Resident Participation in an Era of Societal Self- Organisation: The Public Administrative Response in Tøyen


  • Kristin Reichborn-Kjennerud Work Research Institute, Oslo Metropolitan University
  • Espen Ophaug Standing Committee on Urban Development, City Council of Oslo



Participatory democracy, Urban governance, Gentrification, Action groups, Co-decisionmaking


Participatory measures are widely acclaimed as a solution enabling public administrations to become more responsive to citizens. Research has nevertheless documented that, de- spite intentions, residents end up feeling manipulated rather than listened to in these processes. In this study, we performed an in-depth analysis of policy documents used for decision-making related to the area-based initiative in the district of Tøyen in Oslo, Nor- way. We also interviewed local politicians and representatives of residents and civil servants. Initial contracts clearly stated that residents were supposed to influence deci- sion-making in this area-based initiative. In the analysis we categorised the different participatory measures in accordance with Arnstein’s participation ladder to see if resi- dents were allowed to influence decision-making and if so how. The results show that they were not allowed to influence decision-making. This raises questions about the inherent dilemma of accountability in modern-day bureaucracy and the potential for responsiveness to citizens.


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Author Biographies

Kristin Reichborn-Kjennerud, Work Research Institute, Oslo Metropolitan University

Kristin Reichborn-Kjennerud is Senior Researcher at the Work Research Institute at Oslo Met- ropolitan University. She is a political scientist and sociologist and has also formal education in management and audit. Her research interests are democracy and organization for co-decision mak- ing in urban regeneration processes. Kristin is an expert on evaluation, control and accountability and has published extensively in international journals on these issues. Kristin has been a visiting re- searcher at Stanford University, the Centre for Urban Research at RMIT University of Melbourne, the RMIT Europe in Barcelona, Humboldt University in Berlin, the University of Potsdam, HEC Montreal, and at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid.

Espen Ophaug, Standing Committee on Urban Development, City Council of Oslo

Espen Ophaug is member of Oslo City Council and has been member of the standing committee of urban planning since 2011. He has been the leader of the Liberal party in Oslo since 2013. In earlier days he was vice president of the Liberal Youth of Norway (the youth branch of the Liberal party). Before being elected to the City Council he worked for different NGOs. He has, among other things, studied political science, art history, history of religions and cultural history, and his master thesis in public management was about citizen participation in planning processes.




How to Cite

Reichborn-Kjennerud, K., & Ophaug, E. (2018). Resident Participation in an Era of Societal Self- Organisation: The Public Administrative Response in Tøyen. Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration, 22(2), 65–87.



Original Articles