Skip to content

panel's content

Panel 12. Advancing Collective Agency and Governance in Marginalized Communities: lessons for deepening equity and inclusion.


  • Alicia Fortuin, African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town
  • Tinashe Kanosvamhira, African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town


Participatory governance is considered a transformative tool implemented by government, policy makers and urban practitioners to enhance citizenship and collective decision making globally (Somroo et al., 2017; Tahvilzadeh, 2015). For the past three decades, significant debate revolved around the efficacy of community engagement and other participatory typologies in development and decision-making processes (Botes & Van Rensburg, 2000; Gaventa and Barett, 2012). While proponents argue for the potential for empowerment amongst citizens (Fung & Wright, 2003), other scholars argue that participatory spaces, particularly those conceptualised by the state, remain bureaucratic yielding little benefits to citizens (Cornwall and Coelho, 2007).

Given rapid urbanization in the Global South, austerity measures in the Global North, and the impending climate crises, it’s crucial to reassess participatory processes. This is particularly significant given the evolution of smart city discussions and the increasing digitalization of services worldwide (Datta & Odendaal, 2019). Complex urban challenges require creative solutions and increased collaboration among stakeholders. Citizen empowerment, often facilitated by civil society organizations, is crucial for effectively addressing these pressing issues. However, the efficacy of such empowerment is closely intertwined with the extent to which governments collaborate and actively involve these essential stakeholders.

With this in mind, we propose a panel discussion titled “Advancing Collective Agency and Governance in Marginalized Communities: Lessons for Deepening Equity and Inclusion”. Our panel aims to delve into power dynamics, collective agency, and government roles in urban settings. We aim to contribute to the conference’s exploration of how these elements influence urban life and emphasize the significance of collective agency and participatory governance in diverse contexts.

We invite papers which explore the role of collective agency in advancing the rights and participation of ordinary citizens. We encourage authors to critically assess the persistent blockages in state/citizen relations prevalent in both contexts, and lessons for best practice. We welcome a wide range of empirical research methodologies and conceptual papers. We welcome diverse research methodologies and concepts, embracing a spectrum of ideas from radical to contemporary decolonial and feminist perspectives. By fostering methodological, empirical and theoretical diversity, we aim to capture the multifaceted nature of collective agency and governance in cities.

Key themes:

  • Residents/civil society/state relations and strategies employed for successful models of collaboration between intersectional and gender perspectives to assess impacts of participatory governance and collective agency including women and youth.
  • How can these initiatives be more inclusive and equitable?
  • Identify transferable lessons and best practices.

In alignment with the RC21 Conference’s overarching theme, our panel seeks to advance dialogues on the politics and spaces of encounters. We believe that by highlighting the crucial role of collective agency and participatory governance, we can provide fresh insights into addressing urban challenges while promoting inclusivity and equity. Collaboration between governments, policymakers, and civil society is essential for maximizing collective action and engagement in urban development. We look forward to engaging in thoughtful discussions and knowledge exchange with fellow researchers at the conference, with the aim of advancing urban theory and practice in cities around the globe.

Centro de Estudios de Conflicto y Cohesión Social.

Diagonal Paraguay 257,
Torre 26, Oficina 1504
Santiago – RM

Los Navegantes 1963
Providencia – RM