return possible on the capital invested in an operation. By closing the door to reflection on the only question of means on the one hand, and on the other on only one of the possible objectives of collective action - in this case the economic efficiency - we risk to evade the debate on the objectives of urban development.

Raising the question of innovation precisely implies not to separate the question of procedures from the question of objectives. It also demands that we question ourselves about the new compromises which have to be made between the different objectives of the public actions undertaken within the framework of partnerships : these objectives being economic efficiency, the demands of social justice and solidarity, the necessary ecological caution and the durable development, the expression of citizenship, and the well-being of city dwellers (I. Sachs. 1993). Raising the question of innovation therefore implies to rethink the place of politics, that is to say the place from where it is possible to arbitrate between public actions' objectives.

Social innovation can finally be defined by its capacity to introduce new types of regulation. This capacity can be evaluated in the following three fields :

  • capacity to define a unified collective representation of the gradual changes of the cities, and therefore to formulate the various objectives of these changes ;
  • capacity to organize compromises between the opposing social strengths ;
  • capacity to implement the technical and social procedures which lead to these objectives and realize these social compromises.
The technical and social procedures are progressively being set up. On the other hand, we seem to be late as regards the objectives' debate ; it means that procedures often remain meaningless. The advent of a plurality of ways of expressing social interests, the variety of cultures and ways of life which mix in urban schemes, and the various temporal horizons of the players involved in the cities' production and management are everywhere brought to the fore. The very significant fragmentation of the various territories constituting the huge conurbations of tomorrow is everywhere underlined. In such conditions, how is it possible to think and build new principles of assembly around common objectives and collective representations of the future ? How, in other terms, can we think citizenship, i.e. the city beyond the variety of city dwellers' practices or urban explosion ? Behind very fragmented systems of compromise, how can we once more have an all-embracing vision ? How can we symbolize a collective future ?

Another problem is to be able to reconcile the following two different ways of thinking out collective actions : to manage the processes and to look towards the future (act of faith in the future which consists in not dealing only with management) or, in other words, "the immanence of daily action and the transcendence of the final objective" or strategic approaches following a logic of immediate negotiation and decision-making and approaches integrating the long-term dimension of urban development 1. In other terms, how to take into account the improbability of complex systems in developing process management and, at the same time, try to make the future more comprehensible by developing motivating utopias ?

1.2 To reconcile the different scales of urban development : long and short temporalities ; local democracy and internationalization.

Linking the two questions of the statement of collective interest and the future's preservation is a way to recall that our societies, marked by the very short-term scansions of the financial markets, find few places where a reflection can be expressed and plans made on a long-term basis (P. Delmas. 1991). Each player, taken individually, is not able to go beyond his own limited and short-term horizon. Depending on the countries, local and national councillors have a 4 to 7 year horizon. Investors ask for a return on investments after 3 years. But infrastructures such as buildings last at least a century, and towns develop according to multisecular rhythms. In collaboration with states and large international organisms, even new regional confederations, cities must ensure the coherence of social clocks by creating places where it is possible to express possibilities for the future and make choices on a long-term basis.

Cities do not constitute local entities which would oppose to planetary ones : they constitute internationalized realities, that is to say that their development is touched by the big currents of world economy. It has often and rightly been put forward that they have an important role in the spatial organization of the factors producing and managing positive externalities. We must never forget that they constitute at the same time political places where the actions of players acting on different territorial scales - ranging from local to worldwide - combine. It is the reason why they are perhaps the political institutions the most able to create new scales of democratic spaces between the economical macroregulations (i.e. the "laws" of world economy, too often set up as the laws of nature) and the microregulations of an inward-looking community.

2. Governance and partnership construction

Resorting to the "local governance" concept enables us to account for the diminution of the state's role to the advantage of more diversified forms of political intervention on urban development, and the development of contractual relationships between various players such as the state, territorial corporate bodies, private companies and all forms of expression of local interests (World Bank. 1995 ; R. Stren. 1995 ; Alfredo Rodriguez & Lucy Winchester. 1995). It enables us to go beyond the monocentered conceptions of the local political scene and the strictly institutional approaches of the political government, and study the negotiation mechanisms between different groups whose relationships can be defined both by competition and cooperation. It therefore leads to a widened conception of the governing of cities : we cannot act any longer as if the city council was the only local authority (J.P. Gaudin. 1995).

