The present of Open Access: the list of OA journals, updated and extended



Back in 2015, to celebrate that year’s the Open Access week, I decided to put together a list of the OA journals I knew in planning, urban studies and geography, a list which has been afterwards growing thanks to the support of a number of colleagues. It was just four years ago, but it seemed a different epoch: OA seemed a thing of the future. Many still associated OA with poor-quality research and publication. Fast forward to 2019, and OA is the present, as most publishers have launched their own OA journals and most institutional funders require all outputs to be released freely. However, rather than truly opening publishing practices, with the rise of so-called “gold OA”, where publication costs are covered by authors, mainstream OA has become another way for corporate publishers to increase their revenues. The result is that inequalities in the access to knowledge are being shifted from the distribution to the production side, as coming from a wealthier institution and country now gives authors more access to publication.

The good news is that there is a different path to OA, one where access is truly “open” on both sides, that of the readers and that of the authors. I call this “real OA”, because it is the only way access is… truly open. Thanks to open source software like Open Journal System, managing and storing a journal is easier that it has ever been, and many institutions are using resources to manage journals rather than to pay subscriptions. Another good news is that departments and organisations in the areas of planning, urban studies and geography are among the most active on this path. In particular, there are geographical contexts that have long been marginal to the global geography of “international” academic publication that have been pioneering the building of real OA, and especially Brazil and Latin America, Southern and Eastern European countries. During the last few years, the trend has extended to other geographic contexts, with new OA journals and long-established ones (including Fennia and Geografica Helvetica) going full OA.

If the present of scholarly publication is OA, then only real OA can make its future a just one. Editing, publishing in, and making peer-review work for, real OA journals is the contribution we can all give to a better future for scholarly publication.

This is why I decided to take some more time to update and extend the list of OA journals on this YA blog. Besides checking all links, I have added some journals and provided more information: who publishes the journals and whether their pages claim inclusion on indexes.

Let me be clear: I do not believe in indexes. There are many journals with high Impact Factor that publish pointless research; and there are many good journals that are not indexed, or are not yet (among them, self-plug disclaimer, plaNext – next generation planning, the journal of AESOP YA, or the recently launched Transactions of AESOP). I believe the only way to assess the quality of a journal is to take a look at what they publish; and that the right journal to publish is that where readers will be looking for your contribution. And yet, I am aware that in these times of precariousness and anxiety, publishing in indexed journals is important for many of us (I’m not talking to you tenured fellows, you should be publishing in real OA only!). The good news is that, differently from just a few years ago, there are several real OA journals included in mainstream indexes like WoS and Scopus; and there are newer indexes dedicated specifically to OA (above all, DOAJ) and to specific geographic contexts (like Scielo, the ultimate index for Spanish and Portuguese speaking contexts).

Speaking of languages, a great thing of real OA is that it is far from being a mono-lingual enterprise. In an increasingly multi-polar world, the idea that one language allows to be truly “international” is, in my opinion, just a remnant of colonial thinking. Isn’t it crazy that at the same time as “Anglophone” countries become truly multi-lingual the academic planet becomes mono-lingual? It is. Or, better, it would be if it was true. In fact, many languages are increasingly used internationally in academia; and nothing can replace national, regional and local languages if we want to give “access” to readers beyond academia throughout the world. This is why the privileges multi-lingual journals, which seem to be indeed a majority of real OA journals.

In 2019, submit your work to a real OA journal!


Sculpture by Rich-Stainthorp: “Just a dude reading a book” on Deviant Art

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Feeding the melting pot: Inclusive sustainable diets in the multi-ethnic city

Guest author: Anke Brons (Aeres University of Applied Sciences, Almere and Wageningen University)

Note: This post was initially published on the blog of the The Food Climate Research Network (FCRN) on 27 November 2018.

Picture of a

In achieving the transition to more healthy and sustainable diets, a major challenge is how to do so in an inclusive and equitable way. In a Western context, this issue is particularly relevant as cities increasingly become more diverse in their ethnic make-up; it is essential to include the entire population across class and ethnicity in this dietary transition. This means moving beyond the current involvement of the ‘green elite’ – mostly white, well-educated and high-income citizens with specific understandings and practices of sustainable food consumption.

Today, over half the world’s population lives in urban areas and cities’ food sourcing and consumption patterns have become the main influence on the sustainability of the food system. The challenge of providing healthy and sustainable diets to a growing population is increasingly one for cities to address. Providing inclusive access to healthy and sustainable food requires consideration of the diverse ethnic groups who make up modern cities, and who co-create the food environment with their own cultural food practices and with distinct culturally appropriate food patterns.

What could inclusiveness look like in providing sustainable diets to such a multicultural population? This question drives my current research, in which I study Syrian migrants in the Netherlands. My contention here is that identifying pathways to inclusive healthy and sustainable food systems involves looking beyond ‘classic’ sustainable food practices and interpretations (such as participation in alternative food networks like farmers markets or vegetable box schemes) and towards highlighting environmentally friendly practices among migrants that, while existing, are often performed ‘in disguise’ (Dubuisson‐Quellier & Gojard, 2016). It is necessary that we develop a more inclusive definition of what constitutes sustainable food practices in order to engage, recognise and include a broader range of people and their practices in the process of transitioning to a more sustainable food system. This move is essential to avoid exclusion of certain marginalised groups by either not crediting their sustainable practices or by failing to engage them by not speaking their language.

