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TitleThe Politics of Sufficiency. Making it easier to live the Good Life
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Document Text Contents
Page 84


Chapter III Shaping – Mobility, Housing, Food

ing process to keep down costs (and at the same time to
personalise their accommodation to a much higher degree)
should be able to do so.

A social infrastructure that accommodates diversity. In
order for the city to provide a tranquil environment for
everyone, and not just a frantic, glittering retail experience
for consumers, traditional public infrastructure must be
maintained and expanded – things like swimming pools,
libraries, adult education centres and music schools.

Alongside this, cities should be supporting new civic
engagement initiatives as well: self-help groups for relat-
ives of dementia victims, meeting places for immigrants
and local communities, free-access bookcases, exchanges
for goods and services and second-hand shops, community
DIY workshops and communal gardens – the whole spec-
trum of the ‘do it yourself’ and ‘do it together’ movements.
The list of such activities is long, and much is happening
without any external help. But more could develop if cities
were to provide a more favourable environment by mak-
ing suitable spaces available and through other external
forms of support, such as help with insurance issues.

Participation – citizen planning, citizen action. In Germany,
the Stuttgart railway station project, the new Berlin air-
port and the Elbe Philharmonic Hall in Hamburg have

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Page 85


Chapter III Shaping – Mobility, Housing, Food

all demonstrated, with great media resonance, what en-
gaged citizens have long known and what academic re-
search has confirmed: citizen participation leads to better
and better-value decisions that enjoy more popular sup-
port. Politicians and officials must not treat civil society
as an annoyance, to be consulted only as a formal neces-
sity; rather, they must recognise citizens as equal partners
in discussions, consider their objections and suggestions
seriously, and exploit their knowledge and abilities in the
development of the city. A new culture of participation
means inviting all stakeholders to get involved, organising
conferences that are completely open as to outcomes, and
introducing participatory budgeting. The result is a city
that is more lively, more liveable, and more sufficient; one
that is not subject to the dictates of conservative bureau-
crats, risk-averse politicians or influential lobby groups.

Just as important as the citizens’ political engagement
is their practical engagement. They may get involved with
libraries and museums, they may adopt trees and streams,
or they may simply plant the little parcel of open land
outside their front door – with more love and more per-
sonality than the municipal parks and gardens department
could bring to the task.

This is why cities should respect – and support – the
tradition of civic volunteering. They should create formal
points of contact within the administration for citizens’

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