At the Public Environmental Center for Sustainable Development, we believe that public spaces are the heart of any community. They help to strengthen the connections between people and the places where they live. Therefore, the creation of a public place must be a joint process between citizens, experts and managers, through which we can shape our public spaces so that we can maximize their benefits.

The creation of public spaces with the active participation of citizens is not a new idea, nor an idea of ​​PECSD. Since its inception, the association has been constantly advocating for the introduction of the concept of “Placemaking”. In the beginning we started with the ideas of Project for Public Spaces and the holistic approach developed by them for creating a public place. We then enriched our approach by using the knowledge of “Return of the Shared Cities”, where we paid attention to placemaking in post-communist countries and their specifics.

The organization of public spaces belongs to everyone: the message and mission of such an idea is greater than one citizen or one organization. As initiators of the initiative “Active for the development of public spaces” we will support active citizens who are ready to share experiences, resources, ideas and find allies for the realization of their ideas.

The challenge

The Active for Public Spaces initiative aims to promote the creation of better urban design through the use of various creative models from local communities to support its sustainable development.

With the participation of citizens in the process of creating plans for the development of public spaces, we can make the most of the activity, inspiration and potential of the local community. This will lead to the creation of quality public spaces that contribute to the health, happiness and well-being of people.

Participating in the planning process shows people how powerful their collective vision can be. It helps them imagine living spaces and see the potential of small parks between block gardens, squares, neighborhoods, streets, markets and public buildings.

Unfortunately, the current planning processes in our municipalities are so institutionalized that community stakeholders rarely have the chance to express their own ideas and aspirations for the places they inhabit. Municipal governors certainly do not have the answers to all the questions, although they have full responsibility for the decisions taken. The design of public spaces can change this situation by showing designers, architects and engineers the broad value of moving beyond the narrow focus of their own professions, disciplines and programs. Our experience shows that when rulers welcome this kind of active civic participation, they save themselves a lot of headaches – from high-traffic streets, through little-used parks, to unscrupulous projects whose sole purpose is to absorb public funds.


“Active for arranging public spaces” is looking for citizens, activists, visionaries to present their complex ideas, taking into account the physical, social, environmental, cultural and even spiritual qualities in one place. A public space cannot be measured by its physical qualities alone. It must also serve people as a vital resource. People of all ages, with different abilities and different socio-economic backgrounds can participate in creating an identity and maintaining public spaces.

We are also waiting for your suggestions for the initiative at the e-mail address:

Projects must:

– to ensure a balance between natural and anthropogenic factors and to create preconditions for sustainable development of Varna;
– to contain a short explanatory part about the location of the public territory, its current state and vision for its future development;
– to be accompanied by a visualization – a photo of the current state of the place and a color sketch, a diagram of the future;
– be accompanied by a short CV of the author.

From studying shared practices in over 50 countries and several pilot projects implemented by us in Varna, we are firmly convinced that broad civic participation is the most effective approach to creating and revitalizing public spaces. For us, the creation of a public space is both a process and a philosophy. Our methodology focuses on observing, listening and asking questions of people who live, work and play in a particular space in order to understand their needs and aspirations for that space and for their community as a whole. With this knowledge we can come together to create a common vision for this place. The vision can quickly become an implementation strategy, starting with small improvements such as “lighter, more “faster, cheaper”, which bring immediate benefits, both for the spaces themselves and for the people who use them.


The project “Improving public knowledge about the role of Civil Society Organizations” shall be implemented with the financial support of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway under the EEA Financial Mechanism. The main goal of the project is to improve citizens’ awareness of the role of non-governmental organizations in society.
This material is established with the financial support of the Active Citizens Fund of Bulgaria under the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area. The whole responsibility for the content of the document is held by the Public Environmental Center for Sustainable Development and under no circumstances can this material be considered to reflect the official opinion of the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area and the Active Citizens Fund of Bulgaria.