CE22 - Sociétés urbaines, territoires, constructions et mobilité

Social co-production of the city and citizen science. A comparative perspective on working class and precarious neighborhoods in France and in Brasil – CoPolis

CO-POLIS: social co-production of the city and citizen science. A comparative perspective on working-class and precarious neighborhoods in France and in Brazilcitizen science

In France and Brazil, popular planning experiments are multiplying, in connection with urban co-production practices, bringing together civil society, universities and facilitators. These initiatives convey fundamental social innovations for a transition to sustainability, especially in the most disadvantaged contexts. CoPolis insists on the importance of research on modes of co-production in the promotion of a urban planning for transition and solidarity.

Going along co-production: an epistemological and practical challenge

At a time when the need for debate and the ability to influence public decisions is being invoked, collaborative practices make it possible to overcome the divisions between civil society, professionals and, to a certain extent, government officials. These practices are sources of social and democratic innovation that explore concrete alternatives for reducing socio-spatial inequalities. France and Brazil are countries with a long history of cooperation and community empowerment in urban and professional sectors, including in neighborhoods where the under-priviledged reside.<br />This research explores the potential of co-production for adapting to the challenges of sustainability: reducing social and environmental vulnerabilities, building more democratic forms of governance, empowering precarious populations, and the cognitive effects of the co-production of knowledge. <br />To do so, it focuses on the description of cooperative practices. This research aims at discovering the filiations but also the circulations and appropriations of the practices of co-production while trying to seize their contribution to the resolution of the conflicts or to objectives of social change and spatial justice. Finally, the members of the project are committed to critically analyzing its impacts on civil society and the third sector and the production of a «transitional urbanism of solidarity«.<br />The project addresses three main research questions: the genesis and development of these collaborations; the relationships between the political-institutional contexts and the organizational configurations of collaborative practices; the organization and circulation of knowledge within these collaborations and the role played by intermediary actors. <br /><br />The joint definition of the research directions, the circulation of our analytical grids, the setting up of a monthly virtual seminar and the perspectives of cross-empirical surveys in 2022 aim at reinforcing the understanding of the different socio-economic and spatial potentialities of co-production. This comparative perspective plays first in the understanding of the configurations of roles and positions played by the university and/or research. It also aims to understand the positions of the actors involved in this co-production in order to propose a reorientation of the frames of reference of urban policies and projects. Three research directions will be considered: <br />(a) to grasp and describe the emergence and conditions of development of co-produced spaces or co-production spaces and programs. <br />(b) to understand the facilitating practices and their variations. These cooperations are bearers of change initiated in a social justice perspective (c) to explore the epistemological stakes of the forms of co-production in connection with the objectives of knowledge sharing.<br /><br />Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

Far from grasping co-production as an artefact of participatory democracy, Co-Polis understands it from the point of view of its implementation in organised collectives that call on associations and academics to accompany their action.

Co-Polis combines a mixed methodology, with both qualitative research and participatory action research. The survey is being conducted in four French and two Brazilian sites, with distinct urban planning issues: major metropolitan projects; urban renewal projects; and collective housing production initiatives. As far as action research is concerned, the team is working with intermediary actors and inhabitants by initiating protocols for the co-construction of PAR processes.
a) Stories of co-production
In this task, the method is developed along two main axes allowing for comparison between the different sites selected. On the one hand, a historiographic reflection aimed at thinking about collecting and valuing activist archives. On the other hand, a methodological reflection on the issues of co-production and counter-expertise. Concretely: (a) collection by retrospective interviews of co-production stories in sites where there is a pre-existing partnership (b) production of a methodological reference aiming at the collection, conservation and valorisation of activist archives and grey literature (c) edition of a cartography of controversies and co-productions in Seine-Saint-Denis. These methods and results will be shared with the Brazilian referent partner
b) Co-produced participatory action research
In each field, the PAR protocols start with the common definition of the objectives to be reached in the framework of the research-action. They should result in a protocol in which residents and/or facilitators and researchers (and/or students) put themselves in a situation of enquiry (Dewey, 2010).
The tools and specific actions are nevertheless contextualised, depending on the nature of the objective assigned to each collaboration:
- a shared diagnosis of the neighbourhood through mapping and a socio-economic portrait in order to understand existing collaborations, local resources and to draw up a portrait of the assets and threats to the urban environment
- Collaborative surveys to identify issues and express them in broader terms: justice and equality; access to resources (including information; impact of public policies) How do they contribute to increasing public participation and active presence?
- commented pathways
- a process of developing an alternative urban analysis or an urban project outline
-feedback« surveys on PAR by means of interviews with the people involved
- monthly production of a «PAR journal« for each field as a medium for exchange with the residents

