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Area-based initiatives – a facilitator for participatory governance?

Atkinson, Rob; Zimmermann, Karsten


Karsten Zimmermann


Hubert Heinelt



Area-based initiatives (ABI) emerged in the 1980s and 1990s as a new policy tool in the context of urban regeneration in various European countries, most notably Denmark, the Netherlands, the UK, France and - somewhat later – Germany. The wider application of ABIs across Europe was the result of a new discourse on urban poverty associated with the growing recognition of a new form of urban social exclusion that gained relevance in a number of EU member states during the 1990s (Mingione 1996). The identification of so called neighbourhood effects was part of this debate, indicating that the neighbourhood, understood as a socio-spatial entity, had a reinforcing negative effect on the life chance of individuals living in these areas (Friedrichs et al. 2003). What characterizes ABIs is a decentralized, integrated and multidisciplinary approach. The combination of physical urban regeneration with other policy sectors such as education, labour market policy, youth care, health care, and transport within a focussed territorial framework was believed to produce more effective interventions. In the remainder of this chapter we will discuss the role ABIs played vis-a-vis participatory governance. As we will explain in Section 2, in theoretical terms ABIs contribute in a particular way to participatory governance. Section 3 will provide insights into the empirical reality of a selection of ‘typical’ ABIs drawing on the UK and Germany as they illustrate some of the key trends in the use and development of ABIs as well as their ‘problems’. In the conclusion we discuss the contribution of ABIs to a more effective participatory governance.


Atkinson, R., & Zimmermann, K. (2018). Area-based initiatives – a facilitator for participatory governance?. In H. Heinelt, & S. Münch (Eds.), Handbook on Participatory Governance. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar

Acceptance Date Jan 1, 2018
Publication Date Jan 1, 2018
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Book Title Handbook on Participatory Governance
Keywords area based initiatives, participation, governance, European
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