Designing a new civic economy? On the emergence and contradictions of participatory experimental urbanism

Thompson, Matthew and Lorne, Colin (2023). Designing a new civic economy? On the emergence and contradictions of participatory experimental urbanism. Antipode [Early Access].

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/anti.12962

Abstract

Can we remake local economies from scratch – not through political struggle but by design – to solve wicked problems and transform urban governance? Such questions are raised by an emergent trend within urban experimentation that emphasises participation and commoning in designing peer-to-peer provisioning systems through a platform logic. This article deconstructs the discourses animating what we term ‘participatory experimental urbanism’ and reflects on what this might mean for local state restructuring in times of neoliberal austerity. By following its policies and prototypes as they move and mutate across the London Boroughs of Lambeth and Barking & Dagenham, we examine two exemplary initiatives, Open Works and Participatory City, tracing their beginnings in Lambeth’s ‘cooperative council’ model and their ongoing assembling into novel public-common-philanthropic partnerships. Foregrounding the contradictions within the latest turn towards urban governance-beyond-the-state, we draw out the implications for the future of social innovation, design-thinking, and the experimental city.

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