What is inclusiveness?

Much has been written about inequalities in food access from the perspective of ‘food justice’, a concept which is concerned with equity and power in relation to food security. The food justice approach focuses on how people of certain races and classes are structurally and historically disadvantaged in the food system. This approach largely focuses on the exclusion of poor ethnic minorities from access to alternative food networks such as local farmers markets. Such groups may be excluded because of economic inaccessibility or because the types of products on offer do not cater to their cultural food practices (Allen, 2010; Caraher & Dowler, 2014). In this context, inclusive access refers to a situation where everyone has the ability, expertise or skills to participate in the alternative agrifood movement. Others highlight different elements of inclusion, such as having access to an allotment garden to grow culturally appropriate foods (Diekmann, Gray, & Baker, 2018), having adequate transport to reach food outlets (Farber, Páez, Mercado, Roorda, & Morency, 2011), or being included in food policy processes by, for instance, getting a seat in a food policy council (Lombe & Sherraden, 2008).

Within these varied approaches to inclusion, a critical yet relatively underexplored element is the framing of the concept of sustainability itself. Guthman (2008) suggests that sustainability is culturally framed based on whitened cultural histories, by assuming that it is a universal ideal and performed in one particular way. What constitutes ‘good food’ is shaped by cultural capital, ‘repertoires’ or ‘understandings, thought habits, values, ideas and routines’ in which some ethical food practices are dominant and others marginalised (Johnston, Szabo, & Rodney, 2011, p.298). Johnston et al. mention the example of a single mother on low income, who cannot afford to participate in the dominant ethical practice of shopping at a farmers market but who never overconsumes or wastes food. These food practices that deviate from the prevalent ethical ideal may in fact be environmentally friendly, even though they are often not explicitly carried out with a concern for the environment.  In other words, they are performed ‘in disguise’: that is, outside the collective normative standards of sustainability (Dubuisson‐Quellier & Gojard, 2016). In applying this observation to the case of Syrian migrants, I am interested in learning what migrants themselves understand as sustainability and also which elements of their food practices may – inconspicuously – already be sustainable. What follows is a brief summary of some aspects of my recent fieldwork experiences of conducting in-depth interviews and observations with Syrian migrants in the Netherlands.

Experiences from the field: Syrian migrants in the Netherlands

My research is concerned with perceptions of sustainability (and health), and in how people make sense of it in their daily lives and food practices. I have found that, for almost all the respondents, the concept of ‘sustainability’ or ‘environmental concern’ is unfamiliar, especially in relation to food. Upon asking a dietician from the region, I learned that even though there is an Arabic word for ‘sustainability’, it is not used or understood by most people. The concept of sustainability as such is therefore not widely recognised in Syrian (food) culture and may require (cultural) translation in the Dutch food context.

At the same time, although not recognised as such by those performing them, the food practices of respondents often scored well in some respects when compared with the Dutch dietary guidelines for sustainable eating (Voedingscentrum, 2018), in that fresh (unprocessed), seasonal and local food featured heavily in their diets. Many respondents were used to cooking with fresh and seasonal vegetables, as they did in Syria:

I: ‘So, you cook with the products from the season?’

R: ’Yes, but you see, the season in Holland does not exist. Here you find everything, there is no season.’

I: ‘Then, why do you cook with the product from the season?’

R: ‘It never hurt me eating cherries in the winter, but there is a cycle and you should listen to it. I do not think it is harmful, but I feel like I have to follow the cycle of the four seasons, and each season gives you something.’ (Long-term resident, 26 years in the Netherlands)

Seasonality and unprocessed, fresh produce are, however, not at all associated with sustainability in the respondents’ minds.

Several people also mentioned buying food from the local farmer or slaughterhouse. In one Dutch city – Enschede – local Dutch farmers have even started producing Syrian cheese to accommodate the needs of their regular Syrian customers. Additionally, almost all the respondents indicated they had their own vegetable garden in the Netherlands, as in Syria, in which they grew at least grapes to make yaprak or dolma, a very popular Middle-Eastern dish. Yet they never associated these local food practices with being environmentally friendly, but rather as a means of obtaining the foods they wanted to eat.

On the other hand, respondents generally did not score so well on the aspects of the Dutch dietary guidelines which recommend low meat and dairy consumption. Most Syrians did eat meat quite regularly, even though they would themselves often explicitly label it as unhealthy. In terms of dairy, cheese and yoghurt were central and frequently consumed items in the Syrian kitchen. The exception to these food habits were regular religious fasting days carried out by some Syrian orthodox migrants, which involved not eating dairy or meat – essentially, maintaining a vegan diet – for two or three days a week.


My aim in highlighting these daily cultural food practices has been to show that sustainability can take diverse forms and that this diversity offers potential for multi-ethnic cities in transitioning to healthy and sustainable food systems in an inclusive manner. In order to identify shared pathways for this transition it is necessary to collaborate with the variety of ethnic groups living in cities to learn how they are experts at managing their daily food practices and how sustainability fits into their daily lives, albeit perhaps in disguise. For instance, I believe there is a pathway towards regionalisation of the food system that is at once inclusive and sustainable, which builds on the high degree of fresh vegetable consumption among local migrants and their habits of buying local, fresh food such as milk or cheese, as illustrated above. This indicates an interest in and a potential market for more local production of culturally appropriate and healthy foods in short supply chains which require little or no processing, which I see as both sustainable and inclusive. To quote Scott, Park, and Cocklin (2000), “[w]e highlight the need to examine the multitude of competing voices in a particular locality if sustainability is to be about anything other than maintaining the status quo and entrenching current patterns of inequality” (p.434). This involves looking beyond mainstream, ‘elite’ understandings of sustainable food practices and opening up the space for alternative interpretations and practices.

