Dialogues for Change Workshop – Bottrop, Germany March 24-26, 2014
From March 24-26, 2014, the Urban and Regional Policy Program of the German Marshall Fund of the United States convened a workshop in Bottrop, Germany as part of the second year of the Dialogues for Change initiative. This initiative is supported by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Building, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (the German Ministry) through the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, to develop an intensive program of exchanges between selected US and German cities to focus on substantive topics, such as community engagement, energy retrofits/efficiency, and regional sustainable development.
The first year of the Dialogues for Change initiative focused on citizen engagement in planning efforts in the U.S. cities of Austin, Flint, and Memphis, and the German cities of Bottrop, Leipzig, and Ludwigsburg. Throughout the first year of programming, participants met for three intensive workshops to work on a project focused on citizen driven planning efforts. The second year of programming focuses on citizen engagement in the implementation process in an effort to move the conversation around public participation from project or plan specific activities to a more holistic and general conversation about the role of civic engagement in creating sustainable cities. The cities participating in the second year of programming include the US cities of Baltimore, Flint, and Memphis, and the German cities of Bottrop, Leipzig, and Ludwigsburg.
As an introduction to the Ruhr Valley and its history and culture, program participants visited the Zollverein Coal Mining Complex and were given a tour by URP network member Michael Schwarze-Rodrian. Mr. Schwarze-Rodrian discussed the transformation of Zollverein from a working coal mine to a UNESCO World Heritage Site and gave participants insight into its future, including the development of the Zollverein School of Management and Design, the first new building on the heritage site. This building represents an eye towards the future while respecting the past. Not only is the design of the building innovative, but so is the method used to heat the structure. Water from a nearby decommissioned coal mine is used to provide district heating through the walls and floor.
In an effort to expand the learning in the second year of Dialogues for Change to include city-specific policy topics, program participants heard a brief presentation on the City of Bottrop’s InnovationCity Plan and took a tour throughout the city to view numerous sites involved in the plan as well as sites of historical and cultural significance. The tour passed through streets lined with coal mine worker housing and older homes that were being retrofitted to increase their energy efficiency as part of the InnovationCity plan. This activity engages community members in the city’s sustainable development efforts. Another innovative activity being employed in the City of Bottrop is the use of rainwater for street cleaning. Rainwater is collected in an underground cistern and provides a reliable source of water for street cleaning while protecting the city’s potable water sources.
Participants spent two and a half days engaged in intensive conversations, group dialogue, and activities centered on citizen driven implementation. Each city reflected on their experience from the first year of programming and reported on their progress since the last workshop in September 2013, including what successes they had, what they learned, and what they would like to change in order to help advance the implementation process. The workshop offered an opportunity for city delegates to take an in-depth look at strategic approaches to leading plan implementation, with a particular focus on polarity management to balance different factors and considerations while still achieving the desired result.
The apex of the workshop was the development of an “implementation matrix” that participants used to map recommendations from their plan against time and resource intensity, as well as evaluating the impact and risk of each of recommendation from both a neutral perspective as well as through the lens of a specific stakeholder group identified by each city. This exercise resulted in some interesting revelations and outcomes for participants. They realized that it was extremely difficult to view their recommendations through the lens of a neutral party and found it useful to view the opinions of each stakeholder group individually instead of the public as a whole.
At the conclusion of the workshop, city teams defined an action from their process that they would commit to testing over the next year using tools and strategies gained from the workshops, as well as insight and guidance from their peers. Each of the city-defined actions included at least two components of a strategic approach: refreshing your engagement strategy, ideas to action planning, and reporting and celebrating success. City participants returned to their home cities excited to move their projects forward and inspired by the work and commitment of their colleagues on both sides of the Atlantic.
For more information on Dialogues for Change, please click here.