Spatializing Knowledge Management in Urban Configurations: Mappings, Scenarios, and Participation for Resilient Development

Chance2sustain – Presentation of Final Results

The role of spatial knowledge construction, exchange and use is becoming increasingly important in current discussions on urban development strategies. Large databases provide information for knowledge construction based on information and communication technologies (ICT) and geographic information systems (GIS); alternative knowledge is generated through participatory processes, such as civic science and participatory and voluntary GIS.  The main question of this panel concerns the ways in which knowledge management (KM) within local governance is becoming transformed through digitization (ICT), spatialization (GIS), and participatory processes, and their potential for more inclusive forms of urban governance.

This question fits into broader discussions on (spatial) knowledge construction and circulation as socio-political and relational processes (McFarlane 2012). Potential outcomes include greater respect for rights and entitlements, competences in local government, equity, legitimacy and accountability. Similar potentials are suggested when community-based knowledge is included through participatory processes. Theoretical debates are dominated by discussions in the global North, which leaves wide gaps for understanding how cities in emerging economies with varying growth strategies deal with knowledge management. As urbanization is going to be concentrated in the global South in the coming thirty years, it is essential to shift our attention to the transformative effects of participatory processes and changing spatial knowledge management in cities in the South and explore their potential in the context of resilient development.

In this panel we present results from our EU-funded research project Chance2Sustain (, examining how governments and citizens in growing economies (India, South Africa, Peru and Brazil) generate, exchange, and use participatory and spatial knowledge management in urban development strategies. The project analyzes ten medium-size cities, looking specifically at the combination of economic growth strategies, the ways social inequalities are dealt with, and urban environmental governance (focusing on water-related risks) as the main domains on which urban development strategies focus. As cross-cutting theme, we examined how spatial knowledge management and fiscal decentralization and participatory budgeting work as strategic instruments for more resilient urban development.

In this session we analyze the practice and future potential of spatializing knowledge management and participatory processes in supporting resilient development of cities. We analyze emerging configurations of spatial knowledge management, examining discourses, actor coalitions, embedding in decision-making processes, power relations and resulting changes in work practices and urban strategy outcomes. Presentations focus on the overall configuration analysis, and zoom in on specific domains: 1) the capacity of scenario-building processes for understanding and visualizing water-related vulnerabilities, 2) the spatial tensions of megaprojects – currently playing an important role in economic growth strategies of cities – in relation to vulnerable spaces such as informal settlement and environmentally sensitive areas, 3) mapping processes and maps as products in strategic urban planning, and 4) mobilization of civic-driven knowledge for alternative knowledge production. The panel concludes with a critical reflection on the capacity of spatial knowledge management and participatory processes for supporting urban development strategies.