This new structurization of local political scenes is strongly linked to the decentralization processes concerning the countries which have a centralized administrative structure. In the countries where decentralization processes give to local corporate bodies new administrative prerogatives, these local bodies must negotiate these prerogatives with other partners than the state, as they are unable to exercise them on their own 2.

This concept therefore brings out some new structural evolutions in the governing of cities. But it is necessary to take into consideration the political structures of each country. Thus, according to the countries and their political structures, mayors occupy a more or less important place compared to other players. In some cases, like in the United States, they have a strong autonomy compared to central governments, but they undergo pressures from the private sector. A large number of countries slowly move towards this model with, of course, strong national variants. In other countries, like in Great-Britain, mayors depend on both central governments and private sectors. Elsewhere, the state leads the game. In some countries there have not been any local elections for decades, to the advantage of a central state or the customs of some local communities. Finally, sometimes township territories cover the whole country, sometimes, as in Lebanon, they cover only a part of the country.

This being established, we can distinguish three ways of organizing partnerships. These three modes prefigure our methodological grid (cf. infra. partie 3) and underline some elements of the problem.

2.1 Partnerships between local communities

Presently, they are the most difficult ones to implement. This is due, on the one hand, to the development of a complex solidarity interplay and to the competition between cities because of the local financing crisis provoked by the state's financial disinvestment and, on the other hand, to the difficulty of inventing appropriate territorial scales within large metropolitan areas comprising several towns.

2.1.1. Between competition and cooperation

Relationships between councils are marked both by the widening of exchange and cooperation systems and by an increase in competition. This is true within large metropolitan areas as well as between the large metropolitan areas themselves. In the latter case, it seems that competition prevails at the moment. The main objective of many councils is to attract public and private financing on the one hand, and a highly qualified population on the other. It results in a competition among townships to attract these rare resources. The United States are thought of as a precursory model (cf. David Harvey. 1990). The giving up of the federal state's urban policy at the beginning of the 70's - when Richard Nixon was president - and the decrease of federal aids in fields usually linked to the welfare state - when Ronald Reagan was president - are putting cities in a difficult situation, sometimes close to bankruptcy (let us remember New York in the middle of the 1970's). The development of the entrepreneurial model results from this fact. Today, everything takes place to attract people : congress and exhibition centres, touristic operations, science parks or "high tech" industries. Councils develop urban marketing strategies and tax facilities : it is a matter of creating a good business climate.

Europe tends to follow the same trend, even if the state continues to play a more important role. The watershed took place between 1982 and 1985 with the search for big modernistic projects, the development of urban marketing operations (the strong increase of the communication budgets is revealing), the search for an improvement of the companies' setting and environment. High tech parks, cultural festivals, advanced communication networks, economic or sports events, construction of office buildings around major crossroads: everything happens as if a norm of the worldwide city was emerging according to the logic of the big urban modernistic project. It is a matter of promoting operations which have short-term symbolic effects. What becomes of the investments which pay off in the long run like training, education and basic equipments ?

Some countries like Great-Britain have raised competition between cities to the status of a doctrine. The state therefore conditions the amount of the subsidies it gives to local authorities to the implementation of partnerships where the private sector is taking on a co-responsibility according to the "leverage ratio" principle which calculates the amount of private money attracted and compares it to the amount of public money invested. In other countries like France, the state has been taking a series of legislative measures since the beginning of the 90's, aiming at boosting cooperation between territorial corporate bodies and ensuring equity between townships 3.

After the decentralization phase launched between 1982 and 1993, the 1994 laws concerning town and country planning reintroduced the principle of a better distribution of activities among regions on the one hand, and a stronger re-intervention of the state as a coordinator and a guarantor of national solidarity. On the other, after ten years, decentralization had not reduced inequalities, neither between metropolitan areas nor within them.

