Engaging citizens in multiscale projects in Palma

Engaging citizens in multiscale projects in Palma

Miquela Noguera
Main Organisation


Palma is the main city on the island of Mallorca. The city extends between the Mediterranean Sea and the mountain chain of Tramuntana. Historic Palma boasts an outstanding religious architecture, patios and iconic buildings attracting millions of visitors every year.

The city of Palma is now revising its urban masterplan to tackle, among others, the lack of green infrastructure through the planning of green civic axis, superblocks and territorial connectors to allow equitable distribution of green space. The new masterplan will double the existing surface of greenery.

The municipality of Palma does not start from scratch in terms of civic engagement, although some past experiences encountered difficulties in their development. BiodiverCities has brought an opportunity to explore the complexity of participation and co-creation, as well as an opportunity to raise awareness of the public on the topic of green spaces.

Three activities have been planned and have been carried out in parallel within the BiodiverCities framework, exploring different scales and areas of the city. The engagement processes opened three civic dialogues providing safe spaces where ideas, expectations, sensitivities and views on the future of the city could emerge:

A. Children’s Council pollinator gardens. The Children’s Council is a municipal body for participation composed of thirty two boys and girls aged between 6 and 16 years chosen to represent the children of the city within the framework of the Child Friendly Cities program by UNICEF. Throughout different activities, that took place between February and June 2021, the kids -acting as biodiversity ambassadors, designed and built pollinator gardens in five parks of the city by engaging, among others, the schools and entities they represent.

B. Cotlliure tactical pedestrianalisation. Cotlliure Street civic axis is a strategic project for the city of Palma, which is an opportunity to develop a new green connector in a very densely built and inhabited area of the city. Therefore, the municipality launched in February 2021 a competition for the co-design of the urbanisation of Cotlliure Street with an innovation challenge: the bid specifications for the public tender introduced the citizen engagement in the process of planning. The different activities held in February 2022 gathered many results and ideas for the future axis, which will be introduced in the urbanisation project to be implemented.

C. Es Pil·larí neighborhood in the Masterplan. The traditional neighbourhood of Es Pil·larí in the outskirts of the city has a history of being disregarded in past municipal plans. Therefore, the demand of the neighbors association of including an old quarry as a new public green space has been included in the new Masterplan. Moreover, the engagement activity, held in February 2022, focused on discussing also other matters such as heritage protection, green paths network and specifications of the new green space.

In general, BiodiverCities allowed to build expertise, within the municipality itself, to replicate in future projects.

Participation Spectrum

When and Where

Start Year

Policy Context

Policy Stage
Context of activity
Urban planning process
Science or Policy Field
Specific Topic
Urban Planning


Through what means citizens knew about the call for participation?
Web and through an exhibition in the neighbourhood's market and library with information


Methodology description
Many methodologies have taken place in order to meet the needs of the different activities carried out. In the Children’s Council pollinator’s gardens process, first of all information was provided through different channels to inform the participants then, discussion groups, walking tours, workshops and mapping activities were held. Finally, field work was needed to plant and put together the gardens. In the Cotlliure tactical pedestrianalisation process, initially information was given through exhibitions and presentations and then the debates and mapping activities in small groups were used to discuss and recollect the results. In Es Pil·larí neighborhood in the Masterplan activity, the information was provided through the municipal website and the debate occurred in small groups using the World Café methodology with a final discussion.
Tools Used


Main Outcomes and Lasting Achievement
The outcomes of the different activities were different depending on the scale of the project. In the Children’s Council pollinator’s gardens process, the main outcome is the actual gardens planted in the parks that any citizen can visit. Also, the designed workshops will be used to do further activities with schools and high schools. In the Cotlliure tactical pedestrianalisation process, many contributions were collected in the final maps generated to identify the needs of the neighbours. The final outcome will be the future street design proposal, including the most voted contributions obtained through the participation process. In Es Pil·larí neighborhood in the Masterplan activity, reached out an important outcome which is the modification of the zoning of the planning document of the Masterplan to introduce a new green space. Moreover, other twenty one contributions were made although not all of them can be reflected in the urban planning document. Nevertheless, the technical team of the municipality will assess the collected information of the engagement.
How were the outcome taken up within the process they were carried out?
Within the process, the different outcomes were diverse and the most important in terms of impact was the modification of the zoning of the planning document of the Masterplan to introduce a new green space.


Reason for such challenges and solutions
The difficulties of recruiting participants have been one of the biggest challenges encountered. Although the involvement of the municipal social services was key to partially overcome this obstacle, in general, we have found it very difficult to reach out to the citizens and therefore, to communicate whatever the city council is doing. There is a need to establish direct communication channels with citizenship.
Moreover, inadequate financial and human resources caused limitations for carrying out engagement processes. The department in charge of participation, within the Municipality of Palma, has not the capacity to actively contribute to all the programs and projects undertaken by the municipality nor has the capacity to train or extend its expertise to the rest of departments/colleagues that could be interested in participatory processes. This make engagement very challenging as it implies that activities are done if there is a clear will of the team leading the project and without any real internal support. In this case, BiodiverCities provided financial support for an expert to overcome this challenge.

Time constraints were a challenge mainly for the Cotlliure Street project, both due to the bureaucratic obstacles and the bad planning.
Other challenges identified were also a poor culture of engagement, both among the civil servants and citizenry. This is related, on one side, to the lack of trust from citizens towards public institutions and, on the other, the concern over control among politicians and civil servants. To overcome them, it has been important to work hard on running successful engagement processes that can slowly transform culture.
Lessons Learn
They are many lessons learnt from the processes carried out as that the planning before a contract for externalizing an engagement process needs to be done carefully, the economic investment needs to be increased, as well as time-investment and it is important to make sure the design process includes intermediary agents of the territory such as teachers, libraries, social services, etc.
The recommendations for future engagement activities would be to work with a team that wants to implement participation in the process, to be flexible in the planning, to better adapt the process to the participants and to know very well people from the territory you are exploring in the engagement activity.