Do have a look at the blog of the Food Climate Research network for other posts related to food sustainability. 


Allen, P. (2010). Realizing justice in local food systems. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 3(2), 295-308.

Caraher, M., & Dowler, E. (2014). Food for poorer people: Conventional and ‘alternative’ transgressions? In Food Transgressions: Making Sense of Contemporary Food Politics (pp. 227-246).

Diekmann, L. O., Gray, L. C., & Baker, G. A. (2018). Growing ‘good food’: urban gardens, culturally acceptable produce and food security. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 1-13. doi:10.1017/S1742170518000388

Dubuisson‐Quellier, S., & Gojard, S. (2016). Why are food practices not (more) environmentally friendly in France? The role of collective standards and symbolic boundaries in food practices. Environmental Policy and Governance, 26(2), 89-100.

Farber, S., Páez, A., Mercado, R. G., Roorda, M., & Morency, C. (2011). A time-use investigation of shopping participation in three Canadian cities: Is there evidence of social exclusion? Transportation, 38(1), 17-44. doi:10.1007/s11116-010-9282-0

Guthman, J. (2008). “If they only knew”: color blindness and universalism in California alternative food institutions. The professional geographer, 60(3), 387-397.

Johnston, J., Szabo, M., & Rodney, A. (2011). Good food, good people: Understanding the cultural repertoire of ethical eating. Journal of Consumer Culture, 11(3), 293-318.

Lombe, M., & Sherraden, M. (2008). Inclusion in the policy process: An agenda for participation of the marginalized. Journal of Policy Practice, 7(2-3), 199-213. doi:10.1080/15588740801938043

Scott, K., Park, J., & Cocklin, C. (2000). From `sustainable rural communities’ to `social sustainability’: giving voice to diversity in Mangakahia Valley, New Zealand. Journal of rural studies, 16(4), 433-446. doi:

Voedingscentrum. (2018). Duurzaam eten. Retrieved from

Anke Brons profile pic

Anke Brons is a PhD Candidate in environmental sociology at Aeres University of Applied Sciences, Almere and Wageningen University. Her research focuses on inclusive healthy and sustainable food systems in a Western urban context. She holds an MSc degree in International Development Studies from Wageningen University. You can find her on Twitter @AnkeBrons.

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Participatory budgeting made in France

Participatory budgeting is increasingly popular among local councils, and is now also adopted by regional and even national governments across the globe. The influential American non-profit Participatory Budgeting Project defines participatory budgeting as such:

Participatory budgeting (PB) is a democratic process in which community members decide how to spend part of a public budget. It gives people real power over real money.

PB started in Porto Allegre, Brazil, in 1989, as an anti-poverty measure that helped reduce child mortality by nearly 20%. Since then PB has spread to over 3,000 cities around the world, and has been used to decide budgets from states, counties, cities, housing authorities, schools, and other institutions.

The New York Times calls PB “revolutionary civics in action”—  it deepens democracy, builds stronger communities, and creates a more equitable distribution of public resources.

For a quick and excellent state-of-the-art of participatory budgeting from 2014, do have a look this blog post by Irina Paraschivoiu.

In France, participatory budgeting has taken off over the last five years as an emblematic renewal of local democracy, and was kickstarted by diverse local political alliances across the country.  An increasing number of council staff from different cities have been attending the recent national professional meetings on the topic. The third such “National Meeting on Participatory Budgeting” was held on 8-9 November 2018 in the city of Montreuil, located on the eastern edge of city of Paris. Montreuil was a particularly interesting location for hosting the conference, as it has been nicknamed the “21st Paris arrondissement” due to its hip creative scene, latent gentrification, industrial and communist local political legacy, as well as its rich social, cultural, ethnic and economic diversity.

The conference was attended by hundreds of participants: community engagement officers and elected officials from 40+ French cities, sales reps from software companies, researchers as well as active if not outspoken residents from the three co-sponsoring cities (Rennes, Grenoble and Montreuil). Coryn Barclay, a research consultant at Fife Council in Scotland, provides an excellent summary of the event. The conference was hosted by the three French cities who have championed participatory budgeting in France: Grenoble, Rennes and Montreui. To provide a bit of international food for thought, the conference was blessed with highly engaging presentations from three foreign speakers: Coryn Barclay from Fife council, located just north of Edinburgh; Carlos Menchaca from District 38 in New York City; and Marta Osòrio from the city of Cascais, located west of Lisbon. They shared their respective successful experiences of engaging diverse publics through participatory budgeting. Their presentations was followed by a panel discusssion moderated by Gilles Pradeau, a PhD researcher and experienced participatory budgeting practitioner at Westminster University. Do read Coryn Barclay’s summary for more details about these presentations.