2.1.2. Intermunicipal cooperation and partnership scales

A recent document written at the request of the United Nations within the framework of the Program on Metropolitan Governance (Gérard Marcou. 1995) makes a diagnosis of the situation to propose new methods in the field of metropolitan governance. After noting the failure of the previous attempts, it proposes "guidelines for a reform agenda for metropolitan governance". This document notes that cooperation is absolutely necessary in a certain number of fields such as the construction and maintenance of transport infrastructures, the management of public transport and the policies of land reserves. But, when existing, the horizontal cooperation between councils remains the more often monofunctional, as in the United States. Institutional reforms have been cropping up nearly everywhere in Europe since the middle of the 80's. They propose to either group together the councils (it has been previously done in Germany), or create supra-municipal structures as in Great-Britain or inter-municipal structures like in France and Italy (C. Lefebvre. 1995). In France, the question of the structure of the agglomerations' management - and therefore of the intermunicipal relationships over which the 1982 decentralization laws had passed - reappears 4. The 1991 orientation law on the city had already expressed the concern of passing from the scale of the district or the town to the scale of the metropolitan area. The orientation law of February 6, 1992, relative to the Territorial Administration of the Republic, aims at creating the piloting structures which are presently lacking in big agglomerations.

Intermunicipal cooperation within large metropolitan areas raises the question of the scales pertinent to management. The metropolitan area's territories and the townships' territories constitute two specific modes of social integration : the productive logic mode and the citizenship mode which implies the feeling of belonging to a community (Christian Offner. 1995). In the same way, one must admit that each institutional field of intermunicipal cooperations refers to a specific territory. To have them correspond to one another is a source of difficulties in every country, and shows that it is useless to try to do so at all costs. In fact the intermunicipal cooperation structures are in line with the logic of looking for dimensional optimums. It is a matter of gathering the necessary means to manage transport, networks and various services. The intermunicipal territory is variable and adapts better to the various territorial demands linked to the management of these different services than that of the townships. Intermunicipal cooperation can take on another function, as in France, with the organization of intermunicipal solidarities through a fair tax distribution. The supramunicipal territories then act either as functional entities, or as tax and social distribution entities, but not as territories regulating social cohesion. The territories involved by the partnerships between townships do not correspond to the territories of citizenship, i.e. of partnerships between townships and citizens. The township territories are places of history and memories, which metropolitan territories are not (or not yet !).

These remarks concern intermunicipal cooperation, but they can be generalized to other types of partnerships. An optimal scale, which would favour social innovation, does not exist. To a priori try and set the "right" scale is likely to lead us into a total impasse. It would be a matter for an abstract exercise which would not take into account the nature of the problems set. It would contribute to block a reflection which proves to be absolutely necessary. It would be likely to purely and simply exclude the players which would not be working at the scale set a priori. One often postulates that proximity is the preliminary condition for innovation. It certainly is a condition which favours an action against social exclusion, although we must not make a dogma out of this assertion. Is it the more adapted scale or the only one which stands out in a matter of intervening in the field of environment ? It is anything but sure.

2.2. Local authorities and companies : the market and politics

To raise the question of partnerships also means to question oneself on the new balances or new compromises which need to be invented between the logic of the market and the logic of politics. Putting forward the logic of politics and not the state's logic enables us to widen the horizon by asserting that the matter is no longer of opposing the market to the state but to look for a cooperation between the market and the various expression forms of collective will in each society.

Private players - local companies, banks, urban services companies, foundations - have become players which cannot be ignored as regards local urban policies. Numerous international meetings (OECD, 1994) have brought to the fore the intervention of certain companies in the realization of collective objectives, be it concerning the intervention in districts in difficulties, the processes of urban renovation, the implementation of training programs or the improvement of the cities' environment. The fact was that these companies could sometimes act without being directly motivated by market concerns, and that public action could therefore not be reduced to the only intervention of public players.

