The Capability Approach in Urban Quality of Life and Urban Policies: Towards a Conceptual Framework

  • Ivan BlečićEmail author
  • Arnaldo ‘Bibo’ Cecchini
  • Valentina Talu
Part of the Urban and Landscape Perspectives book series (URBANLAND, volume 14)


Improving urban quality of life is often stated as the main goal of urban policies, planning and management. However, there is no wide consensus on the theoretical and methodological framework that should be used to operatively define the concept of urban quality of life, so as to be useful for developing operational tools to measure it and for the evaluation of urban projects, plans and policies.

We consider the capability approach an effective candidate for providing the kind of theoretical and methodological grounding necessary for the design of such tools. According to this theoretical perspective, individual wellbeing is not defined in terms of endowment of commodities, but rather in relation to a person’s capability ‘to function’. This means we must look at what a person actually is and does (functionings) and what they are effectively able to be and do (capabilities), given both their personal characteristics and their surrounding environment. We can therefore say that in the capability approach, the achievement of wellbeing is a process of interaction between the individual and their surrounding environment.

Putting these ideas consistently to work in the design of tools for measuring urban quality of life means to evaluate urban quality of life on the basis of the actual possibilities each person has to ‘use’ the city in order to achieve functionings and capabilities, rather than just observing urban features.


Urban quality of life Capability approach Urban planning 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ivan Blečić
    • 1
    Email author
  • Arnaldo ‘Bibo’ Cecchini
    • 1
  • Valentina Talu
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Architecture, Design and PlanningUniversity of SassariAlgheroItaly

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