Public-Private-People Partnerships

The glossary entries are the result of a collaborative process among OpenHeritage consortium partners and have undergone an internal review. However, they only express the perspective of the authors listed under each term, not of all partners. You can find information on the glossary production process and the full glossary here.

Karim van Knippenberg
Ghent University, Gent, Belgium;

Beitske Boonstra
Ghent University, Gent, Belgium;

Hanne Van Gils
Ghent University, Gent, Belgium;

Short definition

People-Public-private-partnerships (4P’s) aim towards more people-oriented and inclusive citizen-driven innovations for complex and wicked urban challenges and emphasize the role of people as a substantial partner within formal and informal partnerships for urban and spatial (re)development (UNECE, 2018). People, in this case, concerns communities, interest groups, NGOs, neighbourhood associations, end-users, as well as rational consumers (Irazabal, 2016; Kuronen et al., 2010). The emphasis on people also includes a recognition of the self-organizing capacities of civil society actors and the interest to design, implement and manage collective goods in a democratic fashion and with the goal of ensuring a good fit to the local needs of people.

Key discussions around the term

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are cooperations between public and private stakeholders based on the presumed ideal of an equal distribution of labor, costs and benefits. Such PPPs are however criticized for being insufficient in bringing about desired and expected public outcomes, especially in wicked challenges that include many diverse actors, interests, and perspectives. Within PPPs, public sector actors often still focus overwhelmingly on serving and supporting the private interests to the detriment of public interests and easily overlook the interests and needs that live within society, especially those of groups who are less well-represented or equipped with (legal, financial, etc.) resources (Irazabal, 2016). Moreover, traditional urban development is sequential and hierarchical, moving from government to developers to end-users, and as PPPs usually focus on an a priori equal distribution of labor, costs and benefits, direct end-users or customers are relatively absent (Irazabal, 2016).

The sequential aim of People-Public-private-partnerships (4P’s) is then to (re)consider the distribution of costs and benefits in urban partnerships and to include people much more substantially in collaborative planning (Irazabal, 2016). Indeed, 4Ps strives for a more horizontal approach, both incorporating formal and informal relationships between and among public entities, private companies, and citizens. Such formal and informal arrangements might include contracts, memoranda of understanding, mutual agreements, supply agreements, etc. (Marana et al., 2018).

Last but not least, it is argued that 4Ps can create more desirable living environments and improve participation and communicative planning. A precondition for successful 4Ps and the involvement of people is that they are backed up institutionally, methodologically, and financially (Kuronen et al., 2010). The concept of 4Ps has gained significant attention with regard to various spatial planning issues and different geographical locations. Ahmed & Ali (2006) for instance analyzed waste management in Bangladesh and consider PPPP’s as a means to improve the accountability and service quality of both public and private sectors in dealing with complex urban challenges. Analyzing infrastructure development in Hong Kong, Ng et. Al. (2013) notes that PPPP’s can moderate the risk of unforeseen oppositions, build clear responsibilities and rights, and create opportunities for public inputs. Akintoye et al., (2015) adds to this that PPPPs also incorporate more informal social relationships, and thus not only build sustainable infrastructure itself but also build more resilient communities in the face of potential disasters.

Reference list

Ahmed, Shafiul, & Ali, Syed (2006). People as partners: Facilitating people’s participation in public–private partnerships for solid waste management. Habitat International, 30(4), 781-796.

Akintoye, Akintola., Matthias Beck., & Mohan Kumaraswamy (2015). Public Private Partnerships: a global review. London: Routledge.

Irazabal, Clara. (2016). Public, Private, People Partnerships (PPPPs): Reflections from Latin American Cases. In Ammon Lehavi (Ed.), Private Communities and Urban Governance (pp. 191-214) London, Springer.

Kuronen, Matti, Junnila, Seppo, Majamaa, Wisa, & Niiranen, Ikka (2010). Public‐private‐people partnership as a way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from residential development. International Journal of Strategic Property Management, 14(3), 200-216.

Marana, Patricia, Labaka, Leire, & Sarriegi, Jose Mari. (2018). A framework for public-private-people partnerships in the city resilience-building process. Safety Science, 110, 39-50.

Ng, Thomas., Wong, James., & Wong, Kelwin. (2013). A public private people partnerships (P4) process framework for infrastructure development in Hong Kong. Cities, 31, 370-381.

UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe). (2018) Guiding Principles on People-first Public-Private Partnerships in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.