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Doctoral thesis, 2021

A southern perspective: Northern and indigenous influences on the establishment of a hybrid culture of participatory planning, the story of Sacaba

Ledo, Paola


Citizen participation has been discussed as an essential feature for sustainability and democracy. Normative participatory approaches, like participatory planning, developed in the North, spread across the globe as ‘placeless’ generalizations. Embedded in the context of northern cities, normative participatory planning theories resulted in serious failures in the Global South. Planning scholars engaged with the Global South argue that the usefulness of these northern approaches is conditioned by contexts that do not fit southern cities. In critique of the eurocentrism, planning scholars discuss the need for more appropriate participatory planning theory, building on southern perspectives, absent from scientific traditions. This thesis contributes to the debate for more appropriate participatory planning by investigating Bolivia’s efforts to decolonize participatory planning through an indigenous-based participatory planning legislation. Findings from a case study of Sacaba municipality show that over time different participatory ideas were adapted and combined to create a particular form of participatory planning. Conflicting rationalities between local authorities, planners and citizens regarding the purpose and scope of participation shaped both invited and invented forms of participation. I argue for the need to consider ‘hybrid cultures of participation’ tailored to the specific contexts. I further propose three lessons from Sacaba’s implementation of the indigenous-based planning legislation: 1) the need to continuously update the understanding of the local context; 2) the risk of sustaining power imbalances within institutional frameworks; and 3) the importance of promoting continuous critical reflection between authorities, planners and population.


hybrid cultures of participation; participatory planning; participation; hybrid planning cultures; informality; insurgency; conflicting rationalities; southernturn; Sumak Kawsay; Soft Systems Methodology

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2021, number: 2021:44
ISBN: 978-91-7760-766-3, eISBN: 978-91-7760-767-0
Publisher: Department of Urban and Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development

UKÄ Subject classification

Landscape Architecture
Communication Studies

URI (permanent link to this page)