Political culture, which varies according to the countries, creates different balances between politics and the market (C. Martinand. 1993).If we want to understand innovation, we have to clarify the organizational architectures of the relationships between the public and private sector. In Anglo-Saxon countries, the contractualization of public policies is not very well developed and local partnerships bring together private partners on very selective operations, which are generally carried out on a short-term basis. In other countries as in France, the contractualization of public policies remains an important mainspring of the public policies' implementation.

Anglo-Saxon countries, especially the United States, have a long-standing tradition which sees big companies, financial institutions and foundations participate in local public interventions. They also have a tradition of local community interventions (BIPE-Conseil/Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations. 1993). In the United States, where partnership combinations can take on multiple forms, private companies are strongly encouraged to intervene in the development of urban housing, and banks in the development of community actions 5. Local projects are piloted by the Community Development Corporations which intervene in very diversified fields and in the field of housing in particular (in this last case, all the CDC are financed by both local authorities and banks). Intermediate organisms - between the financers and community organizations - manage these partnerships. The creation of banking products adapted to the communities in difficulties or the community involvement become an image and reputation asset for the companies 6. Great-Britain follows a very similar model, but the state is more present in the launching of initiatives, and the intervention field is wider as it is open to local economic development.

In the case of urban services, other management models have been tried and tested. Thus, the World Bank speaks of a real French model of delegated management based on the concession scheme 7. It differs from the German model, based on local companies and local authorities' direct management. Its principle is that a local player (towns, intermunicipal unions, districts, communities) entrusts a private company with a service according to the delegated management formula, or concession (in this case the user pays a fee for the service). The architecture of the French model is based on the pre-eminence of local representatives. The Anglo-Saxon architecture is based on the market ; competition has to be introduced everywhere possible and control organisms implemented (agencies) which will make sure that contracts are respected by introducing a third party between the authorities and the private operators. In France, just as in Germany, the local asserts its vitality and the congruence between the political and the productive functions makes a global and political regulation possible : it rests on a balance between efficiency and city life. In France, technical assistance is ensured more by semi-public companies, and in Germany by municipal professionals. In Great-Britain, the organization of the urban technical networks has been transfered towards supramunicipal authorities ; it has contributed to the weakening of English local authorities, as "local agencies" have supplanted the local government. Two balance models of the relationships between the political and productive functions are then emerging : the market tempered by democracy and regulated by politics, or the market limited by law. But is the innovation's raison d'être in the field of partnerships to conclude deals or, as we think, to collectively redefine the objectives of the authorities' interventions between the public and private sectors.

Whatever the political culture has taken into consideration, we have perhaps insufficiently insisted on the fact that public players are more and more led by market logics. Partnership is then close to the non-separation of roles 8. Thus in France, the 1983 law bringing the status of semi-public companies closer to the status of trading companies has led to some drifts, denounced by the revenue court : public players were taking on the risks of operations whose management fell to private players. In the United States, the constitution of new hybrid organisms grouping together the players of both the public and private sector have led to the conclusion of numerous agreements to develop real estate operations. Certain studies (M.V. Levine. 1994) indicate that poor neighbourhoods have hardly benefited from these agreements, as they have focused on economically strong operations (for example the construction of office buildings) rather than on operations which were socially necessary, and that the financing procedures used (Lynne B. Sagalyn. 1991 9) have not allowed a public debate on the validity of public aid granted to these operations.

Therefore, at a moment when a new project culture emerges by integrating into local public policies, instruments of economical development, it is more than ever necessary to assert the specific role of the strictly political decision.

2.3 Cities and citizens

Partnership procedures form a new local game between administrative officials and representatives of interests which are organized at the local level to create new ways of producing services and new negotiated forms of public policies. The fact of associating citizens to the production of collective services is already widespread in North America. It is also practised in other parts of the world. We can distinguish at least three scenarios :

(a) In Curitiba (Brazil), associations have been associated by the municipality for the protection and the maintenance of nature reserves located in the urban environment. The same city has created two management programs of urban wastes 10. The first one is based on the separation of the types of wastes. It has mobilized a large majority of the population and has enabled the city to reinvest the savings made in social programs. The second has mobilized the favelas' inhabitants to collect the wastes in exchange for tangible advantages such as free bus tickets or consumables.

