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Stedelijk beleid en sociale cohesie in twee herstructureringswijken

By E. van Marissing


In many Dutch post-WWII neighbourhoods, a considerable difference could ensue if corporate actors such as housing association personnel, welfare organizations, and local government authorities were more aware of the consequences of the way in which they shape governance processes. We contend that they should be more precise about the goals they want to achieve, for example when speaking about enhancing social cohesion in the neighbourhood or involving residents in restructuring policies. Besides more attention for these intended effects, corporate actors should also be more aware of the unintended effects of their actions, resulting from the way they deal with residents. Examples are residents’ disappointment and irritation brought about by poor communication and uncertainty about the future. We have investigated the factors that affect social cohesion and citizen participation in three Dutch post-WWII neighbourhoods. We were particularly interested in the question to what extent policy processes were important for this relationship. Our research questions were addressed from two perspectives: that of the professionals (based on in-depth face-to-face interviews) and that of the residents (based on a survey among the residents of three early post-WWII neighbourhoods in the Netherlands). In our research, we have distinguished three types of social cohesion (horizontal, vertical, and institutional cohesion), reflecting the variety of actors that are involved in urban governance processes. We have also demonstrated that intervening on one dimension of social cohesion can affect other dimensions of cohesion, both in a positive and a negative way. Political decisiveness, for example, has a positive influence on solidarity, but at the same time it may also lead to feelings of isolation amongst some residents. Both findings ask for precision of the corporate actors. For example: instead of ‘enhancing social cohesion in the neighbourhood’, they could also strive to ‘increase residents’ feelings of solidarity’. The same holds for citizen participation: ‘increasing the involvement of citizens’ can be translated into more definite goals, like ‘increasing the number of residents attending an information meeting’ or ‘stimulating people to visit the office of the housing corporation’s maintenance staff’. We contend that not only policy interventions, but also -and primarily- the processes that precede these interventions determine the development of social cohesion. Nevertheless, corporate actors seem to deny the importance of for example residents’ knowledge and their confidence in local politics on the one hand and exaggerate the importance of such characteristics as level of education, income, and ethnic background on the other

Topics: Sociale Geografie & Planologie, urban restructuring, urban governance, citizen participation, early post-WWII neighbourhoods, the Netherlands
Publisher: Utrecht University
Year: 2004
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