P3 – Economic interests

P3 Economic interests in public spaces and urban culture. Local corporate responsibility and social innovation?

Download: FlyerPresentation

TISS Course 280.132 (Part I: Dobberstein, Watson, Knierbein): Link
TISS Course 280.133 (Part II: Kadi, Suitner, Getzner, Zak, Zivkovic): Link


The provision of public space is often assumed to be the responsibility of governments. But increasingly the private sector and public –private partnerships have an important role to play. The notion of corporate responsibility is banded around to express the objective of making economic development more sustainable but there is little common understanding what this really means. Corporations and private sector interests are crucial players in urban development processes, but beyond an assumed profit motive, there is little agreement as to their responsibilities in producing well designed, equitable, functioning cities and public spaces which are accessible to different sections of the community. Neither is there much clarity regarding the appropriate role for corporations in social innovation.


This course aims to investigate what are the realities behind the rhetoric at a local level, by considering a number of key research questions and exploring these in depth in two metropolises along the Danube: Vienna and Budapest.

This will be achieved through a series of 3 intensive teaching blocks:

  • Block 1: Budapest Workshop, October 16 to 18 2011
  • Block 2: Vienna Workshop I, November 21 to 23 2011
  • Block 3: Vienna Workshop II + Final presentations, January 16, 17 to 19 2012


Through innovative teaching methods, site visits and a case study approach, we’ll aim to examine:

• Who are the key economic players with interests in, and influence on, public spaces and urban culture – e g shopping centre developers, airport or train station management companies, cultural entrepreneurs, leisure providers.

• Where do these economic actors typically provide public space in the city- at the centre or at the periphery, in busy areas, in specialized areas, in formal or informal spaces?

• Who regulates the actions of corporate investors in public space and urban culture? What are the politics of these forms of engagement and who is accountable?

• Whose interests are served by the interventions of corporate interests in the public spaces? How socially innovative are they and who is included and who is excluded by their actions?

• How can the public space be qualified in economic terms – e.g. local public good, common pool resource, club good –, how can public space be valued in the light of the different economic functions, and how can public space be “produced”?

Through case studies in the two cities we will aim to interrogate the effectiveness of private sector interventions in the provision of public space. We will build knowledge by site visits and by interviewing key economic actors in urban development in Budapest during the 1st Intensive Teaching Block in Budapest (17th to 21st October 2011). Students will then be asked to organize individual and/or focus group interviews with Viennese economic actors involved in local urban development until the 2nd Intensive Teaching Block (22st to 24th November 2011). Then together we will sharpen students’ research findings towards a proposal to be finished until the 3rd Intensive Teaching Block (17th to 20th January).


The planned output of the course is a specific agenda towards “socially innovative and widely accessible public spaces”. The aim is to propose a “Local Corporate Responsibility” program for local public spaces.

The proposal should define some of the following practical questions:

  • What kind of regulations and practices do cities need and how can the different actors work together most productively?
  • How can the interests of different local groups and cultures be respected and met to generate a vibrant local public culture.
  • What kinds of incentives can be offered to encourage the involvement of private individuals and corporations in the provision of public space in the city?

Additional Information

Course language is English.

This 5 SWS project course is offered in the study field of spatial planning as integral part of a 10 SWS (14 ECTS) one semester P3 project in cooperation with the Centre of Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy (IFIP, Prof. Getzner, Mag. Zak, Mag. Zivkovic) and the Centre of Regional Science (SRF, Prof. Giffinger, DI Kadi, DI Suitner). Students who visit both parts are given priority, however, students that just want to attend the 5 SWS SKuOR course are warmly welcome as well (contact: Sabine Knierbein, Johanna Aigner). Students coming from other disciplines are warmly welcome to attend as well via registering as Mitbeleger (please contact us at SKuOR).

Registration online via Groups in TISS.