Whose Knowledge Matters? Competing and Contesting Knowledge Claims for 21st Century Cities

This ESRC-funded research investigated and valued citizen-based knowledge in spatial planning processes within Greater Manchester and its local neighbourhoods. Through the research we sought to:

  • Understand how planning works within Greater Manchester and local areas and how decisions get made.
  • Examine how citizen-based knowledge relates to the design and delivery of urban strategies and projects.
  • Work collaboratively with citizens and policy-makers to explore how that knowledge could more effectively inform and influence policy processes. 
  • Value different knowledge about urban developments through collaborating on an exhibition which represents citizens’ expertise about the places in which they live.


The research was based on a case study of planning processes in Greater Manchester. We used a series of mapping techniques to trace the process of developing spatial planning frameworks across Greater Manchester and within specific neighbourhoods. This involved reading documents, undertaking interviews, holding focus groups and attending events. We then worked collaboratively to produce visual representations of processes, issues and ideas about spatial planning. These were co-curated into an exhibition. The exhibition itself formed part of the research, creating a space in which we can differently value citizen expertise and reflect on how local expertise is represented in spatial planning.

The project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council's Open Research Area initiative, with support from Mistra Urban Futures

With additional funding from Mistra Urban Futures, we twinned with a Swedish research project on 'The Impact of Participation', which sought to map the scope, form and impacts of citizen dialogues within the urban planning process in three Swedish city-regions of Gothenburg, Stockholm and Malmo.