Empowering Local Communities to Effect Change
Citizens for the City, a sustainable urbanisation initiative was launched by United Technologies Corporation (UTC), in partnership with EMBARQ India, Centre for Public Problem Solving, BBMP, BPAC, and United Way of Bengaluru. As part of this initiative, the Neighbourhood Improvement Partnership Challenge was announced, encouraging citizens’ groups to engage in a participatory process to resolve key issues relating to transport, safety, energy conservation, waste management, public health, and sanitation.
The Challenge calls for applications from local resident welfare associations and other citizens’ group to submit innovative and impactful ideas that would transform their neighbourhoods. An expert panel will review the submissions and selected entries will receive technical support and grants from UTC up to INR 15,00,000 each. The total value of the grants given to winning groups will be INR 100,00,000.
Traditionally, urban development has been a top down process largely disconnected from the community. A neighbourhood improvement plan is an effort towards decentralizing the urban planning and management process, in keeping with the 74th Amendment Act of the Indian Parliament, encouraging a collaborative approach to city planning. In March 2013, WRI’s EMBARQ India experts partnered with the community at HSR layout, a significant, fast-developing area in Bangalore to pilot a neighbourhood improvement plan using this bottom-up approach. Key urban issues, including mobility, accessibility, signage, place identity, biodiversity, and public spaces were studied at the neighbourhood scale. Through various stakeholder meetings, the community was encouraged to come forward with their ideas, challenges, fears, hopes, and aspirations for what they wanted their neighbourhood to look like. The community was mobilized to not only define clear areas that could be improved, but also to create and test a sustainable, implementable vision for the area.
“Solutions for a neighbourhood should come from the residents themselves” saysSudeept Maiti, Senior Associate, EMBARQ India, “Our experience from HSR has shown that residents not only want to be engaged when it comes to transforming their community, but also are the best people to identify issues and offer solutions”.
For example, at HSR layout, residents pointed out that at a particular intersection, the absence of a traffic island made it impossible to cross the road. This had also resulted in numerous accidents involving pedestrians. EMBARQ India experts helped the community test out that theory by installing a temporary traffic island. The result was a significant reduction in vehicular speeds, and greater ease for pedestrians crossing the road. The community was then able to request for the traffic island to be permanently installed to make that intersection safer.
Through the Neighbourhood Improvement Partnership Challenge, UTC, CPPS, EMBARQ India and other partners hope to encourage local communities like HSR Layout to collate the vision of their neighbourhoods through a participative process and translate them into specific, measureable, and buildable projects for and by the neighbourhood. Citizens for the City hopes to aid planned urban growth by bringing together various stakeholders in sustainable urban planning through research, reports, competitions, and other initiatives.
For more information, log on to citizensforthecity.in