COVID-19: The Recovery will Happen in Public Space

Implementing the New Urban Agenda Through Placemaking: From Nairobi to Amsterdam

Sep 15, 2017
Jan 7, 2018
‍Streets as Places in Nairobi | Image via SUTP

The case for placemaking in the Global South is clear: as a platform for economic development, safety, cultural expression, and social inclusion. As evidenced at the Making Cities Together Conference in Nairobi in May, placemaking has reached global relevance as a platform for achieving broad-sweeping development goals. Global-scale events like Placemaking Week 2016 and Habitat III have made public spaces a priority of policy documents like the New Urban Agenda. The Nairobi conference focused on next steps for making these goals into a reality.

‍The Nairobi Making Cities Together Urban Thinkers Campus developed a campaign for implementing the New Urban Agenda through placemaking.

Now, a newly released report delves into the dialogue of the Nairobi Urban Thinkers Campus, which centers on how to support this growing agenda around place, scaling up campaigns for placemaking in Global South cities around the world. Nairobi is a city now deeply engaged with placemaking, reflects a growing interest in leading urbanization conversations with public space in the Global South. How can developing cities that are faced with rapid growth chart a path that includes public spaces defined by their communities?

Conference co-organizer Mark Ojal will join us at Placemaking Week in Amsterdam to discuss the models of placemaking in the Global South that were  developed at the Nairobi event. Mark has been a force for placemaking from many places and in many sectors: as a community activist; for UN-Habitat; for the Nairobi City County Government; and also with the organization Placemakers. In his work in Nairobi, he supported a citywide inventory of public spaces; a groundbreaking survey that has set the city on the path to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 11.7, which focuses on “universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, particularly for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities.” Bridging the geographical gap between the Global North and Global South, Mark advocates across the board for bottom-up, co-created solutions.

Through “Living Labs,” diverse activists representing 22 countries identified common issues in placemaking, including: place governance; mapping public space; programming; financing; maintenance; and capacity building. Then, participants took these challenges from ideas to action, ranging from goals of partnership building to the creation of toolkits for public space leaders, to conducting small-scale urban “experiments.” As the movement grows, participants will be the voice for placemaking in the Global South, forging partnerships to carry out place-led projects throughout Nairobi. To start, Mark worked closely with Nairobi City County Government colleagues and other key partners to set up a Placemaking program within the City of Nairobi, and will be helping to lead the city’s own Placemaking Week this November. Placemaking Week Nairobi is an initiative of the Nairobi City County Government and is spearheaded by the city government’s Urban Planning Sector in collaboration with a wide range of partners including UN-Habitat, civil society groups, and grassroots organizers. The annual event has helped strengthen the Placemaking Network Nairobi, a public-private partnership that convenes stakeholders in building urban security, supporting livelihoods and enhancing urban resilience through public space and placemaking.

We are grateful to have Mark Ojal, along with partners from UN Habitat, in Amsterdam to help support the conference focus of building a global campaign for place-led development.  Achieving the goals outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda can be accelerated through a focus on safer, healthier, and more equal public spaces, and inclusive participation in placemaking.

Nairobi has been a leader in Placemaking, hosting their own (now annual) Placemaking Week, and collaborating with PPS on a city-wide public spaces program.


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COVID-19: The Recovery will Happen in Public Space