The participatory budgeting scholar Yves Syntomer also gave a historical and contemporary overview of best practices and challenges of participatory budgeting, from its early days of social justice and social transformation in Porto Allegre in the late 1980s, to the current political situation in Brazil, as well as the more consultative and less participatory budget consultations initiated in France several decades ago. Then as now, Yves Syntomer highlighted the need for strong political backing as the cornerstone of effective engagement : participatory budgeting typically takes places as the direct result of political will. He also noted that while the current national political climate in several countries across the world is leading to increasing citizen distrust of party politics, participatory budgeting is both a cause and a sign of renewal in civic engagement at the local municipal level. As a result, the current wave of participatory budgeting in so-called developed countries creates new expectations in terms institutional innovation and related service provision among local councils, as part of slowly shifting local governance regimes.

Mayor of Montreuil Patrice Bessac expressed in his welcoming address that local democratic methods such as participatory budgeting are a powerful way of reviving the now almost-clichéd Local Agenda 21 motto « Think Global, Act Local ». With due consideration to rising populist and nationalistic politics in Europe and beyond, the mayor also expressed that strategies such as participatory budgeting bear promise for restoring dialogue, learning and civic engagement in local place-making as a potential counter-reaction to the twin trends of populist entranchement and post-truth, notably by providing a physical-tangible evidence base through the built environment itself. Furthermore, participatory budgeting can also help improve both the lives and living environment of urban citizens, through projects iniated by rather than on behalf of people. He thereby stressed the importance of « walking the talk » of local democratic policy, and congratulated participants for beginning to do just that in their respective local councils.

Parc intergenerationnel Montreuil

Before (above) and after (below) : rendering of an age-friendly park in the city of Montreuil which was submitted and voted by citizens during the first round of participatory budgeting in 2015, and has been recently delivered by the relevant local council departments. Image credit: Ville de Montreuil, from Youtube video “Budget participatif : Création d’un square intergénérationnel rue de la Dhuys”, posted on 30 October 2017.

The different participatory budgeting programmes in France have varied widely in terms of: the participatory budget allocated per inhabitant; voting procedures (with or without formal identification); ways of submitting and voting for project proposals (online or by physical/paper-based means); number of project proposals submitted by citizens; number of projects making it to the voting line; and overall budget allocated in each city to participatory budgeting in terms of absolute budget in euros and percentage of total municipal budget expenditure. The polling procedure also varies between cities, whereby some councils favour an open voting strategy based on simple email registration and virtually no age barrier, while other councils such as Grenoble or Bastia require voters to provide formal ID. Several conference participants indicated that an over-securisation of the voting procedure can deter citizen engagement and potentially reduce voting numbers. Too much verification runs the risk of killing participation, therefore.

In terms of community engagement technology, some local councils went mostly digital in their deployment of the participatory budgeting, particularly in the project submission and polling phases. Other councils, such as Paris, began with a 100% digital strategy but soon adopted more extensive offline participation methods, particularly for the polling phase which featured a dense network of physical polling stations across the city of Paris, so much so that paper votes now outnumber digital votes. Several cities also recruited student and civic engagement interns to go out and meet a wide range of resident groups in public space and various other locations such as schools.

In terms of digital technology specifically, the majority of local councils seem to procure digital platforms from Civic Tech providers, which usually provide a back-end interface for content management. However, noteworthy councils such as the city of Paris and the city of Grenoble have chosen instead to further develop their own council website to include an add-on or link to a bespoke, in-house platform for the participatory budgeting process, which seems to have been more easily afforded by their sizeable ICT department and related annual budgetary expenditure, which was deemed more favourable than a procured consultancy service (i.e. Software as a Service – SaaS). Smaller councils who lack a significant ICT infrastructure and staff capacity clearly seem to favour a SaaS solution as an easier way of streamlining the community engagement process. The overall experience shows that it is important to reach out to people through all possible means, and safeguard inclusion and accessiblity by deploying both offline and online modes of engagement. On the basis of experimentation and successful first rounds, multiple councils are now considering expanding the amount of municipal budget allocated to participatory budgeting.

Of particular interest from an international perspective is the fact that, in contrast to  cities in other countries which may focus more on consultation, French participatory budgets typically involve co-production (en français: “co-construction” – minding contextual nuances that may be lost in translation) rather than sheer participation. Co-production can take place from the very beginning of the participatory budgeting process (i.e. project design and ideation), to project polling and implementation, and runs alongside management and oversight by the various relevant local council departments. Project holders may sometimes even inaugurate their project in the company of the city mayor, as was the case in Rennes last September for the inauguration of a much-discussed floating greenification project, which was a national if not European first-of-its-kind in terms of urban greening initiative.

Stay put for the next National Meeting on Participatory Budgeting which will be hosted in November 2019 by the city of Paris and will be spearheaded by the Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo herself. The international momentum of the event will likely be even stronger than in previous years; even greater attendance is to be expected from French and foreign local councils alike, due to the growing popularity and effectiveness of participatory budgeting as a way of engaging the public in local urban affairs. Never mind big politics, participatory budgeting seems set to become an increasingly engaging, attractive, and potentially empowering mode of participation and civic engagement, not least for people who would not participate on any other civic matter. Participatory  budgeting appears as a means of not only having a greater say in local public expenditure, but also of directly impacting local place-making in very tangible projects. Beyond the positive experiences shared at such national conferences, more empirical evidence and systematic comparative analysis is required to assess the real impact of participatory budgeting on local democratic practices, alongside other emerging modes of engaging the public. Such is also the objective of a new French participatory budgeting network that will help to benchmark experiences and share best practice both nationally and internationally. As participatory budgeting is the product of significant political backing, time will also tell whether it is wholly politically dependent, or whether it can develop a civic life and momentum of its own.


