Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Advanced environmental planning

Community–university partnerships can have considerable positive impact as sustainable development and research organisations. An EU initiative explored potentialities in the environmental and community planning field in long-term underdeveloped areas.
Advanced environmental planning
With EU funding, the PARTES project set out to compare participatory action research (PAR) approaches and methods in the particular field as implemented by universities in different southern contexts. Two case studies of community–university partnerships were compared, one in eastern Sicily, Italy and the other one in the United States' mid-south region. Both aimed to promote sustainable socioeconomic community development.

The first project phase, developed in the United States' mid-south, aimed to document community engagement work carried out by Tennessee's University of Memphis graduate division in city and regional planning (CRP). CRP is committed to the PAR approach: the researcher is an internal actor within a community and shares control with others in a process of collective change.

A CRP approach to applied research significantly diverges from the professional expert model. As a community-building process bringing together university faculty, staff and students, empowerment planning enables residents to undertake more and more challenging development initiatives.

The second project phase involved the University of Catania in partnership with a local sustainable development group in the Simeto Valley. Studies revealed that PAR had great potential. Despite the influential presence of organised crime, a collaborative and action-oriented approach to research helped the community to evolve from a successful social mobilisation against the project (for building a controversial waste-to-energy facility) to an innovative and stable form of community-based natural resource management.

Project work showed how the empowerment planning approach was practically applied in the context of the partnership between CRP and the Vance avenue neighbourhood and Simeto communities. Both partnerships launched a participatory planning method that had tangible outcomes on public decision making and on the start of transformative community-led projects.

PARTES will complement the European debate on how spatial planning can address territorial cohesion amongst regions that differ developmentally. The project hopes to spark discussion on community–university partnerships and their ability to overcome challenges in order to make a positive difference.

Related information


Community–university partnerships, community planning, participatory action research, regional planning
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