Citizen Engagement and Urban Sustainability (CITEUS)

Special Interest Group CITEUS

The relation between citizen engagement and urban sustainability is not a simple one. On the one hand, there are many citizen initiatives to contribute to a more sustainable city. Citizen develop plans for urban parks, forms energy collaboratives and work on green mobility options. On the other hand, citizens oppose certain energy transitions, resist windmills parks and oppose other sustainability measures through protests. Many populist parties frame sustainability in a negative way. Some discussions are directly related to the NIMBY-behavior but the controversy seems to be broader than this. There is an urgency to change but also resistance in view of the costs and consequences. Some experts highlight that better communication is needed to convince citizens but a more democratic perspective highlights that interactions and debate are needed. Highly interesting new formats of democratic engagement are being developed but little is known about how well they actually work. How can there be a fruitful marriage between democracy and sustainability?

Preliminary research focuses on the challenges that citizen initiatives and municipality face in the domains of 'urban greening' and 'renewable energy'. Findings from a series of open interviews show several deficits in democratic legitimacy and a challenging relationship between citizens and the municipality. 

In the period 2021-2022 CITEUS conducted research in Utrecht with the aim to identify and explore current societal challenges and questions regarding citizen engagement in green management and the energy transition. You can find a summary of their findings by clicking on the link below. If you are interested in the full report, please contact Nenya Jochemsen ( and/or Transforming Cities (

Summary research on citizen engagement

Focus of the Special Interest Group

The aims of this Special Interest Group are the following:

  • Enhance our interdisciplinary understanding of the relation between citizen engagement and urban sustainability;
  • Conduct interdisciplinary research into all the different facets of the relation between citizen engagement and urban sustainability;
  • Collaborate with local, regional and national governments to contribute to strong forms of citizen engagement for urban sustainability.

On 11 November 2021 CITEUS organised a workshop on `Citizens and university: how to sustain long-term collaboration for sustainable cities?’. The workshop was organised in collaboration with two other initiatives directly and indirectly supported by the Transforming Cities Hub (AndersUtrecht, Open City Network). Together with citizen organisations they explored the question how a long term collaboration can work. You can find a report on the workshop here:

Report workshop citizen engagement

For more information, please contact Nenya Jochemsen,