Participatory Budgeting = real power? Time will tell, based on comparative benchmarking and in-depth empirical analysis, for instance as part of a national participatory budgeting network.

Post-scriptum: This post was written bona fide; should there be any errors in the views represented and discussed here, these will be a reflection of my own personal interpretations and experience of the conference keynotes and discussions, rather than an accurate summary of the content of the conference itself.

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There is no Alternative? A discussion of an alternative on Tarlabasi Renewal Project

This blog post is inspired by the fieldwork I conducted during my PhD research. The research focuses on renovation and regeneration projects, and also on the gentrification concept, in two historic neighbourhoods of Istanbul. The overall goal of the research was to explore how poor inhabitants in these areas might be enabled to stay in their homes rather than being displaced. I sought to understand the processes that are leading to gentrification in Istanbul, to explain what is happening, how and why. I spent almost 6 months interviewing residents from two historic neighbourhoods in Istanbul (Galata and Tarlabasi), NGOs working in the area, academics interested in the neighbourhoods, people from the Municipality and the construction firm that won the tender for the Tarlabasi Renewal Project. In this research I found that state involvement expanded in order to secure Istanbul’s place in the hierarchy of world cities and I provide an explanation linking different spatial scales and levels of abstraction from city to neighbourhood. In sum I present a powerful critique of world city gentrification processes in a developing country. In addition to this critique I also sought ways to prepare an alternative policy option or a framework for Tarlabasi neighbourhood.

During the interviews I conducted, academics and people in NGOs stated their suggestion about alternative solutions for Tarlabasi. These suggestions can be summed up as:

  • Policies about displacement process should be drawn up, rather than solely eviction;
  • Social housing should be built for people living in the project area;
  • There should not be a specific project, but rather there should be physical rehabilitation of the neighbourhood and social policies to tackle the poverty in the area;
  • A project should be created with the inhabitants for the renovation of the area, rather it being run by a private construction firm. During any possible renovation process the Municipality should provide rent support for tenants.
  • Houses should be properly renovated with respect to their original form rather than demolishing the whole area and building it again:
  • Social policies (such as policies for poverty, rent assistance, educational support, tackling the crime rate, providing better infrastructure) should be drawn up to improve residents’ situation in the neighbourhood.

In this post, I present two main aims for at least one possible alternative; historical preservation and giving housing rights to the working class inhabitants of the neighbourhood. First, developing a historical preservation programme in accordance with the planning decisions and urban conservation laws with regard to population densities is a main target. The second is to keep the poor inhabitants in their homes and meet their housing needs. The main housing suggestion for the neighbourhood is to create social rented housing because owner-occupied housing schemes with low rate mortgages and monthly instalments are not feasible for the poor population of Tarlabasi.

To achieve this alternative policy, I suggest the immediate cancellation of the Project, reconstructing the demolished buildings with respect to their original form and providing social housing to all the displaced people that would allow them to live somewhere in or close to the central city, rather than pushing them to the periphery. But this strategy needs to consider tenure in Tarlabasi. The Project solely encourages owner-occupation rather than creating possibilities for rental property. Due to the high tenancy rate in the area, it is important to begin by building social rented housing, but this could be complemented by a model focusing on owning a house depending on the owner-occupier rate in the neighbourhood. Depending on the demand from the inhabitants for the owner-occupation model, the sale of the properties should respect the income levels of the inhabitants, that is, creating the possibility of buying the property through flexible and affordable instalments. If owner-occupiers choose to sell their property, they should be required to give the state first option of buying the dwelling in order to retain it in the social housing stock. In the case of a sale, the state should be able to buy the property from an owner-occupier for its market price before rehabilitation because in this alternative, the state is the main investor in the rehabilitation project. In the social housing model, the rent should be regulated according to the income level of the residents, with rent subsidies granted where needed.

 I suggest that the development of cultural and tourist amenities should be encouraged. For tourist-oriented developments, residents of Tarlabasi should be given priority in employment since these places would be state-owned the profit would go directly to state.

The Tarlabasi renewal land area is 20,000 m2, and the current project cost is 500 million TL (around £125 million) with luxurious office areas and shopping malls and residential areas amounting to the whole of the proposed built environment (Gap Insaat, 2012). Increasing the number of flats designated for residential use with well-restored buildings, instead of demolishing and re-building, would cost less than this amount. Finally, the Mass Housing Development Agency (MHDA) has housing ownership schemes on the periphery of Istanbul, where an eligible person (eligibility requirements are set by the MHDA) can buy a house for monthly instalments of 700 – 800 TL (£90- £100). In Tarlabasi, few people could commit to such long term instalments, as currently, rent prices in the neighbourhood are around 500 – 800 TL (£60 – £90). If social housing was constructed in Tarlabasi to rent to the inhabitants, it would be feasible for the MHDA to charge them around the same rents instead of the housing re-payment instalments.

