Cities for citizens! Public value spheres for understanding conflicts in urban planning

Cities for citizens! Public value spheres for understanding conflicts in urban planning


Written by:

Rico H Herzog, Juliana E Gonçalves, Geertje Slingerland, Reinout Kleinhans, Holger Prang, Frances Brazier, and Trivik Verma

First Published:

04 Dec 2023, 11:32 am


Cities for citizens! Public value spheres for understanding conflicts in urban planning


In the pursuit of achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11, which emphasises making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable, understanding the pluralism of public values is paramount. This understanding aids public administrators and urban planners in making informed decisions that resonate with the community’s aspirations and concerns.

While tools like Public Participation Geographic Information Systems (PPGIS) have been instrumental in collecting large-scale participatory data from local citizens, a gap remains. Specifically, these tools often fall short in effectively identifying the underlying public values and potential areas of conflict that arise from them.

Our recent study offers a novel approach to bridge this gap. By integrating participatory data with natural language processing and spatial clustering techniques, the methodology provides a more nuanced understanding of public values and their inherent conflicts. Hamburg, Germany, with its ongoing urban development projects and a rich repository of data from an open-source digital participation system, served as the case study for this research.

From an extensive analysis of 4,500 geo-referenced contributions from Hamburg’s citizens, as well as subsequent interviews with urban planners in Hamburg, the study identified 17 distinct public values. These ranged from economic opportunity and ecological quality to more intricate values such as health, safety, and overall livability, encompassing aspects like tranquility, aesthetics, and social interaction. Furthermore, the study highlighted nine archetypal conflicts. Notable among these were the “property” conflict, which juxtaposes the values of economic opportunity against social equity, and the “dangers of nature” conflict, which contrasts values of safety with ecology.

One of the study’s significant contributions is the introduction of the “Public Value Spheres” conceptual model. This model, designed to capture and display the diverse values and their associated conflicts, offers a versatile framework. It can be tailored to identify and map values and conflicts in various spatiotemporal settings, making it a valuable asset for urban planning projects.

In conclusion, the integration of participatory data with advanced analytical techniques offers a promising avenue for urban planners. By understanding the intricate web of public values and their potential conflicts, planners can make more informed decisions, fostering the creation of cities that are not only sustainable but also resonate deeply with their inhabitants.


Read the full paper on Urban Studies OnlineFirst here.