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

At this stage, a distinction must be made between «research in progress« and research shared with a wider public. The two branches complement each other
The analytical reports of the interviews and observations as well as the PAR journal circulate among the participants in the collaborative research and are uploaded on the collaborative platform open to all project members. They feed into a monthly internal seminar
The Co-Polis public seminar has been taking place at the rate of one session per month since November 2020. It is a bilingual Portuguese and French seminar, the organisation of which is shared between the two teams. The seminar also hosts research-training sessions, giving the floor to facilitating actors and their fieldworkers. Gradually, the seminar will make more room for the team's results and reflections and for cross-views between the two countries. More than 500 people have registered and the resources associated with each session (audio recordings, slides, minutes, supporting texts) are available on the blog.
Rather than talking about results already, let's talk about some additions to our initial questions. (a) The system of co-construction based on existing demands, which has already been tested by intermediary organisations or certain facilitators who are partners in the project, often in fact meets «demands«. These are sometimes coordinated, but they can also be more dissonant, hence the importance of the preparation time before the action-research. Citizen research takes on its full meaning here: not collecting data «for« but with, and therefore agreeing on the aims of this «joint investigation« and the definition of common strategies. (b) the position of researchers and facilitators is more complex than it seems and may be subject to various interpretations or misunderstandings among the groups with whom PAR is built. These uncertainties about the roles of the various players do not detract from the advantages of their presence, but the question often arises as to how to clarify these roles and make them understandable to the residents. For example, who has the legitimacy to guide the responses?(c) the analysis of co-production has so far been «in isolation«, among the protagonists, but as it is extended, more attention can be paid to the effects and perceived impact on local collectives. The question now arises as to how to evaluate and whether PAR processes should be evaluated, particularly as oriented towards effectiveness, social change and the principles of the just city.

Within three months, start of the interviews as part of the «stories of co-production« on two sites in Saint-Denis (Centre-ville and Francs-Moisins); implementation of the retrospective survey on participatory action research in Blanc-Mesnil (93). Continuation of these surveys in Grenoble-Echirolles as well as Roubaix and Comité de vigilance JO and finalisation in January 2022;
Holding of an intensive three-day seminar between the two teams in France and Brazil in November on the question of what it means to «work together« in the various fields, with an emphasis on ongoing or completed RAP
Start of a new PAR in Plaisir (78), Ile de France region

Most of the written scientific productions will take place in 2022, while a public Co-Polis seminar has already been held for a year with about 500 participants (France and Brazil). Minutes of the sessions are available and the recordings are on the blog.
In addition, the Co-Polis hypothesis notebook is being updated with the first writings and bibliographic sheets

Mainstream adaptation to the imperatives of sustainable development remains largely technological. In a period in which governance promotes citizen participation, insurgent planning experiences multiply, as do urban co-production practices uniting civil society, universities, professionals and sometimes allies within public authorities. These initiatives carry fundamental social innovations for transitions-to-sustainability, especially in deprived areas. Rather than the greening of technologies, CoPolis insists on the importance of cooperation tools in adaptations to sustainable development.
As societies increasingly claim the need to debate and the power to influence governance systems, collaborative practices can overcome some of the remaining gaps between civil society, professionals and, to a certain extent, government. They are poles of social and democratic innovation that explore concrete alternatives for reduced socio-spatial inequalities and for inclusion. France and Brazil are two countries which have a long history of cooperation and collective and community involvement in urban and professional sectors, including in the areas where the most discriminated of populations live.
This project explores the potential of co-production in the adaptation to sustainability imperatives: reducing social and environmental vulnerabilities, building more democratic governance, empowering vulnerable populations and the cognitive effects of knowledge co-production. Departing from the tensions between cooperative practices and the “collaborative cul-de-sac” (Laurent, 2018), we will critically assess the impacts of these approaches on civil society, the third sector and the production of a “solidary transition urbanism”. These aspects are analysed through the mens of social and spatial justice.
The project tackles three main research questions: on the origins and development conditions of these collaborations; on the relationship between political and institutional contexts and the organisational configurations of collaborative practices; and on the organisation and the circulation of knowledge within each collaboration and the role played by different types of intermediary actors.
To do so, CoPolis will implement mixed methods, including qualitative research and participatory action-research protocols. We will investigate nine French and Brazilian case studies with different urban issues at stake: metropolitan megaprojects in working class neighbourhoods; large-scale urban renewal projects; and collective initiatives in housing and transition urbanisms. Moreover, the project will tackle long-lasting collaborative practices in working-class neighbourhoods and their circulation.
Regarding action-research, the team will implement a survey with partners among local intermediary actors and residents. We will implement protocols to co-construct objectives, identify means for action and implementation. It will be one of the ways of observing collaborative practices. Thus, CoPolis is a comparative and participatory project, anchored in partnerships with intermediary actors and civil society organisations.
In doing so, CoPolis will also assess the tangible gains due to the collaborative practices implemented during the project, in relation to the political and institutional contexts which influence organised civil society’s action possibilities. That is why the project will shed light on the conditions encouraging the emergence and consolidation of collaborative practices. At the same time, results on organisational configurations and cooperative tools will be produced. These two types of results will feed an intense effort of dissemination.

Project coordination

Agnès DEBOULET (Laboratoire Architecture, Ville, Urbanisme, Environnement)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


LeMetro Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) / Laboratorio de Etnografia Metropolitana (LeMetro/IFCS-UFRJ)
CEDE.IE/UNICAMP Universidade Estadual de Campinas / Centro de Estudos de Desenvolvimento Econômico - CEDE/IE.UNICAMP
LEUS Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro / LEUS - Laboratorio de estudos urbanos e socio-ambientais
LabJUTA Universidade Federal do ABC / Laboratory of Territorial Justice
PPGAU Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie / PPGAU - Programa de Pos-Graduação em Arquitetura e Urbanismo
LabHab Faculdade de Arquitetura e Urbanismo - Universidade de São Paulo / LabHab - Laboratório de Habitação e Assentamentos Humanos
LATTS Laboratoire Techniques, Territoires et Sociétés
CERAPS Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches Administratives, Politiques et Sociales
LAVUE Laboratoire Architecture, Ville, Urbanisme, Environnement

Help of the ANR 410,770 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: February 2020 - 48 Months

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