Thinking Leipzig Ahead
Under the heading “Thinking Leipzig Ahead” we discuss with citizens, stakeholders, experts, scientists and policy-makers current topics within sustainable urban development.
By working together and using innovative methods we aim to resolve the various challenges that sustainable urban development faces in the future.
“Thinking Leipzig Ahead” is a focal point for public participation, which builds new foundations for a culture of discussion between the administration of Leipzig and its citizens. Based on a multi-faceted approach we use surveys, online forums and organise events. We also give advice about participation processes within the city administration.
The city's demographic conditions are changing: Leipzig is growing and cheaper housing in all quarters is no longer a given. How can living in a growing Leipzig keep its attraction? In order to respond adequately to the growth, the city of Leipzig is currently updating its housing policy concept. In a multistage participation process citizens, politicians, groups within the housing market and experts are invited to discuss topics, issues, and ideas about housing. The housing policy concept retains the guidelines, objectives and instruments for the Leipzig housing market.
The city of Leipzig is faced with the challenge of reviewing their voluntary services and duty of tasks: What investments should be made within the field of culture in the future? What are the requirements for "good" school locations and what should they cost? Should the city of Leipzig introduce a levy to promote culture? These questions about the city budget 2015/16 were discussed with around 25 citizens in September 2014. Together the citizens of the city of Leipzig and the finance department meet once a year to discuss current issues, such as those above, regarding budget allocation for the next year.
Until 2015 the German Federal Ministry of Research (BMBF) will additionally offer support for the project by promoting cooperation with the Institute of Public Finance and Management at the University of Leipzig. The aim of the scientists involved in the research is to discover ways in which citizens can be better integrated into the discussions about budgeting and the use of public funds.
Since the early 1990s, the disused coal fields around the city have been turned into lakes and create a new landscape that counts more and more as a major attraction in the region. However, the water landscapes in and around Leipzig and adjacent areas in Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia need a future strategy to develop in a sustainable way. The New Leipzig Charter 2030 agrees on a framework for dealing with these particular development spaces. Citizens are invited to participate in this process and can actively contribute their ideas for the housing, tourism, ecological, and economic development of the area.
Leipzig has a long tradition of civic engagement. In the past 25 years, a diverse landscape has originated in initiatives, associations, organizations and institutions that contribute significantly to the quality of life of the city of Leipzig. Adapting the forms of engagement we discuss policy together with the citizens and various groups about the needs, challenges and visions for the future of volunteering in Leipzig.
A more concrete strategy is being developed and the city council has stated a commitment to supporting volunteer work at a foundational level.
For example, at the start of the project, one of our topics looked at some aspects of demographic change within Leipzig. An area of the city where the average age of citizens was 56 years old was chosen for a participatory project in consultation with local children and adults. A derelict playground was refurbished taking into consideration the wishes and ideas of young and old citizens alike. The public square was completed and opened in Autumn 2014.
Two of the most important inner-city green spaces, the Clara Zetkin Park and Johanna Park are getting busier. In a development concept it will now be stated that the two parks can continue to be used by all citizens and groups from Leipzig. To achieve this, the city has initiated a broad-based communication and participation process. Dedicated areas will be preserved for special activities combined with an awareness campaign to enhance the sensitivity and co-operative sharing of our public parks.
In order to capture and integrate different target groups with as many different opinions, we use a number of different methods:
The “future series” is the name of a public event, with the basic aim to inform about relevant topics of citywide importance and discuss the different perspectives. For 100-300 participants different instruments are used depending on the topic: From the podium speech to discussions in small groups, through to question and answer sessions with the person sitting next to you. Movies or short plays facilitate the introduction to the topics. The participants come in the evening event to talk: in direct exchange or selecting from multiple choice an answer to each question, either by show of hands or an electronic voting system. Most of the “future series” are followed by one or more smaller workshops, in which participants continue working on the first results.
Here, the participants discuss the issues that were identified in the future series. Depending on the subject workshops are created with up to 50 participants working intensively in various small groups and then - usually in the presence of skilled workshop facilitators - present and discuss their results with the whole group.
In order to involve people who are unable to come to the events, we use various online formats, such as internet forums or surveys.
Written surveys are being used at different times, either to focus on the core problems of a topic or to feed back results from workshops with the city's population.
Coordination Centre for Civic Participation
Launched in May 2012 the pilot project "Thinking Leipzig Ahead" will now become the focal point for citizen participation. Since January 2014 the project has expanded to become a coordination centre for civic participation within the city council. The goal is to firmly anchor citizen participation in the administration and amongst the citizens. The coordinating body has set itself the various goals of the following tasks:
The importance of public participation in the offices of the city council is increasing. "Thinking Leipzig Ahead" has created interest in the departments for participation processes. The team organizes and supports internal events to share the knowledge surrounding methods used in the participation processes. Using an internal database the practical knowledge is available to all employees.
“Thinking Leipzig Ahead” has set itself the aim of trying innovative methods to reach new levels for events and the participation processes. The administration continues to improve cooperation between the city council and the citizens. One important goal is to reach a wide range of people in Leipzig.
For best results, we present our events and processes in retrospect to the test: From the start, have we been transparent about the process? Was the idea clearly communicated at the beginning? Have we chosen appropriate methods to include as many different groups as possible? These findings are presented annually to the City Council.