How to measure progress on circular transformation

Utrecht University and Municipality of The Hague discuss circular area development of the Binckhorst

There are ambitious plans on the table for the circular area development of the Binckhorst in The Hague. This major redevelopment site should transform into a fully circular area, kickstarting new circular developments. The circular ambitions for the area are clear, but together with stakeholders, these goals now need to be translated into concrete steps in the current urban plans and projects. In a recent webinar, Utrecht University’s Transforming Cities Hub was invited by the Municipality of The Hague to explore how this complex, collaborative process of circular transformation can be shaped and advanced. 

luchtfoto Binkchorst Den Haag
Luchtfoto Binckhorst Den Haag

A diverse group of urban designers, urban planners and policy advisors on sustainability joined the webinar. Before the workshop, they had already participated in a survey about the circular future of the Binckhorst. External stakeholders active in the area had been interviewed to also gain insight into their views and opinions on the progress that is being made in terms of the new theme of circular area development, for instance in the Binckhorst.

In the joint webinar, post-doc researcher Dr. Mansi Jain shared the novel assessment framework she is developing to measure progress in processes of transformative urban change. She presented her experiences of developing and testing her ‘assessment framework for transformative change’ in the Cartesiusdriehoek in Utrecht: another very ambitious urban redevelopment program that aims to make the area the healthiest district in the Netherlands.

On the basis of these experiences and the outcomes of the survey and interviews with Binckhorst stakeholders, Mansi Jain formulated her preliminary findings for The Hague. This effort provided an interesting way for her to test whether her assessment framework can be applied to a wider range of urban transformations, beyond health and well-being. At the same time, her findings for circular area development in the East of the Hague gave the Municipality new evaluative insights and ideas on how the circular transformation is currently progressing. This stimulated participants to think about which next steps to take.

In relation to the Binckhorst, Mansi Jain concluded that at the moment, the expectations on the theme of circular area development are higher than the institutional alignment. This means that for instance, the Municipality could focus on how to mobilize an active actor network between different institutions. Together, the participants discussed how the gap between expectations and institutional alignment could be reduced, for example by, giving (more) space to local and regional stakeholders to become active in the Binckhorst’s circular area development. This should also offset similar developments in other parts of the city.

Overall, the webinar inspired participants to take some first steps in the process of making the Binckhorst a fully circular area. Mansi Jain stressed the importance of keeping a close eye on developments, change and progress, because that allows for timely adjustments, learning and collaboration within the actor network. Utrecht University and the Municipality of The Hague will stay in close contact to see how they can work together on the future of the Binckhorst and to explore how scientific insights may stimulate the process of circular area development.

The webinar was a co-production of Utrecht University’s Transforming Cities Hub and the Municipality of The Hague. It was organized by Emma de Wijs (The Hague), Simon Landsbergen (The Hague), Simone Pekelsma (Utrecht University) and Mansi Jain (Utrecht University).