Shrink Smart - The Governance of Shrinkage

Urban shrinkage and urban governance

Shrinkage affects a wide range of fields of urban planning. At the same time, how it is responded to, is not a merely technical issue but subject to the interplay of different actors and interests. Shrinkage and governance are thus interrelated.
As a consequence, planning strategies for shrinking cities cannot be developed without understanding local governance arrangements and decision-making processes. The SHRINK SMART project takes up on this issue and directs the attention towards the interplay of governance and shrinkage. Thereby we focus on two main issues: on the one hand, we ask if certain trajectories of shrinkage privilege certain modes of urban governance. On the other, we study the implications of different governance arrangements on urban strategies that are dealing with the shrinkage of cities.

Within this context we define governance and shrinkage as follows:

Urban shrinkage is understood as an empirical phenomenon that results from the specific interplay of different macro-processes at the local scale. Such macro-processes may be related to the economic, demographic or settlement system development, as well as to environmental issues or changes in the political or administrative system. Urban shrinkage occurs when the specific interplay of the mentioned macro-processes leads to population decline, which we define as being the main indicator for urban shrinkage. We are looking at urban shrinkage as a qualitative process, i.e. we are mainly interested in its causal relationships and underlying dynamics as well as the impact it has on different fields of urban development. We deliberately distinguish between urban shrinkage as a process and its results, which are reconfigured or reshaped urban structure or patterns.

Urban governance is understood as an analytical term that draws attention to the interplay between a broad range of public and private actors in determining the common affairs of cities. We use a broad definition of governance as it has been applied by UN-Habitat: "Urban governance is the sum of the many ways individuals and institutions, public and private, plan and manage the common affairs of the city. It is a continuing process through which conflicting or diverse interests may be accommodated and cooperative action can be taken. It includes formal institutions as well as informal arrangements and the social capital of citizens.“


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Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities