The Research group Participation and Urban Development strives to improve the quality of living together in the urban environment. The aim is to promote social participation and social urban development. How can professionals make use of activities in the areas of sport and culture, as well as well-being, upbringing and education to get more people to participate?

Lines of research within the research group

Participation in sports and exercise activities is a good way for many people to actively participate in society. Sports and exercise also contribute to the well-being of people. Social, pedagogical and educational professionals are becoming more aware of this fact and are therefore increasingly using sport as a means.

In this line of research, we study the social value(s) of sporting activities. How can professionals best use sports and exercise to promote social participation?

By participating in artistic and creative activities, people can make a positive contribution to society. But how can professionals consciously use these activities to encourage people to meet and to participate more in society?

This is the primary focus of this line of research. We study how social, pedagogical and educational professionals might employ forms of art and creativity to get more people to participate in society and to make art and culture accessible to everyone.

Within this line of research, we look at the role that professionals can play in the development of sustainable communities in the city in terms of well-being, upbringing and education. We are interested in how we can give shape to change processes, together with lecturers, community workers, youth workers, teachers, parents, youth and other stakeholders.

Environments where we conduct research include schools, neighbourhoods and districts. We prefer to develop participatory forms of practice-based research, including (participatory) action research, design research and Arts-Based Research.



The research group works closely with education in all sorts of ways, especially in the fields of social work, pedagogy and education. This involves the institutes for Social Work and Ecological Pedagogy, the Theo Thijssen Institute and the Archimedes Institute. Students and lecturers participate in all our research.

Breakdancers in a group Nico de Vos

“Promoting social participation applies to everyone, not just the so-called 'vulnerable' people in our society.”

Nico de Vos Philosopher, director of the Research Centre Social Innovation and professor at the Research Group Participation and Urban Development


The research group is in constant contact with all affiliated partners in professional practice. We work together structurally, within the triangle of professional practice, education and research. Collaboration partners include:

Gemeente Utrecht
Sport en Society
Platform Stad en Wijk
Sport Utrecht
Kennisplatform Utrecht Sociaal

Our professors and researchers

Stijn Verhagen | Professor | Participation and Urban Development

Stijn Verhagen

Professor Participation and Urban Development Show profile
Nico de Vos | Professor | Participation and Urban Development

Nico de Vos

Professor Participation and Urban Development Show profile
Jolanda Berends | Researcher | Participation and Urban Development

Jolanda Berends

Researcher Participation and Urban Development Show profile
Anton Boonen | Researcher | Vocational Education

Anton Boonen

Researcher Participation and Urban Development, Vocational Education Show profile

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