Carol Newman, Trinity College Dublin – University of Copenhagen

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Carol Newman, Trinity College Dublin

"So fresh and so clean: Urban community engagement to improve the sustainability of drainage infrastructure"


Rising sea levels and recurrent stormwater flooding threaten infrastructure, livelihoods, homes and lives in coastal cities around the world. Building resilience requires significant infrastructural investments but also requires the engagement of communities in the preservation and maintenance of infrastructure and public spaces. This is challenging as little is known about how best to engage communities in the preservation of public spaces, particularly in urban settings. In this paper, we use a randomized controlled trial to test the effectiveness of an intervention designed to motivate community members to keep their local area clean, thereby increasing the effectiveness of drainage infrastructure and reducing the risk of flooding in that area.

The program targets established community-based groups within treatment quartiers and provides them with a non-monetary incentives-linked “social contract”, called “Operation Quartier Propre” (OQP), to maintain and preserve public spaces by keeping them trash free. We test whether community engagement is improved through OQP and also examine the impact of this intervention on outcomes relating to health, education and livelihoods. We find that the program had a significant positive effect on households’ likelihood of receiving training, their perception of the cleanliness of their neighborhood and their vulnerability to flooding. There is also some evidence that this reduced their experience of flood-related illness and income lost due to flooding.

Joint with Chloë Fernandez, Marcus Holmlund and Tara Mitchell

Contact person: Neda Trifkovic