This kind of project takes many years and requires a strong political will, but many municipalities that are re-elected every five years choose to do short-term projects that are not for the benefit of whole urban population, but to attract investments to their locality and thus increase their electoral standings. For that reason, neighbourhoods like Tarlabasi with the most disadvantaged segments of the population are frequently ignored since improving the social environment in these places is not a good advertisement for the municipalities at election time. Because the results are not immediately visible and it takes more than five years to see the positive effects of such social programmes. Because of this, these rehabilitation projects should have the support and help of the national state. Local municipalities do not have big enough budgets or strong enough authority to make them happen. Creating social housing in the area is crucial for this alternative to succeed. In Turkey, the MHDA, therefore, the organization responsible for creating social and affordable housing, should be responsible for the construction of these forms of alternative project.

It is true that rehabilitation alone cannot solve all the problems of the neighbourhood; the ability of inhabitants to pay affordable rents depends on their incomes, so also that needs attention.  For that reason, it is also necessary to develop solutions involving the local and national authorities and NGOs, to decrease the poverty rate in the neighbourhood. It can be concluded that the rehabilitation of Tarlabasi for the working class residents is economically and socially feasible, but the political will to initiate such a process is not there. A rehabilitation project with the inhabitants that improves not only the physical and historic environment, but also the lives of those who are having financial and social difficulties due to unemployment, underemployment and territorial stigmatization, is suggested for Tarlabasi. I suggest that before any physical renovation processes are planned, social policies to decrease the poverty and crime rate and to provide free legal counselling and education are needed in the area.

As it can be seen in other world cities in the Global South, massive urban regeneration projects that focus only on the physical rehabilitation of the urban environment can have detrimental effects on the poor. This may seem like a quick fix for urban deterioration for the developing (and sometimes developed) part of the world; however, in the long-term, it can lead to further social exclusion, increased poverty and stigmatization in the city.


This post is part of my PhD dissertation and attempts to open a discussion on alternative ways in which urban regeneration ad rehabilitation projects can be managed to enable the poor inhabitants to stay in their neighbourhood rather than displacing them. 


Aysegul Can received her PhD from University of Sheffield, Department of Urban Studies and Planning. She is currently a Lecturer in The Department of Urban and Regional Planing, Istanbul Medeniyet University.



Gap Insaat, (2012). Tarlabasi Renewal Project Leaflet. Istanbul: Gap Insaat.

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Slow academia and the neoliberal university: call for blog posts

The blog of the AESOP Young Academics network is looking for contributions on all aspects of spatial planning (see for example a general call for blog posts, including such themes as “bridging theory and practice”, and a call for insightful contributions about the values that drive the AESOP community). An additional theme that deserves discussion is the potential for slow academia to emerge in a context of an increasingly neoliberal management of higher education and research performance. What is the current trend? Are research and education all about quality (as in quality education, quality research outputs), or are they more about quantity (number of students enrolled/taught, tuition fees being cashed in, number of research papers published per year)? Is a balancing act really possible in today’s day and age?

So do send your contributions to, following these guidelines for submissions. Below is some food for thought: plenty of questions for you to explore and suggest answers to.

Entering the rat race? Finding a steady (s)pace?

As many AESOP young career researchers and practitioners are planning their next steps, one can wonder whether there is space for everyone in academia. A former blog post by Enzo Falco and Alessandro Rinaldi showed how grim the outlook might seem to aspiring academics in Italy and beyond, with the need to consider academic prospects across countries. But say you find a space within academia, is that space really secure? Is it all a rat race where performance criteria and quantity of outputs are more important than quality research and education? Does quantity necessarily have to outweigh quality?

A respondent to the ongoing survey about the values that drive members of the AESOP community shares his responses to the following question: How much of the values from Ancient Greece and other parts of the Ancient World live on in AESOP?

I think that values from Ancient Greece are important to build the European attitude towards democracy and for balanced and responsive territorial planning in Europe thereof. However, I also think that these values are fading away in the recent years due to multiple pressures of liberalism. This has an influence on all levels of planning and related issues.

While liberalism is affecting much of what planners do and observe, it is also affecting planners’ own education and ways of knowing the world they engage in. So how can we as practicing planners, researching planners, and planners-in-the-making manage these “multiple pressures of liberalism”?

An emerging movement within academia in general is “slow academia” or “slow science”, modeled on the corresponding “slow food” movement which started in Italy in the 1980s to combat a dwindling interest in food quality, and help revive food systems that supports well-being, the natural environment and communities. Slow science is about quality, plurality and taking the time necessary to make landmark contributions to knowledge. In today’s world of fast science, slow science increasingly has strong political implications, philosopher of science Isabel Stengers in her book Another Science is Possible. Slow science is about finding ways to address multiple challenges related to fast science, such as increasing competition and work loading, dwindling and shorter-term funding and the stakes of true innovation as opposed to innovation for its own sake.

An effective analogy of slow academia for PhD researchers can be soup-making – that hearty, warming winter-type of soup that wants to simmer for many hours to release all its flavours. In other words, a good thesis, or any other good piece of work for that matter, cannot be rushed. It needs the time that it needs to ripen and come to fruition. Even if a PhD should not be your life’s opus work, as PhD supervisors often say.

At the same time, slow academia might just be some foregone utopia. Alison Edwards shares her critique of slow academia in the Thesis Whisperer, titled: “Slow Academia is for the privileged – but then, isn’t all academia?”. As Mark Corrigan and Filip Vostal write: “to be a slow professor is a privilege. It’s a privilege available only to those already at the summit of the academic career structure”, where more junior academics would likely be making up the gap in productivity.

