• Valeria Lingua University of Florence, Department of Architecture




The contribution provides an insight on the role of engaged universities in providing governance initiatives by introducing new patterns of interaction on strategic regional planning in soft governance planning spaces as the river basins.

Based on the experience of the Regional Design Lab (ReDLab), Department of Architecture of the University of Florence in the definition of river agreements, the contribution provides a comparative analysis of different contexts in terms of governance structures and process leaders and activators:

- two community-led participatory process (on the Ombrone River and Mugnone Stream), where the activators are small citizen associations

- an intermediate process Kicked off by a Municipality (on the Elsa River) that has involved other 11 municipalities along the river

In all these processes, the University acted as co-leader and trustable stakeholder within the negotiation with other institutional actors as the Region, the district Authority, the Ministry of Environment.

Operatively, the ReDLab acted in different ways: by co-ordinating the processes, by providing both formal and informal learning, by providing processes of co-creation of shared visions and scenarios, co-design of urban regeneration projects for improving the stakeholders’ capabilities and ‘futures literacy’.

These processes, considered as bottom-up or mid-bottom processes, are confronted with top down processes activated by the Region, in order to define opportunities and threat of the University engagement within soft governance planning spaces.

The expected result is a critical contribution on the civic role of Universities within these soft-governance processes and planning spaces, defining opportunities and threats for both universities and key policy agencies in defining new forms of public-civic cooperation, capable of introducing policy change and institutional innovation.


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