What role do environmental NGOs take in local governance of urban green space? : A qualitative mapping of interventions in Stockholm County

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Stockholm Resilience Centre

Author: Johanna Mietala; [2012]

Keywords: ;

Abstract: The aim of this study is to contribute to the bottom-up perspective in the study of civil society participation in local government decisions regarding urban green space. The study investigates what role civic actors set out to take and traces their engagement in the municipal decision-making processes. A descriptive theoretical framework is created to categorize environmental Non-Governmental Organizations' (NGO) strategies to intervene in the municipally governed green space planning within Stockholm County. With a theoretical basis in sociological and political science studies of social movements and public participation, I assess: 1) the timing of an intervention in the municipal planning process 2) degree of NGO collaboration with municipal authorities, and 3) the consensus or conflict driven nature of their approach towards the municipal authorities. Data on the interventions was collected from newsletters, meeting protocols and comments on development plans from the website of two prominent NGO as well as interviews with six activists in the Stockholm region. The distribution of the interventions found in Stockholm shows that reactive, non-participatory and conflict-driven strategies are the most common combination, although one third of the interventions have a participatory approach towards the municipality and a few interventions work to make a change by initiating consensus among stakeholders. Interviews with civic actors suggest that a lack of resources and low expected impact on official planning decisions hinders proactive and consensus-driven engagement, but also broken promises and a lack of responsiveness by municipal authorities can catalyze civic actors towards more conflictual methods of engagement. Further research topics of an explanatory nature on distribution and dynamics of interventions in the new theoretical framework are suggested based on reflections from the interviews.

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