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Supporting active citizenship in urban spaces

Geneviève Cloutier is interested in citizen initiatives as signs of increased participation in environmental-related decisions in urban areas. Her goal? To provide tools supporting the development and sustainability of these initiatives.

Project architects 

Geneviève Cloutier, Ph. D.

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Geneviève Cloutier is involved in training graduate students and interns and collaborates with researchers from a variety of disciplines, including architecture, political science, urban studies, geography, agronomy, public health, and more.

Becoming a citizen change agent

Community gardens, local markets, miniature plazas, and shared streets are popping up all over the world, a testament to people’s desire to take concrete action to ensure their communities reflect their values. Geneviève Cloutier and her colleagues look at these kinds of initiatives to explore how they might have a broader impact, find ways to facilitate them that won’t lead to in political cooptation or disempowerment, and develop solutions to address disparities between neighbourhoods that don’t share the same resources for implementing such initiatives.

Taking action to reduce food waste

Is it possible to influence behaviour around food waste? Geneviève Cloutier’s team is analyzing the “Mange-gardiens” personalized coaching project by AmiEs de la Terre de Québec to understand the factors contributing to its success. They assess tools such as waste weighing, lists of tips and tricks, incinerator tours, teaching, media library, and leading by example to identify the most effective ways to support more households and organizations in this process.

Going green for active citizenship

Urban greening is simple and relatively uncontroversial, yet it can have a significant democratic impact by getting city dwellers actively involved in thinking about urban spaces. In collaboration with Nature Québec and its “Milieux de vie en santé” program, Cloutier and her team are studying the effectiveness of measures put in place to facilitate urban greening projects. The research will allow them to propose concrete solutions to support the development of environments that reflect concerns of the people who live their.

Greening projects are based on an organizational process where knowledge sharing is essential to success. (Credit: Verdir St-Roch).

The survival of citizen initiatives also depends on the connections they foster between the residents of a neighbourhood. (Credit: Nature Québec, 2017)

The challenges encountered (e.g., prohibitions and restrictions) show why project support is necessary to enable more active citizenship.

Education reinforces individual values such as a commitment to a sustainable lifestyle that involves reducing food waste. (Credit: Les AmiEs de la terre)

Next steps

In the years ahead, Geneviève Cloutier and her collaborators will continue to analyze citizen practices and experiments and what they tell us about urban transformations and collective action: 

  • Publication of a book on collective action in urban gardening projects with Les éditions Écosociété
  • Continued reflection on roles and sustainability in collaboration with INSPQ, Ville de Québec, and Nature Québec
  • Development of recommendations on resources for municipalities to help reduce food waste
  • Reflection on the relationship between urban space and food production in a context of multiple crises.

Université Laval au cœur de nos vies


Learn more about the impact of citizen initiatives on sustainable urban development by listening to this interview with Geneviève Cloutier by Valérie Gaudreau, editor-in-chief of Le Soleil.

Listen to the podcast (in French)

My alley, my garden, my planet

More than ever, citizens are recognizing that they can make a real difference by getting involved in urban planning and environmental protection.

Read the ULaval News article (in French)

Geneviève Cloutier

Visit her web page.


Study Land Use Planning and Regional Development

Explore our Master’s and Doctoral programs.


Centre for Research in Regional Planning and Development (CRAD)

Learn more about CRAD.


Mange-gardiens project

Learn more about this initiative to fight food waste.


Milieux de vie en santé (MVS) program

Discover the urban greening community of practice and reflection.


More to explore...

Find out what other Université Laval professors are up to!