So does it mean the neoliberal turn in academia is unavoidable? Some critical academics advocate more inclusive systems of research and education that move beyond competition and hierarchy, and the supporting mechanisms of knowledge-production as neoliberal capital accumulation. These could  be non-university spaces for learning and research, for example, that still engage with conventional outlets for knowledge dissemination (e.g. conferences) without necessarily being dictated by neoliberal forms of management. Other academics are exploring the different ways in which academia could slow down, such as: following the way of the ant; committing to publishing less, as part of a revised ecology of publishing; or resolutely resisting the push toward consumerism in knowledge transmission and acquisition. In all, do higher education and research need to be repoliticised? Or the shift (back) to “quality” a cultural or aesthetic one?

Make haste, but slowly

The tortoise has repeatedly been associated with the idea of “hurrying slowly”, from the time of story-teller Aesop in Ancient Greece with his fable called “The Hare and the Tortolise”, to the Medici family in Renaissance Florence, or Jean de la Fontaine’s re-vamping of the Aesop fable in 1668. There are apparently many tortoise to be found in different forms in Florence, including in the Palazzio Vechio, a notable case being a tortoise with a sail on its back. The Latin phrase Festina Lente, which can be loosely translated as “Make haste slowly”, has been a popular motto throughout Western history, from the Roman emperors Augustus and Titus, to Cosimo de Medici in Florence, or the Earl of Onslow in England. The French poet Nicolas Boileau also used the idea in describing how one can become a good writer, achieving excellence and managing setbacks. So whoever said tortoise were slow or ineffective? For the record: several hundred years later after the Medici, a 100 year tortoise named Charles managed to escape from his adoptive family’s garden in Florence, Oregon, and go completely missing for two whole days.

Like the dwarf in Florence, we could ride on the turtle’s back and find our way (back?) to greatness.

Or should we learn to think fast AND slow, putting into practice some of Daniel Kahneman’s advice?

James Abbott - Festina lente - Florence Tortoise sculpture.jpg

The above sculpture, called “Searching for Utopia”, is by Belgian artist Jan Fabre, and was exhibited Plaza della Signoria in Florence (see an artistic commentary here) Picture credit: Florence 2016-07-16 044-LR, by James Abbott on Flickr, CC Attribution 2.0 Generic

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Looking for Aesop in AESOP: call for reflections

AESOP is broad and diverse community of scholars and practitioners at diverse stages in their career(s). The AESOP 2018 conference was a strong, engaged and engaging reflection of this diversity, which finds expression in the different thematic groups and wide range of events which AESOP members organise and participate in. Yet the diversity of what spatial planning does might lead to a sort of identify crisis for planning as a discipline, as mentioned at the 13th Head of Planning Schools meeting in Newcastle last spring. Looking at this diversity of research and industry practices in spatial planning, can we speak of a particular identity for the AESOP community? Is its name just an acronym or does it tie in with a deeper tradition of perceiving and experiencing the world? Or is it rather so that AESOP’s identity is a recursive one, an endless flow of contingent, amorphous expression and self-reconstruction?

Historians debate whether Aesop was an Ancient Greek story teller, or simply a style of popular story telling, in the manner of fables. The fable about the hare and the tortoise is probably one of the most famous ones. Here is an extensive selection of Aesop’s fables.


The Tortoise and the Hare: a classic fable that has been retold over the centuries. What does it have to say about the dynamics of the neoliberal university and economy, or about the value of slowlife or slow academia? Picture credit: “Tortoise and the Hare” taken by Patrick Q’s sister on Flickr, Creative Commons Non-Commercial Attribution

From Plato’s Republic, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, the writings of Aristotle and the minimalist lifestyle and Cynic philosophy of Diogenes, the stories, myths and philosophy of Ancient Greece have had a tremendous influence on European thoughts and worldviews to this very day, alongside numerous sciences and other aspects of Ancient Greek society.  That is not even to mention myths, philosophy, spirituality and scientific approaches from other parts of the Ancient World, which have also travelled wide and far.

Guiding questions for concise, reflective contributions to the blog would be:

  • How much of the values from Ancient Greece and other parts of the world live on in AESOP?
  • How do some of the values from the Ancient World shape your own contribution to the AESOP community?

You are warmly invited to share your reflections in contributions that span anything from 100 to 1000 words, either as a short response to this two-question online survey (, or as a more developed blog post to:

Looking forward to hearing from your muse!


Hellenistic statue claimed to depict Aesop, Art Collection of Villa Albani, Rome. Picture by Shakko, Creative Commons Share-Alike Attribution 3.0. 

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Public participation: databases and resources

Here is a list of resources, repositories and models that can help to design, conduct and evaluate effective public participation in spatial planning. The list is meant to grow and be crowdsourced, so please leave a reply or send an email to  if you can share some relevant links (particularly in non-Anglophone settings, in different countries, and on different continents).


The ParticipateDB database is the global Yellow Pages directory of web-based participation platforms and resources (except you don’t have to pay to be on it). I start with this resource as it is by far the most comprehensive resource I have ever come across. It is crowdsourced, so do contact them to share new e-participation projects with them. The database can be queried in different ways. Comprehensive and up-to-date.