(b) In other cases, non-governmental organizations (the so-called third sector besides the state and the market) directly propose services. This is particularly noticeable since the end of the 70's. They mainly intervene in the fields of education and health, and more recently in the field of environment. Their originality consists in mobilizing national and often international financial supports for a local action. More and more often financed to realize finalized projects, they more often enter into short or medium-term pragmatic logics than into strategic actions concerning the long-term development of cities (Rubem César Fernandes. 1994). The question of linking their action to the action of local representatives is more than ever raised.

(c) Finally, in other cases populations directly take charge of the production of goods and services. It is what happens, for example, with the programs of collective self-construction of housing units. These processes have been analyzed, particularly in the South African case and above all in the Brazilian case with the mutirao practice (Céline Sachs. 1989). There again, as Céline Sachs underlines it, these popular initiatives have durable chances of success only if the authorities recognize them and bring them an institutional and financial support through the organization of solidarity at the level of the whole town.

Cooperation between local authorities and inhabitants raises two fundamental problems. The first one concerns the question of the citizens' representation. The second one concerns the development of civism and therefore of the culture of citizenship.

2.3.1. Cooperation between local authorities and inhabitants casts new light on the question of representation.

The classical representation system where a population speaks directly to its mayor applies only in small villages where a face to face relationship between the mayor and the citizens is possible. Once a certain quantitative threshold passed, citizenship expresses itself by means of groups representing organized interests. These representation systems vary from the classical relays of political sociability (neighbourhood associations, various organizations in the field of sports, culture or leisure, unions) to the community representation system of the social field, including all sorts of more traditional economical lobbies. Since the 70's, associations have been taking the initiative of elaborating new discourses, therefore enabling the expression of a multitude of new social players such as women, homosexuals, denominational groups, ethnical groups, elderly people (the "grey panthers" !), the various types of handicapped persons, the inhabitants of such or such a district, etc. Everything happens as if legal representation, confined within management, was no longer able to propose values and - worse - was no longer able to enunciate collective interest(s).

The setting up, here and there, of new mediation spaces (Maurice Blanc. 1995) reveals new ways of building up decisions by treating a specific problem and trying to conciliate the conflictual potential interests of players rather than treating a global question. In North America, this process takes various forms : cooperative processes, alternative dispute resolution, citizen advisory groups...

2.3.2. Civic culture, incivisms and mobilization of citizens

We can go no further than a purely institutional vision of partnerships. Other factors, of a cultural nature, intervene in citizen production. Each society bears a civic culture. It expresses its citizens' degree of confidence in the social contract which links them together. However civil violence is one of the main obstacles of citizen life.

How is it possible to found an urban democracy when violence regulates relationships in the daily public space ? How can we advocate institutional partnerships when partnerships in civil society are themselves unconceivable ? The eradication of violence is a very long-term task, and political representatives are elected only for short periods of time. Municipalities like Bogota, aware of the fact that instituting local democracy means restoring civism, have however attacked this difficult problem without being afraid of long-term actions.

Incivism, as the refusal or the incapacity of measuring the effects of one's own behaviour on collective dynamics, is a more subtle way of denying the social link. From vehicle behaviour to the ways of settling small neighbourhood quarrels, from the attitude towards noise or hygiene to the relationships between generations or sexes, the list of all daily incivisms would be long.

The social contract consists also of the confidence bond which unites each individual to the cities' collective projects. It is clear that levying taxes presupposes a minimum of consensus. Cities are sometimes confronted with the illegal practices of certain well-off circles or with the "boycott culture" of poor people (R. Stren. 1995). A society where the confidence bond does not exist has difficulties in bearing collective projects.

A society with a weak civic consensus, expressed either through violence, incivism or a refusal to participate in the collective public effort, is also a society which has difficulties in preparing its future.

