Civic initiatives in urban development: self-governance versus self-organisation in planning practice

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This paper discusses two distinct interpretations of self-organisation with regard to civic initiatives in urban development. One concerns urban developments in which citizens deliberately organise themselves in order to realise a collective ambition. This interpretation of self-organisation resonates with forms of self-governance. The other is embedded in complexity sciences. It stresses the spontaneous emergence of urban structures on a particular scale out of the uncoordinated interactions between initiatives on a lower level. The paper highlights the similarities and the fundamental differences between both understandings of self-organisation. It also identifies implications of these differences for research on spatial planning policy and recommendations for civic initiatives in urban development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-361
JournalTown Planning Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 24-May-2016


  • self-governance
  • self-organization
  • urban planning
  • cohousing
  • intent
  • organic area development

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