The Bee Smart City database is equally worth a visit. It lists smart city solutions across the world, many of them participatory and very local. It is free, and crowdsourced, so add your own project on the database if it is not already there. features case studies in community development, local governance and public participation from across the globe. Some of the content is a bit outdated, but has valuable resources.

Resources and repositories

The Citizen’s Handbook. Born in 1995, the Handbook provides a wide range of resources, tools and advice about how to conduct effective public participation  and community development. provides an extensive repository about community planning at large: methods, principles, case studies, toolbox, etc. It is largely UK-based, and geared toward practice more than formal academic research. Check out its extensive though very mixed international list of websites for citizen engagement and community initiatives from the local to the national level by

The Cooperative City Magazine is a repository of various collaborative urban initiatives.

The Deliberative Democracy consortium is “an alliance of leading organizations and scholars working in the field of public engagement, participation, and deliberation” that is US-based. It hosts the Journal of Public Deliberation together with IAP2.

The International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) is famous for its Spectrum that can broadly guide the design and conduct of public participation. The website hosts some resources, and you can join professional training workshops in community engagement in North America, Europe and Australia by becoming in member. Check out also the Journal of Public Deliberation as well for topical articles.

Project for Public Spaces has some resources and case studies on the theme of participatory urban design and planning for people-friendly public space. See all their projects here.

The Californian Institute for Local Government has a handful of resources to support local government in conducting effective public participation with various technologies.

Blogs of online community engagement companies and organisations

Among many others, the following online community engagement companies have blogs that are good sources of project and research summaries: Future Dialog (Finland), Citizen Lab (Belgium), Bang the Table (USA and international), Social Pinpoint (Australia & USA), MetroQuest (USA), Cap Collectif (France).

Engage 2 Act is a collective that brings together citizens, community engagement professionals, students, community leaders, government officials and other individuals interested in community engagement issues. Based in Australia.

mySociety runs a blog providing insight about their products (e.g. FixMyStreet, TheyWorkForYou). Check out also their topical and timely research reports and data that measures the impact of Civic Tech. Reports include: Civic Tech Cities (2017), Who Benefits from Civic Technology (2015), among others.

Duncans snakes and ladders by Marasmusine Flickr Attribution CC

Public participation: a game of snakes and ladders??? Picture credit: Duncan’s Snakes and Ladders, by Marasmusine on Flickr, Attribution Creative Commons.

Models of public participation

“Public participation”, “citizen engagement”, “civic engagement”, “public involvement”… so many terms, but do they all mean the same thing? Some definitions and perspectives on community engagement and public participation are still needed even today, as they were some years ago (Rowe & Frewer, 2005). We all know about Arnstein’s ladder of participation: How high should communities really climb? Did you know the world’s tallest ladder is made of wood, has 120 rungs and measures 41 meters long?

International public participation models 1969-2016. Arguably the most comprehensive list of public participation models I have EVER come across! An absolute must-read for anyone with an interest in public participation. Kindly shared by Salley Hussey from the online community engagement company Bang the Table – Engagement HQ. Highly valuable for researchers and practitioners alike.

What is community engagement? By the platform provider Bang the Table – Engagement HQ. Check out the rest of their blog for plenty of news on community engagement and public participation.

Ladder by Mark Giles on Flickr Non-Commercial Attribution Creative Commons.

Picture credit: Ladder, by Mark Giles on Flickr, Non-Commercial Attribution No Derivs Creative Commons


Special issues & conference proceedings about public participation

Special issue: Citizens in City Regions in different contexts, in Journal of Urban Affairs

Special issue: Voluntary Geographic Information and the City in Urban Planning [open access]

Conference proceedings about public participation

Urban Living Labs for public space: a new generation of planning? Proceedings of the Incubators Conference at KU Leuven, 10-11 April 2017.

International Conference on Participatory Governance of Built Cultural Heritage 3-4 October 2018, Amersfoort, Netherlands. (Proceedings to come?).

DG.O 2018: 19th International Conference on Digital Government Research, “Governance in the Data Age” 30 May-1 June 2018, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands. Participatory governance, public engagement, and open data are major themes.

TICTeC 2018, 18-19 April 2018, Lisbon. A conference about civic engagement technology, organised by mySociety, the famous organisation that supplies FixMyStreet, TheyWorkforYou, and other platforms that help connect government and citizens.

Public participation journals

The Journal of Public Deliberation, hosted by The International Association for Public Participation (IAP2).

Bibliographies about public participation 

A comprehensive community engagement reading list by Graeme Stuart, lecturer at the Family Action Centre at the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. The literature approaches three broad themes: 1) community engagement in community development and community building; 2) community engagement in service delivery; and 3) community engagement in planning and decision-making. Relevant for practitioners and researchers alike.

Urban PGIS: PGIS, PPGIS, Participatory Mapping in the Urban Context utilising Local Spatial Knowledge. An extensive bibliography by participatory mapping expert Michael K. McCall (2015).

Community-university engagement

Not quite public participation, but a way of increasing the impact of research. Here are some resources for effective public engagement between universities and communities.

The National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement is the leading institution in the UK that encourages universities to share and research with communities.

The Living Knowledge Network. The international network for science shops and community-based research.

Journal of Community Engagement and Higher Education.

Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement

Snakes and ladders by eltpics Attribution CC

Picture credit: Snakes and Ladders, by eltpics on Flickr. Attribution Creative Commons.

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