The new questions raised concerning representation or civism show us that the way local governments, "third sector" associations and self-organized populations meet is decisive for the elaboration of a discourse able to express the long-term common good, as well as for the capacity to mobilize all the human resources of a local community. Beyond the specific methods of the community (where the chief of the community is the people's delegate) or the classical methods of formal democracy, entirely organized around the election process (where the political representative is the people's delegate), we still have to invent a real culture of citizenship. We therefore have to explore new methods 11, from the creation of "debate forums" to that of "local development councils", including the development of mediation systems from various networks of players.

3. Towards an innovation observatory : the Urban Observatory of Innovative Partnership Practices

Partnership generalization leads to the multiplication of devices and to a flowering of procedures which are often experimental at the start and remain hardly codified afterwards. It makes it difficult to apprehend the diversity of the practices made in the field and to interpret the whole. It is difficult to draw a global knowledge from the innovating experiences in progress. It is also difficult to say if they have led to durable results. Researchers in social sciences could, together with all the concerned players, organize a memory of these experiences and enable their assessment (Maurice Blanc. 1995). With this in mind, the creation of an "urban observatory of innovating partnership practices", which would register and describe the various experiences undertaken throughout the world, would certainly be useful. It would be a place where experiments in progress could be followed up. It would allow a procedure of systematic scientific comparisons of these experiments to take place. It would allow the accumulation of knowledge drawn from experiments both finished and in progress 12.

This observatory would have the following three main tasks :

  • It would detect the places where political and cultural changes are expressed and would identify the innovative experiments made in the field of partnerships. We would therefore have the possibility to show the range of partnership practices conceived as new forms of local public actions. These experiments would be listed on an electronic catalogue available for consultation on the Internet network.
  • It would set these innovative experiments according to a typology which could be organized along the following grid 13 :

    Types of partnerships
    Public/public Public/private Public/citizen
    Objectives Equity
    Economic efficiency
    Well-being of citizens

    The principle of the double entry, both by the partnership combinations and by the objectives, is the main aim of this grid. Obviously, excellency in the field of innovation consists in filling the grid. An experiment which would be identifiable only in one box, for example the box combining "public/private" with economic efficiency, would be poorly considered 14.

  • It would analyse experiments retained. This analysis could be taken in several steps, described in a second grid 15:
    • analysis of the stakes linked to the intervention field concerned (transport, health, housing, security, ecology, exclusion...) ;
    • analysis of the spatial scales corresponding to each experiment ;
    • analysis of the players mobilized in the partnerships ;
    • analysis of the operating modes, of the types of agreements (contracts, covenants or others), of the finance mobilized, of the associated functions or "city jobs" ;
    • analysis of the social effects from the point of view of equity, durability, citizenship, economic efficiency ; analysis of the effects on urban development and living conditions.
Using this method, it is a matter of understanding what are the parameters which favour or hinder social innovation, in the different given socio-economic contexts. In other words, it is a matter of answering the following question through the constitution of this observatory : which are the winning partnership combinations, under which conditions and to obtain which results ?

This observatory would allow the promotion of new forms of international cooperations. Based on the refusal to import standard models, it would enable cities to invent their own solutions from the confrontation of the various situations and common objectives encountered throughout the world. It would enable the mobilization of worldwide experts around concrete experiments. Finally, it would make known the emergence of new modes of citizenship.

1. To retranscribe the terms of Mr. Olivier Piron, Director of the Construction and Architecture Plan at the Ministry of Equipement, France.

2. The question of decentralization throughout the world would need to be more developed. In some cases like Brazil, with the 1988 constitution, or India with the 74 amendment of the 1992 constitution (R. Stren. 1995), the struggle for more autonomous local governments first corresponds to a democratic claim ; in other cases such as northern countries, it is perhaps a matter of, above all, rationalizing the welfare state and partially pulling out the state from its commitments. In fact, in all cases, it is a reorganization of the state system where the two processes meet.

