| 2022-2025

CONTRA - Conflict in Transformations

A new JPI Urban Europe project on Conflict in Transfromations (CONTRA) was granted, coordinated by Tilburg University. Wouter Van Dooren will be coordinating the UAntwerp involvement in the project, supported by Tom Coppens, Esther van Zimmeren, Pascal Gielen and Hanka Otte. The project was developed in the context of the Urban Studies Institute and envisages a close collaboration with Nieuwstedelijk, City of Genk and De Werkvennootschap to experiment, co-design and implement the research.

The CONTRA project was selected as one of the 16 winning proposals to the ERA-NET Cofund call on Urban Transformation Capacities.


Polarisation threatens the transformative capacity of cities at a time when collective plans for a more sustainable and resilient urban future are needed. The typical answer to polarisation has been to strengthen consensus building among stakeholders, but such approaches are known to lead to alienation, tensions with existing democratic institutions, and an increasing gap with legal practice. CONTRA explores how institutionalising productive conflict can increase the transformative capacity needed in the transition towards more sustainable cities.

Through a comparative study of urban planning law and practices focused on climate transition in 4 countries (Belgium; Netherlands; Norway and Poland), we study how conflict is handled and investigate the connection with political and legal institutions to determine whether conflict is suppressed or actively used for sustainable transformation. We also test new ways to handle conflict.

CONTRA pioneers a new model of living labs (Drama Labs) that uses theatre-based methods to experiment with productive conflict. Combining empirical investigations with action research through the Drama Labs, CONTRA responds to topic 2 and 3 of the call by building capacities for urban transformation grounded in urban liveability, inclusivity, and active community engagement, as well as improving non-physical infrastructure such as governance and regulatory processes.


  • JPI Urban Europe: ​ERA-NET Cofund Urban Transformation Capacities

Project team

  • UAntwerp partners: Tom Coppens, Wouter Van Dooren (GOVTRUST), Esther van Zimmeren (GOVTRUST), Pascal Gielen and Hanka Otte
  • PhD researcher: Lisa De Roeck

Project website