The smart city concept is pervasive of the urban development agenda. Smart city is becoming a familiar term also outside the urban expert community. In the collective imaginary, smart cities are the cities for machines rather that for people. Smart cities are associated almost exclusively with technology and knowledge. Citizens, the people from the polis, can have a stronger role in the development and management of their living environment. Smart city developments, in particular, seem to be dominated by large corporations that engage in a seller-buyer relationship with local governments. However, smart cities have the possibility to enhance the involvement and contribution of citizens to urban development. This work explores the role of governance as a major contributor to citizen participation in smart cities. Governance, along with technology and human capital, is one of the main factors for smart city development. This study argues that governance characteristics play a major role in explaining different typologies of citizen participation. Through a focus on Amsterdam Smart City program as a specific case study, this research examines the characteristics of governance that are present in the overall program and within a selected sample of participatory projects. The study makes uses of both qualitative and quantitative information, obtained through interviews and meeting with key informants and the review of secondary information. The analysis of this information lead to the identification of governance characteristics, both for the Amsterdam Smart City program and a specific sample of projects, for which specific typologies of citizen participation have been analysed. The overall Amsterdam Smart City program resulted to be organized around a subset of key actors, that act as coordinators. Such key actors engage relationships with other partners based on a variety of arrangements. This governance model allows and fosters experimental partnerships that can contribute to the overall objectives of the program. Different typologies of citizen participation have been identified, ranging from simple provision of information to citizens to socially innovative practices initiated by citizens. Projects with higher levels of complexity in terms of technology, number of interactions within diverse groups of partners, result in the presence of more formal frameworks with clear ex-ante goal setting. Such governance models are coupled with lower levels of citizen participation, limited to the provision of information. On the other side, frequent interactions within more informal settings contribute positively to information exchange and allow adjustment of objectives. Such governance characteristics allow the establishment of partnerships for co-production of services between citizens, public and private organizations. Socially innovative practices, where citizens are the initiators of activities are associated with project governance that relies on mutual knowledge, trust and lack of formal arrangements. Citizen participation typologies are affected by the governance characteristics. The analysis and comprehension of governance characteristics plays a crucial role both for a better understanding and management of citizen participation, especially in complex settings where multiple actors are interacting. Further research would be needed to develop a comprehensive theory of citizen participation within complex collaborative models.

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Fransen, J.
Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies

Capra, C.F. (2014, September). The Smart City and its Citizens. Retrieved from