3. For example the orientation law for the city of July 13, 1991, also called the "anti-ghetto law", which has been voted in a context of a suburban crisis : noting the increase of inequalities between townships of a same urban area and the concentration of disadvantaged families within a same district, it wants to boost cooperation between the various townships of the metropolitan area. It also advocates a better distribution of public housing among towns and a certain "mix" in the construction of housing projects by conceiving programs of local authority housing at the scale of the metropolitan area. It introduces the idea of a coordination between townships.
The housing law of July 21, 1994, tries to answer to the insolvent demand crisis and to think out a new model of public intervention at the departmental level. It wants (without really succeeding) to imply departments in the housing policies concerning disadvantaged persons. In a decentralization movement where abilities in the field of housing are strongly intermingled, it appears that in the field of intervention on major poverty each one tries to lay the responsibilities at the others' door. These two laws confirm the state's will to impose the necessary actions in the field of solidarity and housing to the territorial corporate bodies.

4. The principle of "subsidiarity" raises new problems. It means that it is useless to resort to a higher corporate body if the closest territorial body is able to guarantee the services planned. But it leaves the question of the pertinent scales of public actions wide open.

5. With the 1986 Low Income Tax Credits, the part of the profits invested by the companies in social habitat enables them to obtain a tax credit (this credit would be approximately 20% higher than the initial investment). Since 1977, the Community Reinvestment Act" has been obliging banks to intervene in the community development.

6. It explains the companies' reluctance to work with other companies : they do not want to share the image profits.

7. The management of public services is entrusted to authorities' operators which are juridically distinct : it is the principle of delegated management. It has the advantage of introducing both legal and institutional supple solutions for the private/public relationship, the conceding authority keeping a large part in the management of the projects.

8. We could give other examples of non-separation of roles. One of the most worrying concerns the security fucntions. We think of certain cities of South America or Africa where the same persons occupy functions both in the police hierarchy and as employees or managers of private guardien companies. The function of legitimate exercise of public violence is in such a case transfered de facto to the private sector.

9. The constituting of semi-public societies,permits the incuriing of large investments without any direct budget control and without any public justification of one's choices (Lynne B. Sagalyn. 1991).

10. These experiments have been rewarded by the program on environment of the United Nations in 1990.

11. Certain initiatives follow this direction, such as the "Caracas declaration" which stemmed from the seminar organized in Caracas in 1991 by the Foundation of Human Progress, under the aegis of the Venezuelian government, or the action chart elaborated by this same Foundation (cf. Foundation for Human Progress. 1990).

12. There are already projects following this direction, in particular the "Mega-Cities Projects" founded by Janice Perlman and based in New York. "Mega-Cities" set itself the task of drawing the lessons of successful experiments in order to pass them on to the urban operators. The following experiments are for example in their inventory : in the field of environment, the waste recycling campaigns in Mexico (SIRDO system) or the campaigns made to clean the streets of Bangkok, in the field of the struggle against poverty, the food collects made with restaurants for the refuges of homeless people in New York, in the field of urban well-being, the mobile crèche systems in Delhi, etc.

13. The construction principles of this grid have been proposed in collaboration with Céline Sachs-Jeantet.

14. This grid obviously raises many problems. For example, how can the "public/private" heading be distinguished from the "public/citizen" one when, as it is the case most of the time, citizens are represented by organized groups ? Moreover, how is it possible to distinguish the different levels of public institutions (the local, regional or national level).

15. Many methodological precisions should be brought to this scheme. For example, it would be advisable to distinguish the finished operations from the operations in progress which necessitate a follow-up in real time of their evolution.


About the author

Francis Godard is a French social scientist with a Ph. D in Sociology. He is Deputy Director of PIR-VILLES, Research Director at the Centre national pour la recherche scientifique and Lecturer in the Ecole des Ponts et Chaussées. His latest publications include Familles Mobilisées: Accession à la propriété du logement et notion d'effort des ménages. Paris: Collection Texte Intégral, M.U.L. 1982 (in collaboration with P. Cuturello) ; D'une génération ouvrière à l'autre, Paris, Syros, Collection Alternatives sociales, Paris 1988 ; La famille, affaire de génération, Collection Economie et liberté, PUF, Paris 1992.

The facts and opinions expressed in this series are those of the authors and do not engage the responsibility of UNESCO.

© UNESCO 1996

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